The Buccaneers travel to Houston Saturday to play the Texans in the final tuneup for the regular season.
The starters on both sides of the ball will play at least the entire first half. Bruce Arians wants to see a good showing for both the offense and defense. Arians said the starters might play into the third quarter if he doesn’t see what he needs to see in the first half.
Some guys are still fighting for roster spots. According to Arians, it will come down to two things. How well you play on special teams, and how versatile are you. In other words, can you play multiple positions?
The bottom ten roster spots and the 16 practice squad roster spots are still up for grabs.
Offensive lineman Earl Watford has played all positions in training camp and has played both the left and right sides of the offensive lines in games.
Defensive specialist Ross Cockrell can play safety, corner, and linebacker while also contributing on special teams. That’s roster versatility.
The fourth quarter will be significant for guys like Grant Stuard, Joe Jones, KJ Britt, and Javon Hagan. It will be their last opportunity to get some good things on tape and impress the coaches. It appears that Hagan may already earn the fourth safety spot.
Dee Delaney and Antonio Hamilton are battling for the fifth corner spot. Stuard, Jones, and Britt are all fighting for the final inside linebacker spot. The Bucs will keep one of the three, and possibly two if one shines on special teams.
In the return game, it sounds as if the job is Jaelon Darren’s to lose. Ke’Shawn Vaughan has impressed no one with the opportunities he has been given in pre-season. Arians also wants to take a look at Scotty Miller handling punt returns.
It sounds as if wide receiver Tyler Johnson will make the team. When Johnson reported to camp, he was overweight and out of shape and in coach Arian’s doghouse. According to Arians, Johnson worked hard to get himself back into football shape and has learned his lesson.
If the Bucs decide to go with four tight ends, the second half will be important for Tanner Hudson and Cody McElroy. Both Hudson and McElroy have had impressive camps and will get one more chance to impress the coaches.
This is the first time on the road for the Bucs this pre-season. So the Bucs must practice their travel and game day routines and get a feel for how it will look during the regular season.
The Bucs will have three players not make the trip due to being placed on the COVID List: kicker Ryan Succop and a pair of offensive linemen Earl Watford and Nick Leverett.
This is a tough blow for Leverett as he is fighting for one of the last positions along the offensive line. Aaron Stinnie and Alex Cappa are also battling for the starting right guard position. Cappa appears to have the edge right now.
This will be the second season with COVID protocols in place, and the Bucs protocols put in place by coach Bruce Arians are a lot stricter than those imposed by the NFL. Arians said earlier this week, “There’s league rules, and then there’s my rules. We ain’t going anywhere. We’re the same as last year. I don’t give a crap if they’re vaccinated or not. They ain’t going anywhere.”
The Bucs will not permit family visitors at the team hotel. And players must not leave the team hotel. This applies to vaccinated and unvaccinated alike.
After the trip to Houston, the next game for the Bucs will be the NFL opener on Thursday, September 9th, against the Dallas Cowboys.