Before last week’s match-up with the Miami Dolphins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians talked about how he could easily trim the current roster down to 60 players without hesitation. He doubled down on those comments this week as his team gets set to play their second and final home game of the preseason.
This third game is typically viewed as the most critical effort a team puts forward in the preseason. The so called, ‘dress rehearsal’ is supposed to be the closes thing to regular season football we’ll see from the respective sides.
And this will be true about this weekend’s game as well. Although, even this won’t be a full representation of what to expect when the regular season gets underway.
There’s much speculation about who the 60 men are who are vying for spots on the Bucs’ 53-man roster, and these four players should at least have some influence over who’s staying and who’s leaving.
SAFETY, DARIAN STEWART
The last time the Buccaneers brought on a former Denver Broncos safety, it didn’t go so well. This time, the start is a bit more encouraging.
Darian Stewart not only joined the team last week, he played for the team last week. His veteran ability carried him well and he was able to play 40 snaps (52% of defensive snaps possible) against the Miami Dolphins.
With a full week of practices under his belt and even more time to learn the lingo, Stewart’s ability to operate with Todd Bowles’ defense should be heightened.
We’ll be keeping an eye out to see if Stewart starts eating into Jordan Whitehead’s first-team reps in this one. I feel like Whitehead’s position with the first-team defense is pretty solid, but don’t count out the former Pro Bowler either.
Bottom line is, Stewart’s ability to get on - and stay on - the field last week coupled with another solid performance this week would likely cement himself near the top of the group entering Week 4.
GUARD, ALEX CAPPA
Perhaps we were a little premature putting Alex Cappa on our list of players to watch last week. Which is why we threw in a bonus on our recap.
But this week? This is the week to watch Cappa. The starters are going to play more this week than they have at any point this preseason. We can just about guarantee that, right?
Arians said his coaches asked for the entire first half with the starters, but he said he doesn’t feel like they need that long. So split the difference and maybe we’ll get a full quarter?
Either way, the chance to see Cappa on the field for a series, and then see how the defense attacks him on second series, is invaluable to gauging with any kind of reasonable accuracy just how well he might fare as the Buccaneers starting right guard.
The Cleveland Browns have a solid defensive unit, so it’ll be a good test for Cappa and his teammates, and one we’ve probably all been looking forward to.
CORNERBACKS, VERNON HARGREAVES III AND CARLTON DAVIS III
A little two-for-one action here. Vernon Hargreaves III and Carlton Davis III are the Buccaneers’ starting cornerbacks for 2019.
Sean Murphy-Bunting was thought of as a legitimate challenger to VHIII’s starting outside job when he was drafted, but from what we’ve seen in camp and in the two games previous, it doesn’t seem like that will be the case for 2019 at least.
CDIII hasn’t been getting a lot of press this preseason, and it’s because of how good his counterpart has looked coupled with the fact Davis simply hasn’t looked bad.
This test is going to be the hardest one yet for the duo as Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry come to town. Again, we don’t know just how long the Browns will play their first-team offense, but we’ll take as many times as we get to see Hargreaves and Davis match-up against those two.
Tampa Bay is fully committed to playing a more aggressive style of defense including plenty of press coverage and single high defense. This means the cornerbacks and defensive backs in general are going to have to stick to their guys as long as possible and be solid tacklers on top of it.
If the pair struggles this Friday night, a lot of people are going to get real nervous, real fast.
WIDE RECEIVER, JUSTIN WATSON
A lot of folks were excited when Justin Watson landed with the Bucs, and for good reason. The man was a very well established wide receiver in the Ivy League and looked to have all the tools necessary to carve out a nice career in the NFL.
If all of this is going to happen, then this week is huge for him. As written by Evan Winter of this very sight, the time for Watson to step up is now.
Watson played 80% of the Buccaneers’ offensive snaps in Week 2, and came away with two catches for 22-yards and a drawn penalty to his name. Not good.
Tanner Hudson played on less than 60% of offensive snaps and came away a cult hero ready to unseat Cameron Brate at the snap of Jason Licht’s fingers.
With Mike Evans sitting out Friday night’s contest with the Cleveland Browns we already know we’re going to see more Chris Godwin, O.J. Howard and Breshad Perriman. The question is: Who will be the third receiver to run with the first-team offense?
My answer is mixed. Watson is going to get his chances. So will Bobo Wilson most likely. And if Scotty Miller is able to play contact football now, he may get a shot or two in there as well.
The wide receiver depth race is one a lot of people are watching, and if Watson wants to stake his claim to that fourth or fifth job, now is the time to step up his production.
Who is the fifth player Bucs Nation will be watching?
This poll is closed
WR, Bobo Wilson
LB, Shaquil Barrett
TE, Tanner Hudson
CB, Jamel Dean