TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have closed out training camp and now it is full speed ahead to opening day on September 8.
There are two final steps in the preseason and the first one happens tonight when the Bucs host the Cleveland Browns at 7:30 at Raymond James Stadium.
The game will be broadcast on News Channel 8, Your Official Bucs Station.
The third preseason game is traditionally the most we see of a team’s starting players.
Bucs head coach Bruce Arians did not commit to how much playing time quarterback Jameis Winston and other key players will see.
He said earlier in the week that the starters on both sides of the ball will play according to their success level early in the game.
Here are three keys to look for tonight:
1. How about some Mayfield mojo?
Yes, the preseason often leads to unpredictable outcomes and games decided by roster bubble players but there is an energy surrounding the Cleveland Browns that has the NFL world watching with anticipation.
Quarterback Baker Mayfield is one of the exciting young leaders in the game and he has embraced expectations as the Browns loaded the offense with talent, such as wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., around him.
Mayfield has run the offense effectively, especially at a high tempo. The Bucs defense can prove something with a good showing but Mayfield’s mobility will test the aggressive scheme.
Earlier this week, Bucs rookie linebacker Devin White said he cannot wait to match up against Mayfield to find out where he stands entering his first season.
2. Want a quick night? Score points!
Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston has played in two series in two games. After an opening drive touchdown at Pittsburgh, the Bucs offense was humbled with a stalled opening drive against the Miami Dolphins.
Head coach Bruce Arians is pleased with Winston’s play in camp and the valuable, situational practice repetitions that are tough to duplicate in preseason games.
Consistency is the key for Winston and the entire offense, which saw its final play against Miami end with a sack on 3rd and 13, taking the Bucs well out of field goal range.
Winston will be without his go-to guy, wide receiver Mike Evans, who did not practice all week after grabbing his leg in apparent injury last Sunday on the practice field.
If Winston leads the Bucs on successful early drives, he could be out of the game by the end of the first quarter. A lesser performance will see the starters go longer, maybe to halftime.
3. More reps equal more chances.
Without Mike Evans, Vita Vea, Lavonte David and Mike Edwards in the lineup, there will be plenty of chances for players, fighting for roster spots, to play more and have an impact on the game.
Defensive lineman Rakeem Nunez-Roches has impressed the coaching the most in Vea’s absence. His place on the depth chart will certainly be helped if he can make a play against the fast-paced Browns offense.
Wide receiver Scotty Miller also hopes to stand out against the Browns. The speedy rookie missed both of the first two games while nursing an injured hamstring. Head coach Bruce Arians even singled out Miller on one occasion, mentioning his wish to see Miller on the field fighting for a roster spot.
Preseason hero Tanner Hudson will also look to add to his highlight reel. With big plays touchdown catches in the first two games, Hudson is bound to catch the eye of an NFL team on cut day. That’s if he has not already convinced his own coaching staff that he belongs on the roster.
Arians said he could cut the Bucs roster from 90 players to 60 players right now. For those living on the bubble, that is a classic Arians wake up call.