LANDOVER, Md. — Bucs coach Greg Schiano appears to have the hang of this NFL thing despite only recently making the leap from the college ranks. But the former Rutgers coach will encounter new ground today and Friday.
With final cuts looming, Schiano must take the lead on difficult, looming roster decisions. The Bucs must trim their 75-man roster to 53 by Friday night, something a college coach never experiences.
"I haven't done it as a head coach, but I've had my players at my position be cut (as an NFL assistant)," Schiano said. "There's nothing fun about it. There's nothing happy about it. But it's part of the business. It's part of pro football. I think everybody understands that when they get into it."
Schiano has a simple philosophy that he hopes will help make the cuts an unemotional process.
"I've been clear: We have to find the best 53 guys for the Buccaneers," he said. "That may not be the best 53 guys for some other team, but the best 53 for this team. I've made it clear what my expectations were and what the criteria were to be part of that 53.
"What you do is you take their actions in the building, you take their actions in practice, what they put on video, and then the preseason games, and you make decisions. It's not easy, but you make them."
LINE DANCE: The Bucs tried a number of offensive line combinations in Wednesday's 30-3 loss to the Redskins, hoping to evaluate players in a variety of roles.
The experiment was revealing, though not in the way coaches hoped.
Jamon Meredith, who Schiano considered a candidate to replace Pro Bowl RG Davin Joseph, performed poorly after getting the start. He had two false starts and missed a couple of key blocks. Meredith is technically a tackle, but has limited experience at guard.
The results at left tackle, where long shot Bradley Sowell started, were worse. He missed two blocks that directly led to sacks.
Ted Larsen started at center, but given Meredith's performance, look for him to take over for Joseph unless the Bucs bring in an outside candidate.
STEP BACK?: WR Tiquan Underwood was one of the stars of training camp but his strong intrasquad performance has not translated to recent games.
Against the Redskins, Underwood had a chance to make a big play but CB Richard Crawford outfought him for the ball on what would've been a 46-yard gain. Instead, Crawford came down with the interception of the 50-50 ball from QB Brett Ratliff.
Given Underwood's previous lack of production — he didn't catch a pass in the previous two games — he might be in jeopardy of being cut, though he made an impact against Washington, catching six passes for 82 yards, both team highs.
DUAL PURPOSE: Yes, that was K Kai Forbath performing punting duties. After connecting on field goals of 51 and 55 yards last week against the Patriots, Forbath transitioned to punting. His longest punt was 53 yards.
MISCELLANY: DT Amobi Okoye (knee) warmed up but did not play for the third straight preseason game. After offseason knee surgery, Schiano said Okoye has had to be brought along slowly. This was the first real sign of progress in some time. … WR Arrelious Benn (knee) did some work in warmups and could practice next week. Benn has been out since the first day of training camp with an MCL sprain.
Stephen F. Holder can be reached at [email protected]