Bucs vs. Dolphins: What to watch for in Tampa Bay’s preseason home opener


TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The Tampa Bay Buccaneers take the field for their second preseason game Friday at 7:30 p.m. against the Miami Dolphins. The game is the first of back-to-back games at Raymond James Stadium as the cut to 53 players looms in just over two weeks.

The Bucs and Dolphins practiced together at the AdventHealth Training Center in Tampa on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Head coach Bruce Arians felt that his team maximized the joint workouts, succeeding in a high tempo setting. The repetitions for the Bucs core of starting players during the week will likely mean more playing time for the younger players in Friday’s game, similar to the formula Arians used last Friday against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Here are three keys to watch for when the Bucs host the Dolphins:

1. Try to top last week’s start

Quarterback Jameis Winston led the Bucs in a 12-play, 81-yard opening touchdown drive last week in Pittsburgh. The lone blemish on his 5 for 6 passing night was an overthrown deep ball beyond the reach of speedy wide receiver Breshad Perriman.

Bucs fans will certainly remember Winston’s struggles in trying to find that same chemistry with DeSean Jackson in 2018 but he has consistently hit the long ball in camp with Perriman and wide receiver Mike Evans. If a deep shot presents itself again, expect Winston to go for it and perhaps a big play early for the Bucs offense.

2. Is this a backup QB battle?

Quarterback Blaine Gabbert is very familiar with head coach Bruce Arians and the offense run by offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich. His command of the offense in practice looks like a guy that earned trust with his coaches in Arizona. Gabbert also showed well in the Steelers game going 6 of 8 for 50 yards.

Then came quarterback Ryan Griffin, the seasoned Bucs backup, not only sticking around but making a difference. Griffin played the most in Pittsburgh, finishing 26 of 43 for 330 yards. He led a fourth-quarter rally that fell just short in a 30-28 loss.

Arians was questioned this week on whether or not he could keep three quarterbacks on the roster. If Griffin keeps performing, the Bucs could be in great shape with both QBs behind Winston.

3. Which rookies step up?

Linebacker Devin White has a lot on his plate. The Bucs first-round draft pick is not fighting for a roster spot. Not even a depth chart spot. White is expected to make a difference in defensive coordinator Todd Bowles’ 3-4 scheme in his rookie season.

White demonstrated speed and the ability to track the football in the first game, now the challenge is to drop into coverage, especially after selling a different look. White was made to rush the offensive backfield. Now he must get up to NFL speed when it comes to passing lanes and picking up a sneaky tight end underneath or a speedy receiver cutting through his area.

Fellow rookie Sean Murphy-Bunting hopes to have a better performance in game two. Head coach Bruce Arians admitted disappointment in his cornerback’s film against the Steelers, chalking up to nerves and a rookie hitting the big stage for the first time. Murphy-Bunting responded well, playing consistently in two days of practice against the Dolphins. Now he gets another chance to shine under the lights, this time at Raymond James.

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