Well that was, uh, something. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost their fourth preseason game 20-13 to Washington, in a game that was dominated by heavy rain and terrible play.
The fourth preseason game is generally used to give those guys fighting for the last roster spots a few more live reps. These games help give the coaching staff more confidence when narrowing their roster down to 53 players before week one. That was certainly the case for Wednesday's game as Tampa and Washington both sat most, if not all, of their offensive and defensive starters.
Despite moving the game up from Thursday to Wednesday to try to avoid an incoming Tropical Storm, the weather was not kind to those who were active on both teams. Constant rain before and during the contest made for a soft field of play, a slippery ball and an overall lethargic attitude to some players who seemed to just try to get out of that type of game without getting hurt.
However, ideal conditions or not, this was the last chance for some of the guys lower on the depth chart to make their cases for a roster spot.
Let's give a brief overview of each spot.
Jameis Winston was an obvious scratch which meant Mike Glennon got the start. It's no secret that the Bucs have been trying to shop Glennon, but no price has matched the value they want yet. With teams cutting and evaluating their quarterbacks, as well as teams like the Vikings who are having to adapt to injuries, this was supposed to be a showcase for Glennon. Unfortunately, it was not.
Glennon finished the game 1-for-5 with negative one passing yards. But at least his first pass gave us a laugh.
Backup Ryan Griffin was bad early on. He warmed up at the end of the second half throwing a touchdown to Bernard Reedy, but it was garbage time stuff. Due to Glennon's situation of being on the trading block, no matter what Griffin does, he's not going anywhere. Nevertheless, his night was OK.
With Doug Martin, Charles Sims and Mike James all sitting out tonight, you can pretty much expect those guys to be one, two and three on the depth chart.
That left Peyton Barber and Russell Hansbrough to fight for that possible fourth running back spot, if the general manager chooses to keep that many. Unfortunately for those guys, the weather really hurt both of their looks. Barber had trouble keeping the ball secure and Hansbrough had a couple passes drop out of his hands. Barber had the better night statistically with 16 carries and 44 yards, but it wasn't a night that begged for a spot (2.8 YPC).
It sucks that their last chance to make a good impression had to be spoiled by the weather, but I wouldn't be keeping four running backs anyways.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
No Mike Evans, Vincent Jackson, Adam Humphries, Cameron Brate or Luke Stocker tonight.
I think Russell Shepard is a lock to make the team, so if we believe the Bucs are keeping six wide receivers, Evan Spencer, Kenny Bell, Jonathan Krause, Freddie Martino and Bernard Reedy were the ones fighting for those last two spots.
The team seemed to give Bernard Reedy every chance to prove his worth. They had him start on kick and punt rerun duties, and gave him plenty of snaps at wide receiver. However, Reedy fumbled a few returns and wasn't reliable there -- I know it was wet. He's already not a strong pass catcher.
Kenny Bell also didn't look great. He had a catch, but he just looks awkward out there now. You can tell he's playing with pressure, not confidence. With him not getting any looks as a KR/PR, that tells me the coaching staff is leaning towards keeping Reedy over him. I don't agree with that (since I don't think Reedy can play WR and I think Ryan Smith should be getting looks as a returner), but I'm not the coach.
I think Evan Spencer is safe. He was on the "first team" tonight with Shepard. I think Martino and Krause are the odd men out.
The Bucs entire starting offensive line sat tonight. If any of the second string guys have to play, Tampa will be in trouble regardless, but that's the case with every team. The more notable takeaway than the second team offensive line's performance was that Joe Hawley sat tonight, which means he's likely the starter at center.
Ten out of the 11 projected defensive starters were inactive tonight. The one spot that didn't seem to be locked was the left defensive end spot which will either be William Gholston or rookie Noah Spence. Both of them got the start at the two end positions, but Spence got the start at left defensive end. I think the starting job will be his soon enough, whether that be week one or a few weeks after that (he'll play plenty regardless). He's too talented to not be with the first team as we saw a glimpse of in the vine below.
Akeem Spence and A.J. Francis also had a good impact when they were on the field. Meanwhile defensive end Jacquse Smith notched his fourth sack of the preseason. This defensive line is the deepest group on the team.
The trio of Lavonte David, Kwon Alexander and Daryl Smith were inactive tonight as expected, but rookie Devante Bond was also inactive. I know he was banged up a bit during practice last week, but him sitting could mean his roster spot is secure.
That left Luke Rhodes and Ardarius Glanton to start at the linebacker spots in the middle. I'm not sure how many linebackers the Bucs will keep. If they go two-deep at each position, I think Bond, Rhodes and Glanton are safe, though Josh Keyes is making that a tougher decision with a sack and two tackles for loss tonight. I would've thought the team was leaning Keyes over Bond, but that doesn't seem to be the case.
Vernon Hargreaves and Brent Grimes were given the game off, which left Alterraun Verner and a mystery player to start on the outside. That mystery player ended up being Johnthan Banks, whose roster spot has been up for debate lately. With Josh Robinson and Javien Elliott both make their fair share of plays in practice and in games, the former starter in Banks has been on the hot seat.
I think the team will be keeping five cornerbacks. Verner, Grimes and Verner are obvious locks. I think the next man in is Jude Adjei-Barimah who is very comfortable in the slot as a nickel player. Elliott has played well, but I think he's the odd man out. That leaves Robinson and Banks. Though both made a couple plays tonight, both were burned for touchdowns; Robinson on a fade route in the corner and Banks failing to run down Mack Brown as he rushed for a long touchdown early on.
If they want the better athlete, they'll keep Robinson. If they want the longer corner who can match up against bigger receivers, they'll keep Banks. Just from Banks starting and getting a lot of playing time tonight, I think they'll end up keeping Banks. It really is a toss up, though.
In the deep zone, the big question was who was going to replace recently cut safety Major Wright, who played with the second team all of training camp.
Ryan Smith getting the start at safety on what would be the second team with Keith Tandy. Smith taking Major Wright's spot, it seems.— Trevor Sikkema (@TrevorSikkema) September 1, 2016
That question was answered with Ryan Smith, a fan favorite. I like Smith getting a chance to start, but he started at strong safety, and that I don't like. If the backup group really is Keith Tandy and Smith, Smith has to play the free safety role. Smith will not be a guy you want trying to tackle Devonta Freeman or Jonathan Stewart or Mark Ingram if they reach the second level. He doesn't have the size or frame to do so; he's going to get hurt if they put him in those situations.
Instead, if they're going to commit to investing in Smith, I'd much rather they move him to free safety to get the most out of his athleticism. He still looks unsure in coverage, but if he can get his awareness of plays and NFL quarterbacks down, he has the range to make a difference as a deep man. That's where I think they get the most out of him.
Aguayo was called upon on Wednesday for a 50-yard field goal, the longest of his NFL preseason career. Here's how it went.
Aguayo from 50 pic.twitter.com/UF7JOzKTJV— Trevor Sikkema (@TrevorSikkema) September 1, 2016
He's baaaaaack. He also hit a 22-yarder, and a 33-yard extra point. So, all's well there.