Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

5 things to watch in Bucs preseason opener

Running back

Spoiler alert: Running back Doug Martin won't play much, if at all.

After rushing for a Tampa Bay rookie-record 1,454 yards last season, there's little to be gained by exposing Martin to any pounding.

But the position is one of the most intriguing areas of the roster with veterans and young players alike fighting to establish roles or, in some cases, make the team.

Sixth-round pick Mike James and free agent signees Brian Leonard and Peyton Hillis make their debuts. Also in the mix: second-year player Michael Smith, who is trying to carve out a bigger role.

"Right now, we're all battling," Smith said. "We're all great athletes, and it's very deep back there. So once we get an opportunity, we have to shine and make the most of the opportunity. That's what we've been preaching to each other. When you get on that field, you can't waste that opportunity because it'll be an opportunity lost."

The most likely scenario has the Bucs keeping three tailbacks and, perhaps, a fullback. Erik Lorig is the incumbent fullback, but Hillis and Leonard have the potential to play there, too.

"As time goes on, the ones who are more consistent and make plays are the ones who are going to be there," Leonard said. "So I have to make plays in the preseason and define my role."

Tight end

Chances are, you won't see projected starter Luke Stocker tonight. He's still recovering from a calf strain that has significantly limited his practice time.

That has allowed others to shine, specifically free agent signee Tom Crabtree. He joined the Bucs looking for a bigger role than the one he had in Green Bay, and he has a chance to achieve that. But he remains largely unproven as does the rest of the tight end group, including Stocker.

That's why the Bucs are noncommittal on who will assume what role.

"We need that group to play better than it did last year," coach Greg Schiano said. "It may be by committee."

Defensive end

We know the Bucs are going all in with Adrian Clayborn and Da'Quan Bowers, but Clayborn's current groin injury is a reminder that depth remains an issue.

The Bucs need to find out if rookies William Gholston and Steven Means are ready to play on Sundays. Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, who started 14 games last season, is in the mix while getting first-team reps in Clayborn's absence.

Johnthan Banks' debut

You won't see star cornerback Darrelle Revis (torn left ACL) tonight and perhaps not until the regular season.

Second-round pick Johnthan Banks makes his debut, and it will be interesting to see if he matches his solid practice performances. The speed kicks up a notch from training camp to preseason games, and the test is if Banks can keep up.

Barron's new role

It might not be obvious, but astute observers will notice second-year safety Mark Barron will, at times, play a slightly different role this season.

With the retirement of Ronde Barber, the 2012 first-round pick is often playing near the line of scrimmage, especially when the Bucs insert six defensive backs. That can leave him matched up with a tight end or put him in position to use his tackling ability on run support.

Starters won't play much, but those who have new roles, such as Barron, might play longer.

"Mark Barron's playing the dime now," Schiano said. "So we want to make sure he gets a couple of shots at the dime."

 
Comments
Bucs draft scenarios: Would this guy be their lucky pick at No. 7?

Bucs draft scenarios: Would this guy be their lucky pick at No. 7?

TAMPA – This is the Rubiks Cube of NFL drafts. It can be twisted and turned it in any direction. Not many know how everything will line up.For the Bucs, the puzzle is simple.  Since they have the No. 7 overall pick, they need four quarterb...
Updated: 18 minutes ago
Mock draft consensus: Who the experts have Bucs taking at No. 7

Mock draft consensus: Who the experts have Bucs taking at No. 7

We've linked to a lot of mock drafts over the last four months.We went back and assembled mocks from 40 different NFL writers we've linked to — this isn't the most recent for some of these who are in Mock 9.0 mode, but it's meant as an unscient...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Who will the Bucs take with the No. 7 pick?

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Who will the Bucs take with the No. 7 pick?

Rick Stroud answers your NFL draft questions in this mailbag segment, including who the Bucs might take with the seventh overall pick, which running backs they might be looking at, whether Taven Bryan could slip to them in the second r...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Five options if the Bucs want to trade down from No. 7

Five options if the Bucs want to trade down from No. 7

For months, NFL fans have wondered what the Bucs might do with the No. 7 pick in Thursday's draft, producing a wide range of answers, each with passionate support from some of their fans.But as draft nears, and as the interest level in a talented gro...
Published: 04/24/18
Could Washington DT Vita Vea be the Bucs’ real target at No. 7 in the draft?

Could Washington DT Vita Vea be the Bucs’ real target at No. 7 in the draft?

Vita VeaPosition: Defensive tackleSchool: WashingtonHeight/weight: 6-4, 347Draft projection: Round 1Why Vita Vea makes sense for the Bucs: Vea's combination of size and quick feet is rare. He ran a 5.1 40-yard dash and bench pressed 225 pounds 40 tim...
Published: 04/24/18
Important questions and answers about Bucs’ draft parrot

Important questions and answers about Bucs’ draft parrot

The final days leading up to the NFL draft can be a busy time, but rarely do you call someone you trust from a team and say: "What can you tell me about the parrot?"Yes, the Bucs will have a parrot — specifically a Catalina macaw named Zsa Zsa ...
Published: 04/24/18
Ex-Bucs QB Jeff Garcia doesn’t care about NFL draft: ‘I have a life’

Ex-Bucs QB Jeff Garcia doesn’t care about NFL draft: ‘I have a life’

So much of the attention Monday surrounding the Bucs' announcing who'd be announcing their late-round draft picks was, of course, that a parrot would be delivering the name of the fourth-round pick to the pirate ship at Raymond James Stadium.But late...
Published: 04/24/18
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Breaking down the NFL draft with Sam Farmer

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Breaking down the NFL draft with Sam Farmer

On today's Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast, Rick Stroud breaks down the NFL draft with the Los Angeles Times' Sam Farmer.Farmer coordinates a mock draft with beat writers around the league, and it's usually one of the most accurate prognostications...
Published: 04/24/18
NFL Draft: Date, time, TV schedule and draft order for the April 26-28 draft

NFL Draft: Date, time, TV schedule and draft order for the April 26-28 draft

The NFL Draft starts Thursday from Arlington, Texas, with coverage of the first round beginning at 8 p.m. ET. Here's a look at the broadcast schedule for all three days and the draft order for every round:Schedule(all times Eastern)Thursday, April 26...
Published: 04/24/18
Polly want a sacker: Bucs’ 4th-round draft pick to be delivered by parrot

Polly want a sacker: Bucs’ 4th-round draft pick to be delivered by parrot

Late-round NFL draft picks are often made on a wing and a prayer.The Bucs' fourth-round pick Saturday will be no different. The team announced Monday that as part of the NFL draft TV broadcast, the team's fourth-round pick will be delivered to an ann...
Published: 04/23/18