With the final dress rehearsal being moved ahead a day due to Tropical Storm Hermine, there will be plenty to watch for ahead of the September 3rd roster deadline
The cannons are be loaded a day early this week, as the weather’s not cooperating with the original schedule. With Tropical Storm Hermine looming, the NFL made the decision to have the Buccaneers and Washington Redskins play their final preseason game tonight. While the starting crew’s will more than likely not be making an appearance in this contest, the game is important to determine who will and will not be part of the team to start the season.
The roster needs to be down to 53 come 4 P.M. Saturday. which means bubble players will be putting it all on the line for a chance to catch on to the team heading into the September 11th season opener against the Atlanta Falcons. Plenty to watch for tonight at 8 P.M. when the Buccaneers welcome in the Washington Redskins.
This is the make or break spot for most hopefuls. The player that can serve as a formidable back up and also be a contributor on special teams is going to be the player to survive the roster cut on Saturday. Although number three wide receiver Adam Humphries appears to have punt return duties locked down, the kickoff returner seems to still be a position up for grabs.
The most likely candidates for the job are Ryan Smith, the rookie safety picked by the Bucs in the fourth round, third year wide receiver Bernard Reedy, and second year wide receiver Kenny Bell. Going into the season the team seemed to favor Donteea Dye, but he was recently cut due to an injury. Bell hasn’t had the chance to return kicks since fumbling the opening kickoff in the preseason game against the Eagles. Smith as a draft pick should make the roster with or without becoming the team’s returner, but Reedy and Bell may be fighting for a roster spot against each other as returners in this contest.
There is still a need to find order for wide receivers after Adam Humphries on the depth chart. With Louis Murphy starting the season on the PUP list, there are two spots that need filling. Kenny Bell and Bernard Reedy are two wide receivers that are also competing for the kickoff return spot, and the winner of that position could very well determine one of the receiver spots up for grabs.
Also in the hunt Evan Spencer, Russell Shepard, Jonathan Krause, and Freddie Martino. The guy who steps up in tonight’s game and shows the coaching staff they can step in when needed should take the job, although Bell, Reedy, and Spencer seem to have the edge in the competition.
There are a few spots up for grabs for offensive line depth, and the young crew should get their chance to prove their worth tonight. Josh Allen seems to have the upper edge in this battle after getting the start against the Jaguars. Ben Gottschalk, Leonard Wester, and Caleb Benenoch all appear to be in the mix and are worth keeping an eye on tonight.
Something worth noting here as well is the loss yesterday of Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater for the season. Without a doubt the Vikings will be looking for outside help, and Mike Glennon could be on the Vikings radar. The Bucs have stated they aren’t interested in dealing Glennon at this time, but a strong outing today to peak the Vikings interest, and a solid offer from the Vikings, could change their minds quickly.
With the depth chart set for the most part on the defensive side of the ball, this game should be used to focus on the rookies. Vernon Hargreaves III and Noah Spence are the obvious rookies, and with another strong outing, Hargreaves could even make the Bucs brass think twice about putting him ahead of Alterraun Verner on the depth chart.
Keep an eye out for sixth round pick Devante Bond and undrafted rookie Luke Rhodes as they look to earn the primary backup positions for strong side linebacker and middle linebacker respectively. They should see an extended look tonight. Also look for rookies Isaiah Johnson and Ryan Smith to receive extended looks at free safety and strong safety respectively. Johnson appears to have landed the backup role already , while Smith who is also competing for returner, could beat out former sixth round pick Keith Tandy with a strong showing.
Be sure to tune in to the rainy preseason finale tonight at 8 P.M. when the Bucs take on the Washington Redskins from Raymond James Stadium