This has been a long, tough week for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense, particularly the linemen. The first-team offensive line was ravaged during a little more than a quarter's worth of play during a 16-10 loss to the Jaguars last week, and the players have been itching to get back on the field.
They finally get their chance tonight, when the Bucs take on the Miami Dolphins at Raymond James Stadium. The team's ultimate goal is to win during the regular season, but how well certain individuals and units play during the preseason could tell us a lot about Tampa Bay's chances.
So instead of the scoreboard, focus tonight on these five individuals or areas of play.
TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins
No player had a stronger finish to training camp than TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins. The 6-foot-5, 262-pound rookie quickly made up for all the time he missed during the offseason to finish as perhaps the most talked-about player in camp. Now, he has to prove he can play at a high level in games. Seferian-Jenkins got off to a decent start at Jacksonville, but he has to avoid taking penalties and develop consistency as a route runner and pass catcher.
The fallout from the line's horrific struggles at Jacksonville was immediate. Veteran Jamon Meredith was removed as the starting right guard, and the Bucs spent the past week working a couple of different combinations at both guard spots, including prospects Kadeem Edwards, Patrick Omameh and Jace Daniels. Meanwhile, reports surfaced suggesting Tampa Bay might want to trade for 49ers holdout guard Alex Boone. If the line, particularly the guards, struggles again, those trade talks could get serious.
WR Mike Evans
Bucs coach Lovie Smith recently said WR Mike Evans' training camp performance was “typical” for a rookie, which is a nice way of saying he's inconsistent. The Bucs are counting on Evans to start opposite Vincent Jackson, but Evans still has to earn that job. Chris Owusu has taken a lot of first-team snaps, and there's a chance that will continue if Evans doesn't make more of an impact in practice and preseason games.
S Dashon Goldson
Goldson is still recovering from offseason foot surgery, so the Bucs have had to be careful with him this preseason. They limited his reps early in training camp and held him out against Jacksonville. Goldson will play tonight, but it's not his recovery from foot surgery that makes him a player to watch. Goldson has always been a big hitter, but he has developed a reputation for delivering many of those hits to the head and neck area. He has been penalized and suspended multiple times, so the Bucs want to see if Goldson can lower his target and still make an impact hit.
QB Mike Glennon
Only an injury will force the Bucs to change their plans to start veteran Josh McCown at quarterback this year. But the Bucs need to know just what they have in backup Mike Glennon. He showed promise as a decision-maker last year, throwing 19 touchdown passes with nine interceptions. But he still has to prove he can be a consistent playmaker, particularly in the clutch. That's not always easy working with and against second-teamers, but to prove he can be a starter, Glennon first needs to excel as a backup.