Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

5 things to watch in Bucs-Dolphins game

More offense

Left tackle Donald Penn believes the offense has had a great training camp. It has looked good in practice, making some big plays, and is primed to be a force.

But in the first two preseason games, the first-team offense was missing in action. Quarterback Josh Freeman played just four series, going 6-for-10 and getting sacked four times. Receivers Mike Williams and Vincent Jackson have one touchdown between them. Their snaps have been limited but so have their first downs.

That's why Penn is so excited for tonight's game against the Dolphins. The starters are expected to get their most extensive action to date in a dress rehearsal of sorts for the regular season.

"We've been doing good, but practice doesn't count," Penn said. "We've got to do it in games, and that's why it's very important and I'm excited about (tonight). We'll get our opportunity to go out there and really, really show you guys what we've been working on."

Just for kicks

The team signed veteran kicker Rian Lindell this week partly to take some of the load off rookie Derek Dimke, who has been the primary kicker with veteran Lawrence Tynes (toe) sidelined by a serious staph infection. Lindell, 36, is likely to make his Bucs debut tonight. "We've seen Derek kick quite a bit, and we've seen (Lindell) over the years kick quite a bit," coach Greg Schiano said. "I'd like to see (Lindell) in a Bucs uniform do it." Lindell believes he still has a lot left in the tank and is excited for the chance. "At this point in my career, I just want to hit a good ball," he said. "And I'm fortunate the Buccaneers gave me an opportunity."

Changing of the guard

Left guard Carl Nicks (left foot) also is out indefinitely because of a staph infection. Right guard Davin Joseph, recovering from a torn patellar tendon that kept him out last season, will likely be limited, if he plays at all tonight. So it will be interesting to watch who plays guard in a potential audition in case either isn't ready for Week 1.

Jeremy Zuttah is versatile, but it appears the team would like to keep him at center. Ted Larsen is an option, as is Mike Remmers, who started at guard in New England. Tackle Gabe Carimi has gotten reps at guard in practice, so keep an eye on him, as well as Cody Wallace and Jamon Meredith.

"We have a lot of guys that can step up," left tackle Donald Penn said. "I think we have some of the best depth in the NFL on the offensive line."

Keeping stock

With Luke Stocker limited early in camp due to a calf injury, it has hurt his ability to take charge in what has been his best opportunity to become the starting tight end. Coach Greg Schiano said that with Stocker not getting to show enough, the team might have to go to a committee approach. Stocker said he is healthy now but needs to "get the rust off" with plays in pads, especially for blocking, making tonight a "really big game for me. … Obviously I haven't gotten a lot of reps in training camp. … So this is going to be my evaluation. I'm approaching it like it's a real game, like it counts."

In passing

The Bucs had one sack in their first two preseason games, and coach Greg Schiano would like to see more out of their pass rush against the Dolphins. "I think we've gotten better as camp has gone on," he said. "These guys are getting a better understanding and feel, not only for what we're asking them to do but for each other. You call some things in the pass rush, and you also have a lot of things that happen naturally. And it's a sense of feeling the other defender."

BUCS AT DOLPHINS

   
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