Rookie Marc Dile will get an extended opportunity to showcase his talents on Friday night
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense will look markedly different on Friday night than it did just a week ago, but not because there's a new coordinator at the helm. It's the personnel, not the scheme, that will have a much different flavor in the final outing of the preseason.
The Buccaneers changed offensive coordinators on Thursday, dismissing Jeff Jagodzinski and promoting Quarterbacks Coach Greg Olson. But whoever drew the task of calling plays on Friday night knew they would be doing so for a very young cast of performers.
Like most teams in the league, Tampa Bay will use its final preseason game to evaluate the bottom half of the roster and give its starters a rest before the regular-season opener. While the Bucs' starting defensive players will likely play a series or two, very few of the offensive first-liners will need their helmets on Friday night.
At quarterback, the Buccaneers are likely to split the snaps between the two Joshes, rookie first-rounder Josh Freeman and second-year man Josh Johnson. Freeman, the Bucs' future "franchise" quarterback is expected to make his first NFL start and see his most extended playing time so far. At running back, the team will rest its three-headed monster of Earnest Graham, Derrick Ward and Cadillac Williams and lean largely on rookie Kareem Huggins and fullbacks B.J. Askew and Jameel Cook. At receiver, the bulk of the playing time will belong to the likes of roster hopefuls Patrick Carter, Mario Urrutia and Marcus Maxwell.
And along the offensive line, it will be time to test the largely unproven depth behind the team's strong group of starters.
The Bucs added two new linemen to their group during the week and one, Marcus Johnson, is a former starter in the National Football League. Newcomer Jonathan Compas, however, is a rookie, just like fellow Buc O-line reserves Xavier Fulton, Marc Dile, Rob Bruggeman and Demar Dotson. Backup tackle Anthony Alabi had a stint as a starter in Miami but James Lee and Julius Wilson are still looking for their first footholds.
Head Coach Raheem Morris knows his O-line reserves lack name recognition but he has seen enough to believe they can provide the quality depth the team needs.
"I didn't know about them at the beginning of training camp," said Morris. "They're all here, they all worked hard. Some of the young guys actually stepped up, which gives you the confidence to release a guy like Sean Mahan. You've got the Diles that have been out there playing a lot of football, the Dotsons and those types of guys. Now you've got a chance to add some more guys with some of the same type of similar scheme coming from Oakland. You add them to your roster. You see them on tape, you like what you see on tape and you want to see what they've got for a little bit and let them go out there and play."
A strong game on Friday night from, say, Marc Dile or Rob Bruggeman won't guarantee either a spot on the 53-man roster, which will be formed the day after the game. It can't hurt, though. Morris admits that one week of work – especially for new faces like Compas and Johnson – isn't enough to create a completely formed opinion on a player, but it this game will be part of the equation for those young linemen.
"You can see them move around a little bit," said Morris. "You can decide what you like and what you don't. You can figure out whether you want to hang onto a guy. We've got to work on the bottom of the roster for awhile here."
Game Notes: Texans at Buccaneers, Friday, September 4, 2009