What are the six things PewterReport.com publisher and Bucs beat writer
Scott Reynolds will be looking for in Tampa Bay’s fourth preseason game
against Washington? Find out in his new weekly column, SR’s Pick 6.
The Buccaneers return to Raymond James Stadium for the preseason finale against the Washington Redskins on Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. What are the six things PewterReport.com publisher Scott Reynolds is looking for in Tampa Bay’s last preseason game?1. IMPROVED ACCURACY FROM GLENNON
Rookie quarterback Mike Glennon has made serious strides during the preseason. Glennon entered the Miami game completing 51 percent of his passes with two touchdowns and two interceptions and helped engineer a fourth quarter comeback victory over the Dolphins with a 12-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver David Douglas. But what Glennon, who will get the start against Washington, needs to work on is his accuracy.
The N.C. State graduate has completed 26-of-54 passes for 334 yards, but his completion percentage has fallen to 48.1 percent. Unstable pass protection has played a role in his lack of accuracy as Glennon has been sacked three times during the preseason. Shaky pass protection has also contributed to Josh Freeman, who has been sacked nine times, completing just 12-of-26 passes (46.2 percent) of his passes for 101 yards during the preseason.
When Glennon, who will see plenty of playing time on Thursday night, does have time to throw, he needs to be accurate with his passes. The goal should be to have his final completion percentage of the preseason be as close to 55 percent as possible. That would require him completing over 60 percent of his throws against the Redskins.2. LOOMING FOR A BACKUP RB TO EMERGE
One of Tampa Bay’s preseason goals was to find a running back that could back up starter Doug Martin and take some of the workload off the shoulders of the team’s leading rusher. The good news is the Bucs found three capable runners in veterans Brian Leonard and Peyton Hillis, and rookie Mike James, who will all get one final audition against Washington at Raymond James Stadium.
Hillis is the leading rusher with 29 carries for 114 yards (3.9 avg.), including a team-long 17-yard jaunt. James is second with 28 carries for 113 yards (4.0 avg.), including a 16-yard dash. He has also proven to be a good receiver with four catches for 18 yards, including a 16-yarder. But James’ weakness is pass protection and he’s surrendered two sacks. Hillis’ weakness is the fact that he doesn’t have any experience playing on special teams, which is mandatory duty for backup running backs.
With Hillis and James having holes in their games, Leonard appears the likely logical solution at running back behind Martin. Leonard excels on special teams and has adequate size at 220 pounds to play fullback if called upon, in addition to carrying the ball. Leonard, who is a nimble, yet powerful runner, has rushed for 61 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries (3.8 avg.). 3. BUCS MUST PROVIDE BETTER PASS PROTECTION
Tampa Bay has given up 12 sacks in three preseason games – an average of four per contest, which is unacceptable. The sacks allowed are not all the fault of the offensive line, either. Backup tight end Nate Byham gave up one last week at Miami and rookie running back Mike James has surrendered two this preseason.
Even though the Buccaneers will field a line composed of backup players, the team needs to shore up its pass protection and help give quarterback Mike Glennon time to scan the field and find open receivers. Poor pass protection against Washington will not only hurt Glennon’s chance at a good outing, but also hinder the chances of the reserve wide receivers and tight ends who are vying for a roster spot.
With left guard Carl Nicks likely missing the season opener against the New York Jets, the Bucs will have to start a reserve player in his place. Will it be Ted Larsen? Will it be Gabe Carimi? Will it be Jamon Meredith or Cody Wallace? The play of those players and how they handle pass protection duties against Washington will largely decide that.4. KEEP THE SACKS COMING ON DEFENSE
The good news for Tampa Bay’s woeful pass rush is that the team registered four sacks in last week’s game at Miami after notching just one in the first two preseason games. The bad news is that it was not really a collaborative effort as newly signed defensive end Trevor Scott was the man behind three of those quarterback captures. Scott likely made the team based upon his sack total versus the Dolphins, but he could cement his spot on the 53-man roster with another sack or two against Washington.
Defensive ends Adrian Clayborn and Da’Quan Bowers both had their best showing against the Dolphins in terms of applying pressure on the quarterback. Clayborn isn’t expected to play, but Bowers might on Thursday night. Against Miami, rookie defensive end Steven Means recorded his first sack, which was Tampa Bay’s only other preseason sack from a defensive lineman. He’ll need to add another to prove to the coaching staff that he can be a pass rushing weapon in dime defense as a rookie, and keep some momentum going for the defensive line heading into the season.
Rookie defensive lineman William Gholston, who plays end and three-technique tackle, forced a key fumble last week at Miami to help fuel Tampa Bay’s comeback win. Now it’s time for him to show he can get to the quarterback like Means and record his first NFL sack.5. SOLIDIFY TAMPA BAY’S SPECIAL TEAMS
It appears as if newcomer Eric Page has wrapped up the kick return and punt return duties this preseason, especially with Michael Smith heading to injured reserve with a foot injury. But if there are any challengers to Page’s job as Tampa Bay’s return specialist, they better come forward on Thursday night.
Bucs kicker Derek Dimke has been a perfect 5-of-5 on his field goals through two preseason games. New kicker Rian Lindell was perfect in his lone attempt last week at Miami. Will the Bucs go with the familiar Dimke or will they turn to a proven veteran just released from Buffalo to replace Connor Barth? It might depend on what happens against Washington. The educated guess here is that it’s Dimke’s job to lose.6. NO INJURIES, PLEASE
The Buccaneers have been fortunate to avoid serious injuries during the preseason games. Cornerback Danny Gorrer tore his groin against Baltimore and that required surgery, which will keep him out of action for a while. Backup cornerback Anthony Gaitor and reserve running back Michael Smith were both placed on injured reserve with knee and foot injuries, respectively, but neither was a lock to make the team. Other than those injuries, the Bucs have emerged relatively healthy from their three preseason clashes and the goal is to keep that going.
The vast majority of Tampa Bay’s starters wisely won’t play in the fourth and final preseason game as the team prepares for the 2013 season opener against the New York Jets. However, there will still be some regular contributors on Sundays this year that will see action against the Redskins and the goal is to keep them healthy until the regular season begins next week.
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