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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Buccaneers Preparing for "Dress Rehearsal"

The Buccaneers' third preseason game may be the most important they'll play before kicking off the regular season.

Pictures from the Bucs' training camp practice on Tuesday with the Cleveland Browns.

On Friday, the Buccaneers will take the field against the Browns at Raymond James Stadium for their third, and perhaps most important, preseason game. For most teams, the starters play into the second half in the third preseason game. And for most teams, that's the longest their starters will play before the start of the regular season.

"Third week is the dress rehearsal, it's the final big push before the regular season, so we've got to come in and prepare like it's a regular season game, install like it's a regular season game," said center Joe Hawley. "Obviously we're going to have two practices against (the Browns), so there's going to be a lot of good work this week."

For Hawley and the Bucs' offensive linemen, this game may be even more significant because they will likely have their starting running back, Doug Martin, running behind them. Martin played sparingly in the Bucs' preseason opener against the Eagles and did not play at all against the Jaguars last Saturday.

Even without Martin, the Bucs rushed for 158 yards, a high mark for any offense. Tampa Bay will be competing against the Browns' 3-4 base defense this week, which will present a new challenge.

Tampa Bay will have one more joint practice with Cleveland on Wednesday before breaking camp and preparing for their Week 3 game. And for a team that finished No. 5 in the league in total offense a year ago, continuing to improve in the run game will be important.

"When you get 150 yards in the NFL, that's big," Hawley said. "I think all three groups were doing a really good job running the ball. We need to continue to improve on it.  This week we're going against a 3-4 defense, so it's a different kind of style. So it'd be good work for us to transfer [over to] this season."

Following Friday's game, the Buccaneers will turn around on a short week to prepare for a Thursday night game against the Redskins. Starters usually play a drive or two in that final preseason game and call it a day.

"It's the most important because you're playing your starters the longest," Head Coach Dirk Koetter said. "Our starters will actually come out, warm up, and play into the third quarter. It's the most important from that standpoint, yeah."

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