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Bucs vs. Browns: What to watch for

This will be the final tuneup for the Bucs starters.
Bucs receiver Bobo Wilson has had a strong preseason but must continue to show he can make an impact on special teams in order to earn a roster spot. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times] [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | TIMES | Tampa Bay Times]
Published Aug. 22

TAMPA — The third preseason game typically mirrors the regular season more than the others. Starters play more, bubble players are fighting for final roster spots. The regular season is on the horizon.

So Friday’s game against the Cleveland Browns will serve as the Bucs’ best test because it will come against the most regular-season version of a Browns team that’s expected to do big things.

Here are five things to watch Friday:

Jameis Winston’s control of the offense

Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston. MONICA HERNDON | Times [MONICA HERNDON | TIMES | Tampa Bay Times]

The Bucs starting quarterback has played just one series in each of the first two preseason games, and he’s played just 22 snaps total, so Friday’s game will offer Winston his first real opportunity to get into a rhythm with the Bucs new offense. It’s unclear how much the first team offense will play: maybe a quarter, maybe a half. They won’t play at all next week.

Calm the hype

Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield. Joshua Gunter | cleveland.com [JOSHUA GUNTER, CLEVELAND.COM/CLEVELAND.COM | cleveland.com]

Few teams have received more preseason hype than the Browns. The Bucs aren’t receiving any hype, as most predict another losing season. Cleveland has swagger and personality, led by quarterback Baker Mayfield. This is just a preseason game, but given starters will play a bigger role, a good game will make a statement.

Can Scotty Miller play catch up?

Bucs wide receiver Scott Miller (10). MONICA HERNDON | Times [MONICA HERNDON | Tampa Bay Times]

Sixth-round pick Scotty Miller is expected to play his first game since injuring a hamstring, and the speedy wideout must start showing something to fend off Bobo Wilson for the fifth wide receiver spot, or force the Bucs coaching staff to carry six receivers at the expense of going with less players elsewhere.

Kicking competition, the third chapter

Bucs kicker Cairo Santos (5). (AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio) [MARK LOMOGLIO | AP]

Arians insists kickers Matt Gay and Cairo Santos are still competing. Gay has received both of the team’s field-goal attempts from 40 yards or longer, making both. Arians said Santos will get the first long opportunity Friday. Will he need more than leg to earn the job or is he auditioning for a position elsewhere?

Bubble battles

Bucs coach Bruce Arians. [MONICA HERNDON | Times] ["MONICA HERNDON | TIMES" | Tampa Bay Times]

Arians said again Wednesday that he could trim the roster down to 60 players in his mind. And he’s said the final five spots will likely come down to who stands out on special teams. So whether it’s a battle between Miller and Wilson, Tanner Hudson making the team as a fourth tight end, the final cornerback or inside linebacker spot, the most polished special teams players will emerge.


ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan Josh Cranor, 35, of Lakeland and his son Jake, 7, react after Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicker Matt Gay missed a 34-yard field goal in the final seconds of the Bucs' 32-31 loss to the New York Giants Sunday, Sept. 22, 2019 in Tampa. CHRIS URSO  |  Times
    Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Breaking down the mistakes that led to the Buccaneers’ blown 18-point lead and 32-31 loss to the Giants.
  2. New York Giants linebacker Markus Golden (44) celebrates as Matt Gay (9) looks at the ground after Gay missed a 34 yard field goal in the final seconds Sunday. When drafted by the Bucs in April, Gay said Tampa Bay's woeful kicking history had nothing to do with him. It does now. CHRIS URSO  |  Times
    The rookie kicker had endeared himself to fans in just a short time in Tampa Bay, but fell into the same trap as previous Bucs kickers on Sunday.
  3. Mike Evans (13) leaves the field after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers game against the New York Giants at Raymond James Stadium on September 22, 2019 in Tampa, Florida. MONICA HERNDON  |  Times
    Giants 32, Bucs 31: Mike Evans says the first three-touchdown game of his NFL career should have been four. Here’s why.
  4. Giants offensive lineman Nate Solder (76) attempts to block Bucs linebacker Shaquil Barrett (58) as Barrett strips the ball from quarterback Daniel Jones (8) passes during the fourth quarter of Tampa Bay's 32-31 loss to the New York Giants at Raymond James Stadium on Sept. 22, 2019. Bucs defensive lineman Rakeem Nunez-Roches (56) recovered the fumble. MONICA HERNDON  |  Times
    Bucs Journal: Tampa Bay’s 32-31 loss to the New York Giants overshadowed some stellar individual performances, including one by their pass-rushing specialist.
  5. Matt Gay missed three kicks Sunday against the Giants, including the potential game-winner. The game never should have come down to him, though. MONICA HERNDON  |  Times
    Thomas Bassinger: This loss is on coach Bruce Arians, not the kicker.
  6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicker Matt Gay (9), far right, attempts a 34 yard field goal in the final seconds against the New York Giants Sunday, Sept. 22, 2019 in Tampa. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost 32-31. CHRIS URSO  |  Times
    The optimism of Carolina is gone and some outstanding individual efforts are wasted.
  7. Buccaneers kicker Matt Gay (9) misses a field goal as time expired in Tampa Bay's 32-31 loss to the New York Giants at Raymond James Stadium Sunday, Sept. 22, 2019 in Tampa. MONICA HERNDON  |  Times
    Rick Stroud: The rookie kicker said Tampa Bay’s 32-31 loss Sunday “is 100 percent on me." He’s wrong.
  8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans (13) celebrates after scoring during the first half of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers game against the New York Giants at Raymond James Stadium on September 22, 2019 in Tampa, Florida.  MONICA HERNDON  |  Times
    Evans nets his first 100-yard receiving day of the season before halftime, along with three touchdowns in a performance that feels headed toward the record books.
  9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan Josh Cranor, 35, of Lakeland and his son Jake, 7, react after Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicker Matt Gay (9) missed a 34 yard field goal in the final seconds against the New York Giants Sunday, Sept. 22, 2019 in Tampa. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost 32-31. CHRIS URSO  |  Times
    Giants 32, Bucs 31: Tampa Bay was done in by another rookie quarterback.
  10. The Bucs blew an 18-point halftime lead as the game turned on two rookies: New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones and Tampa Bay kicker Matt Gay.
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