Five things to watch for in Monday's Bucs-Bengals game Greg Auman, Times Staff WriterSunday, August 23, 2015 6:55pm It's a big national platform for rookie quarterback Jameis Winston and the team's other star players, but it's also a key opportunity for players on the bubble to make a splash.Here are five things to watch for, even in the second half, when familiar names are harder to find and players are battling for spots on the final 53-man roster:1. See the first-team offensive line togetherThe Bucs' first-team line barely worked together in the preseason opener — guard Logan Mankins was gone after just five plays, and center Evan Smith was done after just 16 — and neither took snaps with the team's two potential rookie starters, left tackle Donovan Smith and right guard Ali Marpet (pictured). Both of those rookies could start tonight after working with the first unit all week. The first change during the game might at right tackle, plugging in future starter Gosder Cherilus — who joined the team this week — for Monday's starter, Reid Fragel, who is more likely to be competing for a backup job.2. Let Winston hit his best targetsThe Bucs had eight passes attempted against Minnesota to their top three targets — receivers Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson (pictured) and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins — but completed just one, a 40-yard gain from Jameis Winston to Jackson. Building a rhythm on the field between Winston and his best downfield options is important in the preseason — they've shown chemistry in practice, but it's a bigger step to get on the same page in a game. What better way to get a home crowd excited about the season than a Winston touchdown pass?3. Which backup defensive end can step up?The Bucs are likely going without defensive ends Jacquies Smith and T.J. Fatinikun, held out of practice all week with injuries. That means beyond starter George Johnson, all the ends playing against Cincinnati are truly fighting for roster spots. You'll see some defensive tackles working at end — Henry Melton and Will Gholston should help out — but more often, you'll see four players rotating in: veterans Lawrence Sidbury (who had a fumble recovery and a forced fumble in separate plays in the opener) and Larry English (pictured), as well as undrafted rookies Ryan Delaire and Jamal Young. No defensive end had more than one tackle against the Vikings — Melton had the team's only sack — so there's an urgency to see someone make plays as part of the outside pass rush.4. Meet Speedy HallRannell "Speedy" Hall, the talented undrafted rookie from UCF, has turned heads in training camp but missed the preseason opener with a hamstring injury. He practiced all week and gets his first chance in a game to make a case for a roster spot when final cuts are made. Hall could show up a little bit of everywhere — on returns, where he'll challenge draft pick Kaelin Clay — as a receiver, and even on the occasional end-around.5. Where's the cornerback depth?The Bucs have moved Sterling Moore to nickel, so there's very little depth at corner behind starters Alterraun Verner and Johnthan Banks. Veteran Mike Jenkins (pictured) can lock down a backup job if he plays well, and the rest are mostly inexperienced: Brandon Dixon and Isaiah Frey, who joined the team last year, as well as two undrafted rookies trying to make fans — and announcers — learn their names: Jude Adjei-Barimah and Al-Hajj Shabazz. After giving up 284 passing yards to the Vikings in the opener, the Bucs need those backup cornerbacks to step up to avoid the Bengals doing the same in the second half of this game.
Hopefully we don't see Michael Johnson play well and burn our rookie. The boards will go ape (censored).
I believe Michael Johnson is out with an injury right now, and isn't scheduled to play tonight.But, yes, I'd love to see our OL go out there and get some push in the run game and give JW3 a chance to throw the ball around to Evans and Jackson. If we can do that, I'd be very happy.
I’m looking at the DLine specifically. I’m actually hoping that there’s some experimentation with the lineup throughout the game to find the best four rushers. Isn’t that what the offseason and preseason for. Even if at times it means that throughout certain occasions in a game that there’s 4 DTs on the field: MCoy/Melton at end and McDonald/McDaniels at tackle. I believe with the teams depth at tackle, it wouldn’t hurt to try. Even Bowers/Gholston could play end at times to spell players. Just try what can deliver the most potential. Can’t be stuck in a box doing the same thing over and over expecting the same results, that’s insanity! Be creative try something different and maybe the team can be pleasantly surprised with what they find.
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