The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will wrap up their 2013 preseason on Thursday night against the Washington Redskins, and both sides are expected to play the game primarily with reserves. Most NFL teams follow the same preseason pattern, with the third week used as an extended regular-season tune-up for the starters and the fourth week devoted to getting one last look at the players still fighting for roster spots and depth chart advancement.
The Buccaneers have certainly learned a lot since the start of training camp: rookie DT
For each player competing for a job, his entire body of work will factor into the decision, from the offseason program to training camp to the preseason game action. And, of course, the team's specific needs at certain positions and the restrictions of a 53-man roster will inform the final outcome.
“I think every situation is individual," said Head Coach Greg Schiano on the day before the preseason finale. "If you’re on the bubble, then you’re a depth guy, so then what is your role and who best fulfills that role and do we see things all through camp and then tomorrow night, that lend us to believe you’d be able to fill that role the best out of anybody on our roster? So it’s really specific to the guy and to the position and to our needs.”
Schiano also pointed out that the Buccaneers have eight more spots to work with, given that they will be forming the first iteration of their practice squad in the days following the cutdown to 53 on Saturday. That provides extra motivation for some of the players farther down the depth chart, as a foothold on the practice squad often leads to something more permanent in the NFL.
In addition to that pursuit, here are several roster and depth chart battles to draw your attention on Thursday night:
- Tight End
On Wednesday, Schiano mentioned to two tight ends who are likely to see a lot of playing time this season, without specifically naming them. He clearly meant
“The way we play, there’s going to be more than one tight end playing so I don’t think it’s…certainly it’s a big deal because somebody’s the starter and you compete to be the starter - but I think they’re both going to play. And then the guys below them as well in certain packages.”
- Defensive End
This is another position at which the Bucs may rely on a committee of contributors, making the final decision on starters and reserves a bit less significant. Still, the team is obviously still searching for the most effective combination.
“I don’t know yet; we haven’t decided exactly who the starting ends are," said Schiano on Wednesday. "I can’t tell you that definitively. [Clayborn and Te'o-Nesheim] are definitely in the mix, though.”
- Third Wide Receiver
Ogletree, the former Cowboy signed as an unrestricted free agent in March, leads the team in receiving this preseason (10-114-1) and has clearly been one of the top performers among a large group of reserve wideouts. With
Ogletree appears to be the leader in that competition, but that's another decision Schiano and company are holding off on until all the information is in.
“We haven’t officially said that yet," said the coach. "I think Kevin has played well, but I think we’ll make all those [decisions] when we set the depth for the Jets.”
- Left Guard
The starter here is no mystery; All-Pro
Carimi could end up as the team's first option at that spot, and they're going to take another look at that possibility on Thursday night.
“It is viable," said Schiano of the Carimi-at-guard option. "He looked like a guy who has not played a lot of guard lately, especially on the left side. But the things that you see that you like, you say, ‘Now that’s good.’ He’s a big, strong man that gets movement and doesn’t get moved back. There’s some other things we’ve got to fix, work on, get him more comfortable with. But yes, a viable option for sure. There’s some other ones as well, so once we get through this game, we’ll sort it out, figure out what the line is.”
For the sake of analysis, we'll assume that
The Bucs' depth was snipped a bit in recent days with the season-ending knee injury to
“I think they’re all at different stages of development," said Schiano. "Mike [Adams] is a veteran player, and I think, as a group, they’re playing well. The one thing that’s a positive is there’s not balls flying over the corners’ heads. So they may be making some catches underneath, but they’re tackling them, and if you can keep balls from flying over your head, you’ve got a chance to be in every game.”
- Back-up Running Back
“We’re going to see – I don’t know how many of them and how much, but we’re going to get, certainly, a lot of touches in this game to make a determination,” said Schiano of the ongoing running back competition.
- Other Battles
- Schiano has said on several occasions that the Bucs have two men who have performed well enough to start at strongside linebacker in
- It appears that the Buccaneers will open the season with either
- The Buccaneers have six safeties who may be deserving of roster spots. With starters
- Spence may have started the first three games at defensive tackle next to