Preseason Picks: Browns vs. Buccaneers

-Starters to play a quarter to a half.

Known as the ‘dress rehearsal,’ the third preseason is where you’ll see the starters take the most snaps. Earlier this week, Head Coach Bruce Arians said he asked the offensive line how much they needed to play in Friday’s game. They replied, ‘A half’ and he said, ‘No, I don’t think you need to.’

Arians said how much time the first team gets on the field will be dependent on how they perform and how efficient they are. It’s probably a safe bet that you’ll quarterback Jameis Winston and co. out there for at least a quarter, with the first-team defense playing at least that long as well.

Coaches will use these game-scenario reps to evaluate how the team in grasping the new system. It also gives them time to make any necessary changes before the regular season. Starters do not typically play in the final preseason game.

-Cleveland runs a very similar offense to the Bucs.

Imagine that. A former offensive assistant coach of Bruce Arians taking a page for the offensive playbook of… Bruce Arians. Browns Head Coach Freddie Kitchen was with Arians for the entirety of his tenure with the Cardinals. He was also on staff at the Dallas Cowboys with Bucs Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles. It makes him very familiar with both the offensive and defensive schemes he’ll face tonight inside Raymond James Stadium.

But his offense will look familiar, too. Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield is still young, entering his sophomore season in the league. He has plenty of star power around him, like quarterback Jameis Winston does with the Bucs. But like Winston, Mayfield will have to make good decisions on who to actually get the ball to. Look for Mayfield to get the ball out quickly and make those higher-completion percentage throws. The Bucs will have to contain Mayfield too, because like Winston, Mayfield can roll out and escape the pocket with the best of them. If Tampa Bay’s defense can contain him and keep the pressure on, whether real or illusion, Mayfield should be pretty uncomfortable for the time he’s in the game.

View some of the top photos from Buccaneers preseason practice at the AdventHealth Training Center.

-Bucs corners matching up against big-time receivers.

Speaking of all the options Mayfield has around him, with the Browns’ trade for wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., the Bucs’ corners are looking at some high-profile guys on the other side of the line. Tampa Bay’s secondary is young, so this will be good exposure for them in a game that doesn’t actually count. Linebacker Devin White actually said it best when asked about going up against Beckham and Cleveland wide receiver Jarvis Landry, who both also went to White’s alma mater, LSU, “I really haven’t thought about it yet, but it would be nice to get a tackle on him though because growing up watching the Tigers, those were the guys I looked up to – him and Odell [Beckham Jr.] 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.”

-How the Bucs offensive line holds up with more work.

So far, the Bucs starting offensive line has looked solid in the preseason – but it’s been with limited work. The first-team offense has played just two drives this preseason, both at the opening of the game in the two weeks prior to Friday. It’s clear they know what to do and know their roles but now comes the resiliency test. They still won’t get a full game, obviously. The way Coach Arians was talking earlier this week, they may not even get a half. But it’ll be more work than they’ve had up until this point and that’s when the real evaluation can begin.

-How Tampa Bay running backs are shuffled with the first team.

In both of those aforementioned opening drives, both running backs Peyton Barber and Ronald Jones were involved. While Barber is listed as the starting tailback, according the Bucs depth chart, it seems Jones is getting his fair share of snaps, too.

Each played 7% of the offensive snaps in last Friday’s matchup with the Dolphins – that amounted to a total of five, if you’re wondering. Jones also got some work on special teams, fielding the opening kickoff.

Jones has been limited in practice this week with some knee soreness. Coach Arians said on Wednesday that if Jones is playing, he’ll be 100%. If he’s not fully healthy, he may be held out for precautionary reasons, in which case Barber would probably take a bulk of the first-team snaps with perhaps running back Dare Ogunbowale mixed in a little bit. Ogunbowale has had a strong camp and has taken the brunt of the work on the ground. If Jones couldn’t go, Coach Arians said he would have no problem letting Ogunbowale on with the first team offense, either.

-Where wide receiver Chris Godwin is on the field.

You’ve heard it time and time again: Bucs wide receiver Chris Godwin is going to get a lot of work in this offense. He’s lined up everywhere in camp and in preseason games, so far. He’s been in the slot, he’s been on the outside, wide, tight, you name it. Entering Friday’s dress rehearsal, wide receiver Mike Evans is currently sidelined and Coach Arians confirmed he would not be playing in the game against Cleveland on Wednesday.

With Evans out, Winston may rely on Godwin even more in this game. Either way, it’s fun to see where Godwin is lined up and what kind of routes Offensive Coordinator Byron Leftwich has him running during any given drive. It varies a ton and will be good to see how an opposing first-team defense tries to figure out how to cover him.

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.

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