1. Sports
  2. /
  3. Bucs

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 | [JOSHUA GUNTER, 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.


  1. Tampa Bay Bucs tight end O.J. Howard (80) warms up before a preseason NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys in Arlington, Texas. TONY GUTIERREZ  |  AP
    And don’t discount the tight end’s blocking abilities. Coaches and teammates expect the breakout moments in the receiving game will come.
  2. Ronde Barber returns an interception for a touchdown that clinched the Bucs' 27-10 win over Philadelphia in the 2002 NFC Championship game. The play sent the Bucs to Super Bowl 37 in San Diego. JASON BEHNKEN  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Bucs Ring of Honor ceremony 2019: Ronde Barber always had an edge — real or imagined — and it made the Buccaneers defensive back one of the greatest of all time.
  3. In this Sept. 15 file photo, New England Patriots wide receiver Antonio Brown (17) on the sidelines,during the first half against the Miami Dolphins. The Patriots released Brown on Friday. LYNNE SLADKY  |  AP
    New England had signed Brown this month hours after he was released by Oakland.
  4. New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley (26) breaks away for a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills, Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger) ADAM HUNGER  |  AP
    Coaching staff presents Bucs a Saquon highlight reel in an effort to prevent a sequel from the running back.
  5. Running back Peyton Barber has 31 carries this season, the 11th most over the first two weeks of the NFL season. Is that what's best for the Bucs offense? MONICA HERNDON  |  Times
    In this preview: Why the Giants would have been better off the past four seasons with Jameis Winston instead of Eli Manning. Plus, how the G-Men will attack the Bucs defense and why you should keep an...
  6. It's early, but Jameis Winston (3) and the Bucs defense has Tampa Bay in first place in the NFC South. (AP Photo/Brian Blanco) BRIAN BLANCO  |  AP
    Martin Fennelly: That 1-1 start feels a little ragged, but things are breaking right so far for the Bucs.
  7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Devin White (45) takes the field for warm ups before the Tampa Bay Buccaneers game against the San Francisco 49ers at Raymond James Stadium on September 8, 2019 in Tampa, Florida.  MONICA HERNDON  |  Times
    Rookie inside linebacker didn’t practice all week.
  8. Bucs running back Peyton Barber will be key in helping Tampa Bay elevate its struggling defense. MIKE MCCARN  |  AP
    New York enters with quarterback Daniel Jones starting his first NFL game
  9. Tim Tebow. [Associated Press)] Associated Press
    Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Tom Jones and Rick Stroud debate Tebow, Dickie V, the first-place Bucs and the Rays playoff chase
  10. Paul Spicer, left, is now a defensive line coach at the University of South Florida. Skyler Fulton, right, is now a wide receivers coach at Portland State University. University of South Florida | Portland State University
    Former Bucs assistants Paul Spicer and Skyler Fulton faced accusations of violence against women before coaching in Tampa Bay under Dirk Koetter, according to a USA Today investigation.