ARLINGTON, Tex. (WFLA) – The final preseason game has arrived for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as they take on the Dallas Cowboys tonight at 8 p.m. at AT&T Stadium. News Channel 8, Your Official Bucs Station, will broadcast the finale beginning at 7:30 p.m. with the Bucs Bonus Pregame Show.
The fourth and final preseason game holds a special place for all players that have had to earn their way on to a team’s 53-man regular-season roster. While most of the Bucs starters will not play tonight, head coach Bruce Arians said this week that there are ten open spots on the roster. All NFL teams will begin making roster cuts tomorrow, then complete their rosters by 4:00 p.m. Saturday.
Bucs fans have learned a lot about some of the so-called “bubble” players during the first three preseason games. Players such as tight-end Tanner Hudson have gained attention with big catches and consistent play with the backup players. He is not a lock, however, and that’s where the fourth preseason game creates drama of its own.
Here are three keys to look for tonight:
1. Do something “special”
Bucs head coach Bruce Arians said on Monday that special teams will be the difference between staying or going when it comes down to the final roster cuts. Pay attention to punt coverage as well as punt returns as a tackle or forced fumble may win a job.
On the returns, wide receiver Bobo Wilson looks to secure his spot fielding punts. Last week against the Cleveland Browns, fellow receiver Scotty Miller returned punts with limited results. Miller is a speedy slot receiver that caught everyone’s eye early in camp but a hamstring injury slowed his progress, leaving him in a vulnerable position come cut day.
2. Vinny and the Bucs
When quarterback Blaine Gabbert injured his shoulder in the Cleveland game, Vincent Testaverde was at home watching. He wondered if he may receive a phone call from the Bucs. Not only did the phone ring, but the son of former Bucs quarterback Vinny Testaverde will also play the majority of the offensive snaps tonight against the Cowboys.
It is a golden opportunity for the young Testaverde to assemble his NFL resume with real game film. He is also in a difficult situation, controlling the offense that features position battles and roster spots at stake. To lighten the worry, head coach Bruce Arians asked Testaverde to recall the 10 plays that he is most comfortable calling. That will go into account when offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich sends in the play calls.
3. Remember who’s watching
The final preseason game is full of nerves for both teams. Every player knows that one play can be the difference between an opening day chance or not having a job at all. The Bucs are not only filling their 53-man roster, but they will also bring players in to fill out the team’s 10-man practice squad.
Players are also aware that all 32 NFL teams will have access to game film and clips from camp. Tonight’s game is an audition for the entire league.
The always deep receiver group is easy to spot and there will be tense moments with each pass. Spencer Schnell was a tryout player for the Bucs this spring. He stood out in the first preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers but has been relatively quiet since.
Fellow receiver Emanuel Hall is still waiting for his first catch of the preseason. Hall began camp with the Chicago Bears but was placed on waivers two weeks ago.
News Channel 8 is the Official Station of the Tampa Bay Buccanneers.
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