The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be live on television in the Tampa Bay area for just the second time this preseason as they tackle the Washington Redskins in the nations capital this Thursday at 7:30. Unfortunately, fans won't get to see Josh Freeman or any of the first team as head coach Raheem Morris has already stated that he will be resting his starters during the preseasons final exhibition match.
With the third preseason game, a 17-14 victory over the Miami Dolphins, usually considered the final tuneup for starters and first teamers, expect to see a heavy workload for backups, rookies, and undrafted free-agents attempting to secure a precious roster spot. Earlier this week, the team made 10 roster cuts bringing the total player number down to 80, but there are many tough decisions still to be made for the front office as they must get the roster trimmed down to 53 before the Detroit Lions come to Raymond James on September 11th.
Even without the premiere players on the field there will be interesting battles unravelling on Thursday night. Here are some things to watch for:
- Running game: The Bucs have struggled to move the ball on the ground all preseason long with LeGarrette Blount unable to flash that bruising style that catapulted him to a 1000-yard rookie season. Perhaps it's just something that the players are saving till the games count but the fact that the Buccaneers leading rusher so far is the backup quarterback is worrisome.
- Wide Receivers: It's looking like the Buccaneers may keep only 5 wideouts on the active roster and with Mike Williams, Arrielious Benn, and Sammie Stroughter having three spots virtually locked up there will be battles for the last two slots. Veteran Michael Spurlock will have to show he can hold off newcomer Preston Parker and breakout player Dezmon Briscoe if he wants to remain a Buccaneer. Ed Gant and Maurice Price are also in the mix, but considered longshots.
- Defensive Line: Most of the defensive positions look filled but defensive end George Johnson has made things very interesting for the Buccaneers front office when it comes to pencilling in end rushers. Johnson has lead the team in sacks this preseason and played his way into the conversation at DE. If he can continue his hot play against the Redskins he may well find himself on the active roster come Sunday's instead of the practice squad.
- Finally, stay healthy: Most important is that the players who project to end up on the active roster stay healthy. That's why you won't see Freeman or any of the skill position starters Thursday night. Even though it may diminish the quality of the game for the fans, it's worth it to not have anyone get injured in a game that means absolutely nothing.