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Detroit Lions vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers: What To Watch For

The most important game of the preseason is here.

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Tennessee Titans
Dirk Koetter will get a very good look at his roster Friday night
Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

1. The Bucs’ defensive line against the Lions’ offensive line

Tampa Bay’s new-look defensive line has been pretty damn good so far through two weeks of the preseason. The Lions haven’t had their starting front five together on the field for one play so far during the preseason. A lot of that is attributed to T.J. Lang’s injury, but it is still a talking point nonetheless.

But the Lions’ offensive line isn’t what makes this matchup so intriguing. The Bucs are dealing with plenty of depth issues of their own on the opposite side.

With Vita Vea and Mitch Unrein already out, the Bucs are thin on the inside. Beau Allen was injured earlier in the week during practice and it is unknown as to whether or not he will play. The Bucs also released tackle Stevie Tu’ikolovatu before the Titans game, signed Drew Iddings, then waived Iddings on Sunday.

The carousel didn’t stop there, either. Tampa Bay went ahead and signed Adam Reth and Jerel Worthy for depth.

It’ll be interesting to see who steps up at DT for the Bucs on Friday night. With all of the new faces in town, the hope is that someone can make a move.

2. How will the injuries affect the offensive line?

Everyone in the Bay area knows they dodged a major bullet when it was revealed that left tackle Donovan Smith’s injury on Tuesday was a sprained knee.

But Smith’s injury now gives the Bucs at least four offensive tackles that were hurt throughout training camp and the preseason. Michael Liedtke is expected to start for him on Friday night.

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Tennessee Titans
The Bucs will be without Donovan Smith for the first time during his career
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Smith has never missed a game, so this is new territory for him and the franchise.

The Bucs haven’t had their expected starting five together at all during the preseason so it will be interesting to see how the newest lineup performs. So far, the line has performed well in pass protection but has really struggled opening lanes in the run game.

The Lions have a very good pass rusher in Ezekiel Ansah and they have been using him all over the defense in Matt Patricia’s new-look defense. Expect Ansah and the Lions to try and take advantage of the Bucs’ patchwork line tonight.

3. Shaun Wilson vs. Dare Ogunbowale

The recent news on Charles Sims, while disappointing, opens the door for one of these two running backs to possibly grab the fourth running back spot on the roster if the Bucs decide to carry four backs into the season.

Wilson looks to have the advantage at the moment. When healthy, Dirk Koetter has praised him multiple times during camp and he has looked very good out of the backfield and in the return game.

But don’t count Ogunbowale out. He made a huge 38-yard catch last week against the Titans and has improved while in camp.

Peyton Barber is the starter for this team - so there is no need to give him a ton of playing time tonight - while Ronald Jones II should see a lot of first-half action to build some much-needed confidence. That leave Ogunbowale and Wilson to battle it out in the second half and it will be fun to watch.

4. Can Justin Watson solidify himself as the No. 5 receiver?

Friday is a big night for Watson. A healthy Bobo Wilson is pretty much the only thing standing in his way for that coveted spot. Wilson was back on the field practicing this week, so Watson knows what is at stake.

If you’ve been following my training camp observations, you already know how big a fan I am of Watson. Last week, he furthered my belief in him when he caught this beautiful touchdown from Jameis Winston.

If the Bucs decide to carry six receivers into the season, they will still have to make a big decision. Sergio Bailey, Freddy Martino, Wilson, Jake Lampman, Ervin Phillips, and Bernard Reedy have all made plays this offseason.

Tampa Bay is loaded at receiver, so this is a good problem to have.

5. How will the secondary look without Justin Evans?

Sure, his injury isn’t deemed serious, but this couldn’t have happened to Evans’ at a worse time. Not only was he expected to anchor the backfield this season - he was also filling in at the slot position in nickel packages due to other injuries in the secondary.

So now the Bucs are down a valuable player who was also providing major depth before injury. Who will they trot out against the Lions?

The popular thought is it will be Keith Tandy and Chris Conte at safety with Brent Grimes and Vernon Hargreaves III on the outside. It shouldn’t be a crazy lineup change, but it is the preseason so the coaching staff could experiment a bit.

They will be going up a loaded receiving corps with one of the best quarterbacks in the league, as well. They better bring their best game.

6. Will anyone show up?

It’s only preseason, you can’t fault anyone who doesn’t go, but fan interest should be something the Bucs’ higher ups pay attention to for the first home game. The fact that it is in week three also adds more of an onus for fans to show up.

With Winston’s suspension and the disappointment of 2017, will anyone come? We will certainly find out when the game kicks off at 8 p.m. EST.


What are you watching for tonight?

This poll is closed

  • 33%
    Running back battle
    (54 votes)
  • 19%
    Left tackle
    (31 votes)
  • 23%
    Defensive Secondary
    (38 votes)
  • 14%
    Quarterback play
    (23 votes)
  • 8%
    (13 votes)
159 votes total Vote Now