What will you watch in Bucs’ preseason finale?

by Gary Shelton on August 30, 2018 · 4 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Koetter, at least, will be interested in tonight's game./JEFFREY S. KING

Koetter, at least, will be interested in tonight's game./JEFFREY S. KING

Thursday, 3 a.m.

You want to know if the pass rush is progressing. You want to see heat coming from the corner. You want to see quickness from the inside. You want to see relentlessness all around.

But you won't see that tonight.

You want to see the quarterbacks continue to be efficient. You want to see your starter comfortable in the pocket. You want to to see your regular fling a pass downfield. You want to see safe, crisp throws.

But you won't see that, either.

You want to see the offensive line push people around. You want to see it open holes and protect the quarterback and make Ron Jones III look like a home run threat. Or at least a guy who can run from first to third.

No, you won't see any of that.

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So what will you see? Better question: What will you pay attention to as the practice squads take over the league? Or will you turn the channel and watch an old Criminal Minds rerun?

The Tampa Bay Bucs, like the rest of the NFL, will turn this game over to the scrubs and the would-be scrubs. Fans will see guys play backups who will be selling cars in two weeks.

It's Week Four of the preseason, or National Swindle Day. Mind you, the cost of all preseason games make it a joke of a competition. But the final week, when the regulars won' t get near the field, is the worst of it.  It's Broadway prices for Little Theatre performances.

Ask yourself: Do you really care who the Bucs' fifth cornerback will be? Do you really care about a receiver who is applying for a job? Do you really want to spend an evening watching Austin Allen play quarterback?

No, you probably don't.

Oh, there is a big of intrigue involved to see which guy may make a roster and play special teams, while some other guy makes the roster but doesn't dress on Sunday while a third guy doesn't make it but lands on the practice squad. Look, anyone who plays tonight (kickers aside) isn't going to help a lot when the Bucs try to upset New Orleans.

No, tonight is about Justin Watson and Bobo Wilson, about Shaun Wilson and Dare Ogunbowale, about Jack Cichy and Riley Bullough. It's whether Ryan Griffin can make you feel better if Ryan Fitzpatrick gets hurt. It's whether Brad Seaton can convince someone that he can play.

Oh, you can get angry at the NFL for their greed. If you're judging from an entertainment standpoint, there has never been a final preseason game that was worth the price of a ticket.

For the coaches and players, however, it's a little different. Players want to get tape for their next team in the never-ending battle to try to find work. Coaches need to watch fringe players play so they don't have to risk regular players getting hurt.

So what are the key battles? Or, at least, what are the interesting soft-of competitions?

1. Wide receiver: Again, most of the balls will go to Mike Evans or DeSean Jackson or Chris Godwin or Adam Humphries. That leaves Watson, Wilson and Freddie Martino trying to make the team. Of course, a receiver can never tell when he's going to be able to make a play; even if he's open, the quarterback has to see him and the line has to give him time. It's one reason the position drives players crazy.

2. Running back: Shaun Wilson's best argument for a job was his kick returning last week. And make no mistake, it's a nice talent to have. Too many backs don't help when they aren't running the ball.

3. Offensive line: Be honest. You don't really evaluate third-team guards in preseason, do you? Me, neither. Michael Liedtke seems to have the team made, but let's see about everyone else.

4. Linebacker: Cichy is this year's Riley Bulloch, and he's competing against last year's Riley Bulloch for the last roster spot. Both might miss.

5. Defensive backs: I've always thought Keith Tandy was better than his coaches thought. I'll pay attention when he's on the field.

Until the fourth quarter, that is.

I hope the coffee holds up.

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