A checklist for the Bucs’ game against Miami

by Gary Shelton on August 16, 2019 · 0 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Winston smiles during the first half./TIM WIRT

Friday, 4 a.m.

If they can just catch a few breaks ...

If they can somehow remain healthy ...

If they can cut down on the turnovers and the penalties and the blown plays ...

If they get production from their rookies ...

If their quarterback is just a bit better ...

And then, maybe they can be decent.

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All over the NFL, fans are wringing their hands and checking off the things that have separated their team from the elite teams. It isn't a wide expanse between being bad and being mediocre in this league. Even the worst of teams can smell a turnaround season.

And so it goes. In Arizona, they can envision being decent. In Cincinnati, they can find a reason to believe.  In Jacksonville, a successful year isn't that far in the past.  The Raiders have hope, and the Jets have a prayer, and the Giants will tell you that a better day is coming.

It is that way in Tampa Bay, as well. Why, if Jameis Winston is a little safer, and if the secondary is a little better, if the pass rush is a little fiercer, and if mistakes are flushed away by a new coaching staff ...

Then maybe.

This is what the Bucs have to hope for. They have to hope that their offense is pretty good again, and that the defense somehow becomes passable, and that the schedule doesn't become insurmountable. We are all hoping for lottery balls to come up just right.

And so it is that the Bucs enter their second preseason game tonight against the Miami Dolphins. Once again, there is a checklist of things you want to see. Bruce Arians has his, and you have yours.

The top 10 things you want to see:

1. James Winston, quarterback: Winston had an excellent start in Pittsburgh, but one drive in a practice game won't convince anyone. Winston has had good preseason games before. Once more, you want to see safe, but you'd like some explosion, too, before he gives way to his backups.

2. Sean Murphy-Bunting, cornerback: Arians admitted surprise that Murphy-Bunting wasn't better when the stadium lights came on last week. The rookie had been very good in preseason, but he was far too passive in the game. An active week in the secondary could help.

3. Devin White, linebacker: White had only one tackle last week. No one was alarmed, but it would be nice to see hints of him being the next great inside linebacker the NFL. That's what the Bucs were expecting when they took him fifth.

4. Jamel Dean, cornerback: Dean missed the first game. For those of us who are searching desperately for players who can make a play, we'll hope that Dean is the answer.

5. Mike Edwards, safety: All that was said about the secondary can apply here, too.

6. Dare Ogunbowale, running back: Sure, we all want to see Ronald Jones II be a player. But Ogunbowale is intriguing too, and he could supplant Jacquizz Rogers on the roster.

7. Tanner Hudson, tight end: We all love the Bucs' tight end group, but Hudson showed real possibilities last week. He has good hands, but can he block?

8. Spencer Schnell, wide receiver: Is Schnell trying to make you forget about Scottie Miller and his injuries?

9. Carl Nassib, defensive end: He had one sack last week. But he seems to be in charge of the pass rush until Jason Pierre-Paul gets back.

10. Matt Gay, kicker: I'll take all the 55-yard field goals a guy can offer.

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