Mike Glennon will make his first NFL start on Thursday, and in the process he'll complete a full-game mosaic of experience he's been working on all preseason.
Technically, Tampa Bay Buccaneers Head Coach Greg Schiano said his rookie quarterback would "probably" start the preseason finale against Washington, but it would be a surprise if usual starter Josh Freeman saw action in the game. Instead, Glennon is likely to take the first snap and stay in for the entire first quarter (and more), and that's an experience he is relishing.
"That's the thing about this whole [preseason] – I guess I will have done it all after this game," said Glennon. "I've come in and played in the second and third quarters, I got to play the fourth quarter last game and finish the game out, and then now I'll be able to start. I think that's a great thing. They've kind of set me up to see all sorts of different situations. That's really important to have gone through not every situation in football but some of the main situations."
Freeman started the first two games of the preseason but, as is the pattern most teams follow with their starters, only saw relatively brief cameos before getting his chance at a lengthier tune-up last Saturday in Miami. With Freeman and many of the other starters stretching into the third quarter against the Dolphins, Glennon saw his playing time pushed to the end-game, and that afforded him the valuable experience of leading the game-winning drive in a last-minute 17-16 decision.
Glennon also threw a pair of second-half touchdowns in the second week of the preseason against New England and overall has completed 26 of 54 passes for 334 yards, three TDs, two interceptions and a 71.1 passer rating. The third-round pick out of North Carolina State hasn't seen any of that action in the first quarter, however, and that's something he was hoping to get under his belt before the regular season arrived and Freeman took over.
"That's kind of what I've been used to these past couple years, is starting the game, so it will be kind of nice to get back in that way," said Glennon. "I've just got to make the most of my opportunity in there, keep building on what I've learned this preseason and just execute out there. It's the last time for the whole preseason and I want to make the most of the time I'm out there."
The Buccaneers placed Glennon second on their depth chart to start training camp, ahead of Dan Orlovsky, who was Freeman's back-up last season. Schiano has said that the Buccaneers intend to keep three quarterbacks this season, but it certainly appears that they are setting up the rookie to be the first one in if anything were to happen to Freeman. That's the basis for Glennon's extended playing time this preseason, and it has definitely helped.
"[I'm] just understanding the defenses more, understanding our offense, the protections and just what we're trying to accomplish on each and every play," said Glennon. "When you're out there in a game situation you understand why the play is called depending on the down-and-distance and the situation. It's just little subtle things like that that I'm getting more comfortable with, and I'll continue to grow as I get more reps."
And even if he has won the competition to be Freeman's primary reserve, Glennon is glad that both of his veteran teammates will apparently be sticking around.
"It's been a big help with the coaches, and Dan and Josh, they've helped me so much," said the rookie passer. "Even though there might be a certain number on the depth chart, I know me and Dan have the same approach. We're going to prepare to be the guy, and he has helped me so much. I'm really lucky to have him. He's always been there for me, from the start, just like the coaches have been."
The Buccaneers are 1-2 in preseason play so far and, in the grand scheme of things it won't matter much if they finish 2-2 or 1-3. But Glennon wants to finish up his active preseason with a strong performance, and if he does that might also satisfy a secondary goal.
"I think seeing all these reps is a huge help for me because as a rookie there are a lot of guys that don't get as many reps as I've been able to get, and those reps are so important for me and my development," he said. "You want to put forth your best effort and you want to execute well. At the same time, you want to go out there and put points on the board and lead the team to victory. Even though it doesn't technically count you still want to win, and to be the starter and be out there, you want to put up a good first half, or however long it may be, and have more points on the board than them."