FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Greg Schiano's primary objective in his first season as coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was to change the culture inside the walls at One Buc Place. Now that he's done that, his goal is to win football games. It doesn't matter much if the Bucs win in the preseason, but how individual players and units perform in exhibition games will say a lot about Tampa Bay's chances of winning consistently in the regular season. With that in mind, ignore the scoreboard during tonight's game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium and focus instead on these five players or positions.
DE Da'Quan Bowers
The Bucs have not abandoned their plan to make Bowers an every-down left defensive end. The thought, though, is gaining steam during player evaluations. And guess who's leading the charge? It's none other than Schiano, who is clearly losing patience with the 2011 second-round draft pick. He's not happy with Bowers' conditioning, effort in practice or performance in last week's preseason opener against Baltimore, in which he had two tackles after playing the entire first half. The Bucs need Bowers to be one of the best players on the field for either team.
WR Kevin Ogletree
The reasons Ogletree struggled to earn regular playing time in Dallas are coming into view. Ogletree is a solid practice player, but not consistently special. And coaches have a tendency to steer away from such players when the time comes to dole out game-day snaps. That said, Ogletree did have a nice game (5 catches, 65 yards) against Baltimore last week. He needs to match or improve that effort tonight, because consistency in games is the key for him. Ogletree has the lead in the battle for the third receiver spot, but Tiquan Underwood and Chris Owusu are viable contenders.
LG Carl Nicks
Nicks might bear watching more after the game than during it. He is not slated to play all that much in his preseason debut — a dozen snaps at best — but how his surgically repaired left big toe responds to its first game will determine whether he truly is on the last leg of the road to recovery. Nicks is a key figure in the plan to use RB Doug Martin as Tampa Bay's offensive catalyst. The nagging toe injury is something Nicks will have to deal with the rest of his life, but he vowed to work through the pain and excel on game days.
QB Mike Glennon
The Bucs are planning to carry three quarterbacks, including veteran Dan Orlovsky, this season. You get the feeling, though, that if something were to happen to starter Josh Freeman — even early on — they would turn to Glennon. He's second on the depth chart and the Bucs love his poise and how quickly he's grasped the offense. Glennon is a little awkward athletically, but has a big arm and didn't look out of place in the preseason opener. Glennon will get the bulk of the snaps again Friday night, likely working the second and third quarters. Another solid outing will only increase the Bucs' faith in him.
Schiano has been happy with the play of this group so far. Even without CB Darrelle Revis, who will sit out again, he is seeing more pass breakups and better play against the run than last year. One area of concern is takeaways. The Bucs have yet to show an ability to consistently turn pass breakups into interceptions. The Bucs broke up six passes against Baltimore, but only one interception. They will look for a better conversion rate tonight and in the future.