I’m as excited as anyone for an actual football game, but even I realize that, after about 3 minutes, it’s only a preseason game.
With the Buccaneers unlikely to play their healthy starters very long on Thursday night, here’s what you need to know to make this game watchable for you.
1. One of the Running Backs Will Instantly Become a Fan Favorite!! Yep. This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. Peyton Hillis is the most notable name on the list, but he’s currently stuck as 4th string on the depth chart. Hillis’ strength is his power which can not be on display during practice when hitting is limited. Hillis will play in the 2nd half and most likely run over defenders, which will instantly create a buzz. Brian Leonard has the mobility and power. Mike James has been a standout at camp, but will he do the same in the game.
2. The 3rd WR Battle Will Be on Display. With Mike Williams and Vincent Jackson likely to only play a couple series, the battle for 3rd receiver will give the candidates plenty of playing time. Tiquan Underwood is the incumbent, but I think it could be unlikely that he retains his spot on the depth chart. Kevin Ogletree was brought in to take over the job with his relationship to new Bucs WRs coach John Garrett. Derek Hagan has experience with Mike Sullivan from his days with the Giants, which could help him when it comes to game adjustments. One of the overall stars of training camp has been Chris Owusu. He’s smaller in stature, but possesses blazing speed. Owusu would be more of an option on the outside, which would push Vincent Jackson to slot receiver in 3-receiver sets.
3. The Rookies Will Be on Display. While most eyes will be on Johnthan Banks and Mike Glennon, my focus will be on the Buccaneers pass rush. The Buccaneers invested draft picks on Akeem Spence, William Gholston, and Steven Means. All three of these lineman are known as good pass rushers. Means is known for his speed rush, while Gholston is known for his power and athleticism. I expect these rookie linemen to get a lot of playing time and will have most of my focus. I’d also like to see Mike Glennon play deep into the 3rd quarter. We’ve heard some good things about Glennon from nation analysts, but we’ll see what he does in game action.
4. The Kickers and Punters are Football Players Too. With Connor Barth out for the season, many people believed that Lawrence Tynes would be his replacement. Well, look out for Derek Dimke. Dimke has just about made every field goal during practices, while Tynes has missed a few and has dealt with an injury. If Dimke does what Kai Forbath did a year ago, expect Dimke to be the Buccaneers kicker for 2013. As for punter, you’d think Koenen would be safe, but the Bucs incumbent punter was 22nd in punt average last year and make $3.25 million in 2013. Former Gator Chas Henry has been brought in for competition and has a strong leg. If Henry booms a few punts, the Bucs might have an interesting decision to make on Michael Koenen’s future with the Bucs.
5. Three Safeties at One Time. That’s right, the Buccaneers have shown the willingness to play three safeties at one time on defense in passing situations. It is an interesting wrinkle, but you have to have enough safeties to make this work. Keith Tandy might be an interesting name to keep an eye on with his ability to play safety or corner. Cody Grimm could be fighting for his own roster spot, so he must play well on special teams along with defense to stick around. Former Gator Ahmad Black seems to have a roster spot locked up, but it is still important for him to continue to improve and get game experience.