Preseason football can be hard to watch once you get past the opening act. Before long, you are subjected to a slew of backups with unfamiliar names, some from schools you've never heard of, and you begin thinking, "Where's the remote?"
There actually are reasons to stay tuned.
For tonight's game against the Jaguars, one is Kareem Huggins. Another is Mario Urrutia. And based on what we saw from Josh Johnson last week against the Titans, there's good reason to tune in to see him, too.
Once the primary players take their places on the bench, it's the individual performances that become most interesting.
Huggins, who played at coach Raheem Morris' alma mater, Hofstra, led the Bucs with 43 rushing yards on nine carries in last week's preseason opener against the Titans. During training camp, he was one of those players who drew in fans with his insistence on running to the end zone even after the whistle, just to reinforce his effort.
Watching him brings back memories of Clifton Smith in the 2008 preseason. Smith was initially relegated to the practice squad but by season's end was named to the Pro Bowl as a returner. No one thought the running back from Fresno State would see the field, but the season is a series of unpredictable turns.
Few have heard of Urrutia. But no receiver has made more plays since being added to the roster two weeks ago. The Bengals' seventh-round pick in 2008 out of Louisville is a long shot to make the team, but he's an intriguing prospect at 6 feet 6 and 232 pounds. He's the sort of player a team would like to sneak quietly onto the practice squad, hoping no one plucks him.
Johnson is more well-known, but that doesn't mean he has any less to prove. The quarterback has never played in a regular-season game, but the fifth-round pick in 2008 out of San Diego has looked sharp of late, and he stole the show against the Titans when he turned a busted play into a 43-yard touchdown run.
"Last year I was just trying to make sure I was right all the time," he said. "Now it's just natural. Things are second nature, and I'm comfortable."
Talib fallout: CB Aqib Talib put his team in a tough position with his arrest Wednesday night. The sense is the club would like to suspend him, but his case isn't cut and dried.
The details remain murky, with no independent witnesses to the alleged assault of cab driver David Duggan. And Talib was charged with misdemeanors, which aren't usually met with a suspension. But Talib's history of fighting with teammates makes his case different, even though he lacks a criminal record.
That's why the team is joining forces with commissioner Roger Goodell to make the call. Consider: If it rushed to judgment and the case is subsequently dismissed, the players union definitely would have something to say. The best case in point is Cato June, the former Buc who was arrested on suspicion of DUI in 2007. The case was dismissed last year.
In Talib's case, deliberation likely will be slow.
Is Faine fine?: The Bucs insist they're just being cautious by sitting starting C Jeff Faine (groin injury). But he didn't play last week and won't play tonight. He practiced Monday but was sidelined a day later, though Morris refused to call it a setback. It's something to watch at a key position on the offensive line.
Crowell coming back: Veteran LB Angelo Crowell's signing in the offseason was a low-risk but high-reward acquisition. So far, though, there's been no payoff. Crowell, who was coming off major knee surgery, has been slowed the past two weeks by a hamstring. But he intends to play against the Jaguars. If he can't make a meaningful contribution tonight or Thursday against the Dolphins, the Bucs will have to ask themselves how long they're willing to wait.