Thursday, June 21, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs vs. Browns: What to watch Friday night

TAMPA — The Bucs play their first preseason home game of the season tonight against the Browns, unveiling huge new video boards at the heart of the renovations to Raymond James Stadium. • The end zone boards are four times as big as the old ones, with four "tower" video boards and a 6-foot tall ribbon going from end to end on both sides of the stadium. • Just in case you're also interested in what's happening on the field, here are five things to keep an eye on tonight.

1. The ongoing saga of Roberto Aguayo. The rookie kicker has had a rough two weeks, missing an extra point in the preseason opener, then two field goals last week at Jacksonville, so all eyes will be on the second-round pick out of Florida State. Aguayo's the only kicker on the Bucs' roster, so there's no way to hide him — he will be involved on kickoffs, at the very least. There's a little extra motivation as Patrick Murray, cut by the Bucs after Aguayo was drafted, is battling to become the Browns' kicker on the other sideline.

2. A chance for the Bucs defense to step up. Not only is the team ranked second in the league in total defense during preseason, allowing just 198 yards per game, but its five interceptions rank second in the league, behind only the Eagles (7).

What's more, the Browns have been rough on offense, ranking 30th in yards (207.5), 30th in third-down conversions (18.8 percent) and 28th in scoring (12.0). If you like seeing the Bucs offense on the field, you'll be happy to know the Browns rank last in the NFL in time of possession, at just 20:09, nearly doubled by their opponents.

3. A chance for improved passing by Bucs QBs. Their five interceptions (though only one by starter Jameis Winston, above) match the most in the league during preseason, and the Browns had plenty of picks in two joint practices this week. But Cleveland has been porous in its first two preseason games, allowing a league-worst 407 yards per game, literally twice what the Bucs have allowed.

Last week, the Falcons piled up 498 yards of offense, converting 11 third downs, and the Packers converted nine third downs in beating the Browns the week before.

4. Tall receivers to challenge those Bucs DBs. Much has been made of the Bucs' top three corners — Brent Grimes, Alterraun Verner and rookie Vernon Hargreaves — all being 5 feet 10. Coach Dirk Koetter says they're not going to grow, and the Browns will give them a good preview of the many tall receivers they'll face this season.

Keep an eye on newly reinstated WR Josh Gordon, who is 6-3, and converted Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who is 6-4 — they'll present challenges to the secondary, much like Atlanta's Julio Jones will in the season opener in two more weeks.

5. Two guys from Ohio trying to make the Bucs' cut. In Donteea Dye and Jude Adjei-Barimah, the team have two players who made it on the field as undrafted rookies last season.

Both are from Ohio, but neither grew up Browns fans — Dye has a tattoo of "Cincinnati" across his chest with the Bengals and Reds logos, while Adjei-Barimah, who is from Columbus, grew up liking neither the Bengals or Browns.

"For some reason, I was a Pittsburgh Steelers fan, and everybody hated me for it," Adjei-Barimah said. "There's that big Cleveland-Pittsburgh rivalry. I'm from Ohio, so I realize how much the Browns and Bengals mean to the state. So I always kind of rooted for them against other teams. When that AFC North rivalry started, I was all Steelers."

Adjei-Barimah has worked at nickel and corner and is in good position to stick as the team's fourth cornerback, while Dye is trying to keep the kickoff return job, which will help him make the squad as a backup receiver.

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