The Tampa Bay Buccaneers remain at home for a second straight week to take on the visiting Cleveland Browns at Raymond James Stadium on Friday night. Baker Mayfield, Odell Beckham, Myles Garrett and Denzel Ward lead a Browns team that won five of its last seven games in 2018 to build optimism for a breakout year in 2019.
The Buccaneers and Browns are likely to play their starters longer in the third week of the preseason than the first two, which will provide for some challenging matchups on both sides. Here's what you need to know to prepare for all the action.
GAME AND BROADCAST DETAILS
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-1) vs. Cleveland Browns (2-2)
Friday, August 23, 7:30 p.m. ET
Raymond James Stadium (capacity: 65,618)
Local Television: WFLA (NBC Channel 8)
TV Broadcast Team: Chris Myers (play-by-play), Ronde Barber (analyst), Dan Lucas (sideline)
Radio: 98Rock (WXTB, 97.9 FM), Flagship Station
Radio Broadcast Team: Gene Deckerhoff (play-by-play), Dave Moore (analyst), T.J. Rives (sideline)
You won't want to miss the game live at Raymond James Stadium! Make sure to get your tickets before it's too late.
ALL-TIME HEAD-TO-HEAD SERIES
Preseason: The Buccaneers and Browns have met 10 times previously in the preseason and split the series right down the middle. Cleveland tied it up at 5-5 in 2017 with a 13-9 victory at Raymond James Stadium, with Kevin Hogan throwing a five-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Leslie with two minutes left in the game. Tampa Bay's most recent win over the Browns in the preseason was a 30-13 decision in 2016, with Jameis Winston throwing for 259 yards and two touchdowns.
Regular Season: Coincidentally, the Bucs and Browns have also met exactly 10 times in the regular season, although the Browns hold a slight edge in that series, 6-4. However, Tampa Bay has won four of the last five meetings after getting its first win over Cleveland in 2002. FB Mike Alstott provided a lasting highlight in that 17-3 victory during the Bucs' Super Bowl-winning season with a pinballing run on which he bounced off nine different defenders. The most recent meeting came last season, when Mayfield and the Browns stormed back from two touchdowns down in the fourth quarter to force overtime. The Bucs eventually won it, 26-23, on Chandler Catanzaro's 59-yard field goal with less than two minutes left in the extra period.
· Buccaneers Head Coach Bruce Arians was the Browns' offensive coordinator from 2001-03. Cleveland's head coach, Freddie Kitchens, was the Arizona Cardinals' quarterbacks (2013-16) and running backs coach (2017) under Arians during the latter's tenure as head coach.
· Cleveland's new offensive coordinator, Todd Monken, handled the same role in Tampa Bay the last three seasons.
· Tampa Bay outside linebacker Carl Nassib played two seasons for the Browns after Cleveland drafted him in the third round in 2016.
· Cleveland linebacker Adarius Taylor joined the Buccaneers during the 2015 season and remained with the team through last year.
· The Bucs' roster includes two other players who were with the Browns last season: wide receiver Breshad Perriman and offensive lineman Earl Watford.
SENIOR COACHING STAFFS
Head Coach Bruce Arians
Assistant Head Coach/Run Game Coordinator Harold Goodwin
Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles
Offensive Coordinator Byron Leftwich
Special Teams Coordinator Keith Armstrong
Head Coach Freddie Kitchens
Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken
Defensive Coordinator Steve Wilks
Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer
KEY 2019 ROSTER ADDITIONS
· OLB Shaquil Barrett (UFA)
· LB/S Deone Bucannon (UFA)
· CB Jamel Dean (3rd-round draft pick)
· S Mike Edwards (3rd-round draft pick)
· QB Blaine Gabbert (FA)
· K Matt Gay (5th-round draft pick)
· CB Sean Murphy-Bunting (2nd-round draft pick)
· WR Breshad Perriman (UFA)
· P Bradley Pinion (UFA)
· DL Ndamukong Suh (UFA)
· LB Devin White (1st-round draft pick)
· WR Odell Beckham (Trade-NYG)
· S Morgan Burnett (FA)
· G Eric Kush (UFA)
· S Eric Murray (T-KC)
· DT Sheldon Richardson (UFA)
· K Austin Siebert (5th-round draft pick)
· LB Sione Takitaki (3rd-round draft pick)
· DE Olivier Vernon (Trade-NYG)
· CB Greedy Williams (2nd-round draft pick)
ADDITIONAL 2019 CHANGES OF NOTE
· In January, Tampa Bay engineered one of the most significant changes a franchise could make in hiring a new head coach. That man is Bruce Arians, who needed just five years to become the winningest coach in Arizona Cardinals history and who has a history of helping quarterbacks excel. Arians assembled an extremely experienced coaching staff around him, almost all of whom he had worked with in the past.
· One of the coaches Arians brought on was Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles, who served under him in the same capacity in Arizona in 2013 and 2014 before becoming the Jets' head coach. Bowles' arrival means the Buccaneers have switched to a base 3-4 defense, something the team hadn't identified with since 1990.
· Bowles' defense means certain players were redefined as outside linebackers, inside linebackers and defensive linemen. No matter the position designations, Tampa Bay's defense is expected to be more aggressive and varied in its pass-rush packages, and will likely ask its defensive backs to play more press-man coverage than it has in the past, which plays to the strengths of many players in that unit.
· Tampa Bay's offense was prolific in 2018 in terms of yards, especially in the passing attack, and most of its starters return for 2019, so one could reasonably expect another strong season on that side of the ball. If anything, the Bucs may be more aggressive under Arians, whose 'no risk-it, no biscuit' philosophy involves taking the big-play shot when you have the chance.
· Cleveland also has a new leader on the sideline, though he was with the team in 2018. Freddie Kitchens, a former Arians understudy in Arizona, started off last season as the running backs coach, was promoted to offensive coordinator after the midseason firing of Hue Jackson and was then named Head Coach on January 12. Kitchens was credited with unlocking more of Baker Mayfield's potential after taking over the offense's reins.
· Kitchens has a new offensive coordinator in Todd Monken, who held the same role in Tampa the last three years under Dirk Koetter. Monken called plays in 2018 for the Buccaneers as they broke most of their franchise records on offense. Steve Wilks also came aboard to run the defense after one season as the head coach in Arizona.
· The trades that brought in Beckham and Vernon cost the Browns starting guard Kevin Zeitler and safety Jabrill Peppers, and Cleveland also shipped defensive lineman Emmanuel Ogbah to Kansas City for safety Eric Murray. The Beckham trade also involved Cleveland's first and third-round picks, which means the team's top pick in this year's draft was cornerback Greedy Williams in the second round.
· Cleveland's furiously busy offseason and strong finish to 2018 has generated quite a bit of optimism in the fan base. The Browns have become one of the most popular bets to win the Super Bowl among sportsbooks, just behind the Chicago Bears.
Stretching Out the Starters – Most NFL teams follow a similar progression regarding the playing time for their starting units in the preseason, beginning with a quick cameo in the opener and gradually increasing to about one half of the game by Week Three. The fourth week is generally devoted completely to reserves in order to avoid incurring any significant injuries just before the start of the regular season. How long will the Buccaneers leave their offensive and defensive starters in? Arians has indicated that he will play that by ear on Friday night, and that the performance of the starters will determine their playing time. Tampa Bay's offensive linemen are hoping to play the whole first half in order to work on their chemistry together, but if the team starts with a couple of successful drives that could be enough to satisfy the head coach.
Final Five Showcase – Even with the starters getting a bigger chunk of the action, there will still be plenty of time in the second half for players fighting for the last five or so spots on the 53-man roster to make their cases. Some preseason standouts – such as QB Ryan Griffin, TE Tanner Hudson and RB Dare Ogunbowale – may be fighting to convince the coaches to go deeper at their respective positions on the regular-season roster. Will the Bucs carry three quarterbacks after watching Griffin light it up in the preseason? Will they go four-deep at tight end to give Hudson a better chance of sticking on the roster? Said Arians on Wednesday: "Especially in the second half, there’s a lot of jobs up for stake and [I’ll] see how they play."
More Momentum for Winston? – Arians has expressed confidence in quarterback Jameis Winston since first accepting the Bucs' top job in August, and the fifth-year quarterback has looked sharp to start the preseason, with a passer rating of 120.4 so far. Of course, that's been compiled on just two drives, one that went 81 yards for a touchdown and one that advanced into field goal range before a third-down protection breakdown led to a sack and a punt. Winston has put up prolific numbers in his first four seasons, including 261.2 passing yards per game and a franchise-record 88 touchdown passes. However, he has periodically struggled with turnovers. So far, Winston has been both efficient and mistake-free in the preseason. Friday will be his last chance at a tune-up as he'll surely watch the fourth game from the sidelines.
Another Test for a Young Secondary – Rookie CB Jamel Dean secured the Bucs' first interception of the preseason in the fourth quarter last Friday, killing a Miami scoring opportunity. Dean also had two of the Bucs' eight passes defensed, as did rookie safety John Battle. Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting, a pair of second-day draft picks back in April, should see plenty of playing time on the second unit against a talented Browns offense. Even the starters are young, though, as second-year man Carlton Davis and fourth-year player Vernon Hargreaves run with the first team on the outside and second-year cornerback M.J. Stewart patrols the slot. The Buccaneers will be relying on youth throughout their secondary this year – recently-signed safety Darian Stewart is the only player older than 26 in that group – and would like to see them hardened by fire in the preseason.
Getting Their Kicks – The battle between rookie Matt Gay and veteran Cairo Santos wages on, with neither player stumbling in their efforts to win the Bucs' kicking job this season. Gay is perfect on three field goals and one extra point so far, including long shots of 55 and 48 yards. Santos has made one of each variety but his field goal against Miami was a 23-yard chip shot. Arians has said that Gay will get the next long field goal opportunity that arises. Arians also said that both players would "undoubtedly" be kicking somewhere in the NFL in 2019.
1. Browns WR Odell Beckham vs. Buccaneers CB Vernon Hargreaves.
Hargreaves has been one of the Bucs' top standouts in training camp and the preseason and he had an interception in the opener at Pittsburgh, though it was erased by a flag thrown on a fellow defender back at the line of scrimmage. Head Coach Bruce Arians has said he will not flip his corners to keep one of them on the opponent's top receiver, but Hargreaves is sure to see plenty of Beckham, the Browns' most important offseason acquisition. When healthy, Beckham is perhaps the most explosive player in the league, and he's dynamic after the catch. Beckham hasn't played yet in the preseason due to a minor hip injury. Hargreaves' confidence is sky-high thanks to his comfort in the Bucs' more aggressive defense under Todd Bowles.
2. Buccaneers LT Donovan Smith vs. Browns DE Myles Garrett
The first-overall pick in the 2017 draft, Garrett had a breakout season in 2013 with a team-high 13.5 sacks. He is extremely quick around the edge and will be a serious threat on Jameis Winston's blindside if Smith doesn't hold him in check. Smith and the Bucs' starting offensive line has lobbied to play the entire first half on Friday night, and if they get their wish they'll surely see quite a bit of Garrett. Smith and the O-Line have allowed just one sack of Winston so far on the two drives they've played.
3. Buccaneers TE O.J. Howard vs. Browns LB Christian Kirksey
Kirksey was limited by a hamstring injury in 2018, seeing his production drop significantly from two big seasons in 2016 and 2017. Kirksey is healthy now and one of the keys to the Browns getting the most out of their talent-laden defense. Though pass coverage hasn't always been his top strength, and he sometimes struggled to match up with top tight ends last year, he did record his first two career interceptions and broke up five passes. The starting weakside linebacker, Kirksey is almost certain to be tasked with covering Howard at times on Friday night. Howard has just one catch through the first two games but should see more action with the starting offense sticking around for more snaps. Potentially ready to crack the league's elite level at his position, Howard is a tough draw for any linebacker due to his rare size and speed combination.
There are no official injury reports during the preseason, but teams do often generate a list of players that are not expected to play. The following Buccaneers did not practice on Wednesday.
TE Cam Brate
ILB Lavonte David
S Mike Edwards
S Justin Evans
WR Mike Evans
QB Nick Fitzgerald
DL Jeremiah Ledbetter
OLB Anthony Nelson
OLB Jason Pierre-Paul
DL Vita Vea
Again, the Browns have no official injury report for Friday's game. However, the following players did not practice or were limited in the team's final practice before the game.
WR Odell Beckham (limited)
WR Antonio Calloway
S Juston Burruss
WR D.J. Montgomery
LB Sione Takitaki
S Jermaine Whitehead
Isolated thunderstorms, high of 91, low of 76, 30% chance of rain, 71% humidity, winds out of the NE at 8 mph.
Head referee: Craig Wrolstad (17 seasons)
· Favorite: Browns (-3.0)
· Over/Under: 43.0
INDIVIDUAL STAT LEADERS
Scoring: TE Tanner Hudson/RB Dare Ogunbowale, 12 points
Touchdowns: TE Tanner Hudson/RB Dare Ogunbowale, 2
Passing Yards: QB Ryan Griffin, 531
Passer Rating: QB Jameis Winston, 120.4
Rushing Yards: RB Dare Ogunbowale, 68
Receptions: TE Tanner Hudson, 13
Receiving Yards: TE Tanner Hudson, 177
Interceptions: CB Jamel Dean, 1
Sacks: 7 tied with, 1
Tackles: S Lukas Denis/ILB Kevin Minter/OLB Patrick O'Connor, 8
Scoring: 7 tied with, 6
Touchdowns: 7 tied with, 1
Passing Yards: QB Garrett Gilbert, 286
Passer Rating: QB Baker Mayfield, 158.3
Rushing Yards: RB D'Ernest Johnson, 76
Receptions: WR Rashard Higgins, 9
Receiving Yards: Rashard Higgins, 132
Interceptions: LB Mack Wilson, 2
Sacks: 5 tied with, 1
Tackles: CB Sheldrick Redwine, 11
TEAM STAT RANKINGS
Scoring Offense: 12th (22.0 ppg)
Total Offense: 5th (394.0 ypg)
Passing Offense: 1st (312.0 ypg)
Rushing Offense: 23rd (82.0 ypg)
First Downs Per Game: 3rd (24.5)
Third-Down Pct.: 16th (35.5%)
Sacks Per Pass Attempt Allowed: 25th (8.51%)
Red Zone TD Pct.: t-15th (62.5%)
Scoring Defense: t-20th (22.0 ppg)
Total Defense: 16th (309.5 ypg)
Passing Defense: 12th (196.5 ypg)
Rushing Defense: 21st (113.0 ypg)
First Downs Allowed Per Game: t-14th (18.5)
Third-Down Pct. Allowed: t-7th (28.6%)
Sacks Per Pass Attempt: 4th (10.29%)
Red Zone TD Pct. Allowed: t-15th (57.1%)
Turnover Margin: t-14th (0)
Scoring Offense: t-6th (25.5 ppg)
Total Offense: 11th (344.0 ypg)
Passing Offense: 4th (267.0 ypg)
Rushing Offense: 25th (77.0 ypg)
First Downs Per Game: 10th (21.0)
Third-Down Pct.: 19th (31.8%)
Sacks Per Pass Attempt Allowed: 14th (5.41%)
Red Zone TD Pct.: t-9th (66.7%)
Scoring Defense: t-5th (14.0 ppg)
Total Defense: 22nd (326.5 ypg)
Passing Defense: 28th (249.0 ypg)
Rushing Defense: 6th (77.5 ypg)
First Downs Allowed Per Game: t-11th (17.5)
Third-Down Pct. Allowed: 15th (34.5%)
Sacks Per Pass Attempt: 19th (6.41%)
Red Zone TD Pct. Allowed: t-3th (25.0%)
Turnover Margin: t-1th (+2)
· HC Bruce Arians on if he likes having the option to challenge pass-interference calls and non-calls, such as his successful challenge against Miami: "I love the ability to correct their mistake. The flag was thrown, he gets talked out of it – it’s obvious, so you throw the flag because you know you’re going to win and keep your challenge – so, yeah, that would’ve been a field goal instead of a touchdown drive on a mistake by a back judge who called him off."
· LB Devin White on getting a chance to play against fellow LSU products Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham: “I really haven’t thought about it yet, but it would be nice to get a tackle on [Landry] though because growing up watching the Tigers, those were the guys I looked up to – him and Odell and a lot of those guys. Now, it’s all competition. There is no brotherly love until after the game when I am playing a former LSU Tiger, but it’s great to be out there with those guys. They are at the top of the NFL; they are the best of the best."
· Arians on rookie CB Jamel Dean's improvements: "Catching the front half of the ball instead of the back half. He tried to catch the back half of another one today. Just his ball skills alone have improved dramatically from college and that was one of the things we loved about him – his length and turning and batting balls away. He made a great interception the other night, and the other one [that Dean dropped] was just too damn easy."
· QB Ryan Griffin on getting a lot of preseason reps: "It's a big difference going to a new offense. Every rep's been great. I'm getting a chance to run our stuff, which is different. There are different ways that we want to approach each play. So every rep's got to count and I want to make the most of each of them."
· Arians on potentially making changes to the roster after all 32 teams make their cuts: "We’re always looking to flip those last five guys – the last five guys on our practice squad – and just keep churning that roster to find guys that fit better. You’ll always be looking for them. That’s why when we make those cuts to the final [53 players], don’t celebrate too much – it might only be two days."
The countdown to season kickoff is on! The Bucs are kicking off the NFL’s 100th season with a FREE Tim McGraw pregame concert for all fans with a ticket to the home opener on Sept. 8! Get your tickets today.