The Bucs' final preseason game tonight at Houston will probably be long forgotten when the regular season kicks off Sept. 7 at New Orleans. But don't overlook some of its important elements. It may not count in terms of the standings, but it is huge in various ways for many players.
This could finally be the end of the line for QB Chris Simms, left, whose relationship with coach Jon Gruden and management has deteriorated to the point he asked to be released or traded months ago. He seems to have no future in Tampa Bay as even Gruden conveniently forgets to mention Simms when handicapping the team's field of five quarterbacks. Simms might not play to eliminate the risk of injury, but if he does, it's his last chance to put a performance on tape.
Nece fights on
LB Ryan Nece, right, is one of several veterans who could be casualties Saturday, when all teams must reach the NFL-mandated 53-man roster limit. Entering his seventh season, Nece is one of just four players who were on the roster for 2002's championship season. Listed No. 3 at strongside linebacker, Nece has also been a backup in the middle, but he has been surpassed there by newcomer Matt McCoy.
Defensive line dance
The Bucs appear closer to making some final decisions on the defensive line, but Wednesday's shuffling — DE Marques Douglas was traded to the Ravens for a late-round draft choice in 2009 and a conditional 2010 selection and DE Patrick Chukwurah re-signed — adds intrigue. The Bucs still aren't getting consistent pressure on quarterbacks, and with the Saints and their trademark passing attack first up on the schedule, this is certainly weighing on everyone's mind at One Buc Place. Tonight's performances by players such as 2007 fifth-rounder Greg Peterson, free-agent pickup Jimmy Wilkerson and others could help the Bucs make some final decisions.
Does Jackson have juice?
Second-round pick Dexter Jackson and Gruden readily admit Jackson is still getting the hang of special teams, the area where he is expected to be counted on the most this season. So, tonight is his final opportunity to iron out whatever kinks might remain, particularly on his kickoff returns. Jackson is unquestionably fast, but he has never been a full-time kick returner, even in college. He is still learning exactly what is going on around him — where the Bucs are going to be, where the running lanes are — and it's clearly been a lot to digest. One or two good runbacks, whether on punts or kicks, would allow the team to breathe a sigh of relief.
No rest for receivers
It's likely coaches have a good idea who they will keep among the 10 remaining receivers (Paris Warren was released Tuesday), but stepping up tonight could not hurt the chances of those on the bubble. And they might get more opportunities with Joey Galloway (groin), Antonio Bryant (knee), Michael Clayton (chest) and Chad Lucas (knee) all potentially sitting out. So, here's your shot Micheal Spurlock, Cortez Hankton and Brian Clark, with Galloway, Clayton, Bryant, Maurice Stovall and Jackson seemingly in good shape. Ike Hilliard looks like a decent bet to be the sixth, provided that's the number on which the Bucs settle.