By Tom Krasniqi
The third preseason game is what NFL teams usually refer to as the “dress rehearsal”. Starters will typically play into the 3rd quarter as they get try and find some rhythm before the regular season begins. The last preseason game is usually a throwaway as coaches try and evaluate fringe players before final cuts.
So far this preseason, the first team offense and defense have produced lackluster results. On Saturday, the Bucs look to refine their game when they take on the Dolphins down in Miami. Head coach Greg Schiano says starters will see significant playing time, including quarterback Josh Freeman. Last week against the Patriots, Freeman saw just two series and has played sparingly this preseason.
“Yeah, I mean, he’s going to play,” Schiano said of Freeman. “I’m not going to get into specifics of each player, but he’ll play quite a bit.” That’s interesting because every starter will not see the same amount of snaps. Schiano has repeatedly said that each player has their own specific program. While Freeman needs the work to get on the same page with his receivers, running back Doug Martin may not see as much playing time. Last week, Martin was forced to leave the Patriots game after taking a knee to the head. Thankfully for the Bucs and Martin, he didn’t suffer a concussion but you have to figure the team will be extremely careful with their workhorse back.
Defensively, most of the first team will also see extended playing time with the possible exceptions of defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, linebacker LaVonte David and safety Dashon Goldson. Those three players were pulled early last week in New England during the opening drive. Schiano and the Bucs cannot afford to lose any of those core players, especially McCoy. The pass rush has produced just one sack on the preseason and that was David on a blitz against the Ravens.
The Bucs would love to see their front four apply some pressure to Ryan Tannehill and company on Saturday. With that being said, expect to see quite a bit of the rookies, especially defensive ends William Gholston and Steven Means in particular. They have flashed some pass rush ability in camp and the Bucs are looking for anyone that can apply pressure. Rookie defensive tackle Akeem Spence will also see quality playing time. The team has been pleased with his progress at the tilted nose tackle position and coaches believe he can provide a push up the middle. Expect Spence to start on Opening Day.
The key to the team’s ass rush are defensive ends Adrian Clayborn and Da’Quan Bowers. Clayborn is starting to come around but Bowers has been admittedly out of shape and the team could play him quite a bit on Saturday. Schiano continues to push Bowers in practice. “Oh, I think the ceiling is unknown,” Schiano said regarding Bowers’ potential. “I think he can really be a fantastic player. Consistency is the big thing right now, but I do think he’s making strides. I think he’s improved in this training camp.”
Bowers will get a chance to show his worth Saturday night. He’ll be a key player to watch. The Bucs registered just 27 sacks from a year ago and their leading sacker, Michael Bennett, is in Seattle.
News & Notes:
- Bucs are dealing with a serious medical situation at the facility after guard Carl Nicks and kicker Lawrence Tynes were afflicted with MRSA, which is a serious form of staph infection. The team had to sanitize One Buc Place last weekend and will do so again this weekend while the team is in Miami. Nicks and Tynes are said to be responding well to treatment and no other players have been affected. Tynes recently had surgery in which doctors had to scrap the infection from his toe and his toe bone. Tynes’ condition prompted the Bucs to sign Rian Lindell.
- CB Darrelle Revis took part in team drills again on Wednesday. He has practiced four straight days. Schiano said no decision has been made as to whether he’ll play on Saturday. The same holds true for guard Davin Joseph.
- RB Doug Martin says he’s not sure if he’ll play on Saturday. That decision is up to the coaching staff and trainers. Martin says he wouldn’t mind getting a few snaps and says he’s 100% healthy after a head injury last week in New England.
- With Martin not likely to play much, if at all, the backup running backs will get a chance to make an impression. Schiano says Brian Leonard will play against Miami after Leonard sat out last week with a slight strain in his hip area. Peyton Hillis and rookie Mike James will also see extended playing time as they did last week.
- The Bucs will travel to Miami on Saturday night to take on the Dolphins in the third preseason game. You can catch the game on 620 WDAE and 95.3FM with the pre-game show beginning at 5pm.
- For the latest Bucs news, keep it locked all day long on 620 WDAE and 95.3FM, your home of the Bucs and the best Bucs coverage. Don’t forget to check out the Bucs blog at 620wdae.com for the latest news and audio clips.