Worrying about wins and losses in preseason is silly in the grand scheme of things, as the four exhibition contests are about preparing your starters for the regular season, but maybe more importantly, developing and evaluating the depth behind the first team units. PewterReport.com will in earnest begin the Five Keys To Victory feature once the regular season begins, but for now the feature will list objectives head coach Greg Schiano and staff will most likely be attempting to achieve Thursday night when the Ravens meet the Bucs at Raymond James Stadium.
1. Who's On Third?
1. Who's On Third?
The Tampa Bay offense needs a third go-to guy that poses enough of a threat that can take some of the focus off of Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams. Tiquan Underwood, Kevin Ogletree, and the emerging Chris Owusu all have a shot at making it on the team as the third receiver for Tampa Bay. Others on the roster have shots as well but those three have the best chance on the roster of getting the nod of the team's third receiver respectively.
Owusu has been impressive in camp. Ogletree appears to be the “safe” pick so far after being acquired during free agency, and Underwood showed he is serviceable last season. David Douglas is another candidate in the mix as he has been listed as a third-string receiver for Thursday's depth chart. Since Jackson and Williams are obvious locks, expect to see the reserves early and often.
2. Stuck In The Middle
The Buccaneers drafted defensive tackle Akeem Spence in the fourth round just a few months back. Head coach Greg Schiano likes Spence and his ability at playing the tilted nose position in their defensive system. In training camp, Spence has shown good quickness off the snap and has done some good things during one-on-ones but at times has been beat on occasion. Thursday night, he’ll kick off his pro career and be tested early as he lines up against a Super Bowl winning offensive line.
3. No Barth. No Problem?
Kicker Connor Barth was lost for the season after he tore his Achilles tendon in his hometown of Wilmington, N.C. on July 12. The Bucs signed Pro Bowl veteran kicker Lawrence Tynes to compete with 23-year old Derek Dimke. Both have had a steady competition during training camp. Dimke appears to have the slight edge to win the job so far as he has appeared to be more consistent than Tynes has been. Dimke even made a “rushed” field goal from 40-plus yards out on the skinny posts to end practice on Tuesday.
4. A Crowded Backfield
Mike James, Michael Smith, Brian Leonard, and Peyton Hillis all share one common goal – win the backup running back job to compliment running back Doug Martin. Heading into Thursday night’s preseason game, seventh-year man and former Rutgers/Greg Schiano product Brian Leonard is listed second behind Martin. But the one who has seen a fair share of looks with the first team to this point in training camp has been Mike James. James has been seen lined up in the backfield with Martin in a splitback formation on several occasions. But knocking on the door are Hillis and Smith. Both have had some interesting camp practices as well. Look for these four to get a lot of reps this week.
5. The No Fly Zone
It’s printed on billboards across the Bay area. A picture of Drew Brees and Darrelle Revis promoting the home opener with the words across the top that reads the secondary’s new nickname: No Fly Zone. But there is more than just Revis in that unit, especially when he is not game ready this week for obvious reasons. Dashon Goldson is the new safety valve of the defense. Rookie Johnthan Banks is expected to line up opposite Revis, unless Leonard Johnson earns that spot. That still leaves cornerbacks Danny Gorrer, Michael Adams, Rashaan Melvin, among others. Then safeties Cody Grimm, Ahmad Black, Keith Tandy and Sean Baker fighting for position and roster spots as well. They’ll be tested when they go up against Baltimore’s explosive receivers.