The Bucs will host the Cleveland Browns on Friday night in Raymond James Stadium and it should be a fun one. Week 3 of the preseason usually boasts the most action, so it will be interesting to see what develops on the field.
There will be some star power missing on the field. Players such as Mike Evans, Odell Beckham Jr., and others won’t be available, but that doesn’t mean you should just ignore the game in its entirety.
This may be the last chance for some players to really make an impact and it’s certainly the last chance for starters to make any corrections in their play before the season begins.
So what do you need to watch for on Friday night? Well, I’m glad you asked.
1. The Trenches.....Again
I know. This is getting repetitive. But unfortunately, the trenches (on both sides of the ball) are an issue for Tampa Bay right now.
The starters have done a solid job, but the backups have been far from good. Stupid penalties, missed assignments, and poor communication have been a few factors that have really hampered both position groups.
Cleveland boasts a lot of talent on both the offensive and defensive lines, so they should be a very good challenge for a Bucs team that is in dire need of improvement.
At this point, any type of improvement would be appreciated. We aren’t talking a complete 180, here. We’re simply talking an upwards tick in efficiency and production.
That would be considered a win heading into the final week of the preseason.
2. The Final Receiver Position(s)
It’s clear who will man the first three receiver positions for the Bucs. Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Breshad Perriman have a firm hold on those spots, but the spots behind them aren’t taken just yet.
Bruce Arians said the other day that Justin Watson didn’t have the fourth position locked up. While he is still the favorite to win out the WR4 position, it’s not guaranteed at this point and neither are the spots behind him.
We don’t know how many receivers the Bucs plan on including in the final 53, however, one would think five is a reasonable number. If that turns out to be the case, then Arians and co. may have some tough decisions when it comes down to final cuts.
Watson, Scotty Miller, Bobo Wilson, Spencer Schnell, and Damarkus Lodge, to name a few, are the main contenders for the last two spots on the roster. For easy math’s sakes, that’s five players fighting for two roster spots.
What happens on Friday night could go a long way in determining who is playing for the Bucs on opening day.
3. Dare’s Last Stand?
Make no mistake about it: Dare Ogunbowale has been a stud in the preseason.
But, as we all know, strong preseasons don’t guarantee roster spots on the final 53. Ronald Jones II and Peyton Barber will enter the year as the first- and second-string backs, but what happens behind them is uncertain.
Andre Ellington hasn’t been very effective at all in the first two games. He’s looked good in practice, but that’s about it. Despite his lack of production, he is a veteran who knows Arians’ system very well, which could give him an edge at the end of the day.
Ogunbowale, on the other hand, has been great in practice and has made plays during the first two games. Arians has commented on his toughness and even stated that he may be the team’s “second best pass-blocker” in the running back room.
He can run, catch, and play special teams. When you add in the pass protection, it seems like the table is set for Ogunbowale to eat.
However, it all could change on Friday night.
If Ogunbowale struggles and Ellington has a great game, then it wouldn’t be surprising to see Arians go with the vet instead of the younger player. The Bucs could very well carry four backs into the season, but that’s not something Ogunbowale needs to bet on.