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
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
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?
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
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?
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.