Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

What to look for during Tampa Bay Buccaneers' preseason opener

The receivers

The Bucs' receiving unit is young but not short on talent. Deciding who plays what role will be an issue for coaches.

Tonight, Dezmon Briscoe, left, gets a valuable opportunity to play with the starting offense with Arrelious Benn still recovering from a torn ACL. Mike Williams, for whom there are high expectations, will start opposite him.

But this game also is key for players such as Sammie Stroughter, who was hobbled by injuries last season, and Micheal Spurlock, who came into his own last season but has to fight off the young guns for playing time. The competition is bringing out the best in them all.

"Everybody in the (unit) is trying to get better," Spurlock said. "Let the chips fall where they may."

Bouncing back from injuries

The Bucs became something of a M*A*S*H unit late last season, when starters were going down as fast as they could be replaced. But the majority of those lost to injury are slated to play tonight.

Safety Cody Grimm, cornerback Aqib Talib, defensive tackle Brian Price and linebacker Quincy Black suffered season-ending injuries. Tonight marks a big step in their road back, when they play in actual games for the first time.

The same applies to rookie defensive end Da'Quan Bowers, whose offseason knee surgery prompted his precipitous fall in the draft.

Receiver Arrelious Benn was lost to a torn ACL, and while he could play, he isn't expected to see action as a precaution. The status of defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who went on injured reserve last season and now has a strained rotator cuff, wasn't clear Thursday.

How does Mason Foster perform?

The third-round pick from Washington has been a consistent topic of conversation since camp began, and it became apparent he would assume the starting middle linebacker role from the departed Barrett Ruud. Coach Raheem Morris said this week Foster is having a better training camp than Tyrone McKenzie, who hoped to start.

However, that assessment is based only on a handful of practices. Foster's first game action will be far more revealing and will expose him to game speed, formations and situations.

The Bucs are putting a lot of weight on the back of the rookie, one who has played mostly outside linebacker. Let's see whether he responds to what, essentially, is a challenge by his team to fill Ruud's big shoes.

The offensive backfield

The decision to let Cadillac Williams leave has changed the backfield. While Williams was the starting tailback last preseason, LeGarrette Blount now has that title. The question is more who enters when he leaves. Blount strives to be an everydown back, but it's likely he'll often be replaced by Kregg Lumpkin or Earnest Graham on third down.

Graham is still tethered to the fullback position. Otherwise, he likely would be the option on third down because protecting Josh Freeman is paramount.

Tonight's Bucs preseason opener at Kansas City has been a long time coming after an arduous offseason. But finally comes the first look at a team hoping to build on last season's surprising 10-6 revival. Let's consider some of what Bucs coaches and executives will be watching during tonight's contest.

Clayborn makes his debut

Every team's first-round draft pick will be scrutinized in their debuts, and defensive end Adrian Clayborn is no exception. The No. 20 choice from Iowa will lock horns with Chiefs left tackle Branden Albert, himself a first-round pick in 2008. It will be interesting to see if Clayborn is the physical, punishing defender the Bucs predicted he'd be. And this game should provide a good measurement of that as the Chiefs were the NFL's top rushing team in 2010 and have a stout offensive front. Bucs coach Raheem Morris said he'll let his starters play a bit more than usual for a preseason opener, roughly 20 snaps. That could be a quarter or more of football, plenty of time to give Clayborn a good taste of what's to come.

What to look for during Tampa Bay Buccaneers' preseason opener 08/11/11 [Last modified: Friday, August 12, 2011 12:14am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Bucs defensive end Chris Baker (90) is seen during training camp last month at One Buc Place. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  2. Bucs' defensive attributes in opener included flexibility


    TAMPA — It's a blink-and-you-miss-it nuance, but in Sunday's opener against Chicago, on their very first defensive snap, the Bucs lined up in a 3-4 defense.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter shakes hands with cornerback Brent Grimes (24) before an NFL game between the Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times 

  3. Bucs-Vikings: What if O.J. Howard and Dalvin Cook had both been taken?


    So what if the Bucs had taken neither O.J. Howard nor Dalvin Cook with the 19th pick in the 2017 NFL Draft?

    Bucs tight end O.J. Howard (80) makes a reception as Chicago Bears free safety Eddie Jackson (39) tackles him Sunday at Raymond James Stadium. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  4. Wish the Bucs had taken Dalvin Cook? Read this


    It will happen sometime Sunday afternoon.

    Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33) carries the ball in the second quarter Monday night, Sept. 11, 2017 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minn.  (Jeff Wheeler/Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS)
  5. Bucs-Vikings: What could make Tampa Bay's defense elite again


    TAMPA — The last time the Bucs had a top-five defense also happens to be when they last appeared in the postseason.

    Bucs outside linebacker Lavonte David (54) celebrates after recovering a fumble by Chicago Bears quarterback Mike Glennon (8) during the first half. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]