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Browns vs. Buccaneers: Four players to watch on defense

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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers play the Cleveland Browns later tonight in the all-important third preseason game. Well, pretty important. Okay fine, it's just the game in which the starters get most of the playing time so we have more to talk about. Good fun.

Here are four players to watch on Tampa Bay's defense.

Vernon Hargreaves

Hargreaves has been making his way up the cornerback depth chart, and is currently installed as the team's main slot cornerback. He's looking to change that and become a starting outside cornerback, displacing either Alterraun Verner or Brent Grimes -- probably the former, given the team's investment in the latter. A good performance against a very explosive Browns team will help his case tremendously. A bad performance might see him sliding back down the depth chart as 'not ready yet', though.

Bradley McDougald

Safety has been a bit of a weak spot for the Bucs for years on end, despite significant investment at the position. The Bucs like Chris Conte, but they're less than convinced by McDougald, who they expected to take a few big steps last season. If he can't stand out, the Bucs may have to make do with lackluster play at safety yet again. And today, the Bucs face an explosive offense that could easily expose the team's safeties.

Howard Jones

Here's a guy who keeps standing out with the second and third team as a pass rusher, and that's something the Bucs could always use. It's fun to watch Noah Spence, and you definitely should, but he's already shown he can belong, at least athletically. Jones has flashed when  he's taken the field, but he's also disappeared for a lot of plays. A consistent performance today could get him a roster spot and a lot of playing time.

William Gholston

This big defensive end/tackle should form the core of the Bucs' run defense on early downs. He's consistently been the Bucs' best run-defender the past few years, but keeps coming off the field on passing downs. If he can show he's a little more explosive and a little more able to beat offensive tackles (or guards), that could change. And that would be a good thing, because Gholston has a whole lot of talent -- he just hasn't put it all together yet.