The play of the back-up quarterbacks – Josh Freeman is throwing without the soft cast on his thumb, which is great news for the start of the regular season, but someone still has to take the snaps on Thursday night. Josh Johnson continues to play well, but Carpenter has struggled and looks lost out there. Snead took quite a few snaps this week in practice, expect him to play this game. This is an audition for the back-up position. The Bucs could cut both Carpenter and Snead at the end of the game (there are talks that Michael Spurlock could be the emergency quarterback for the Bucs if needed – he did play quarterback in college).
Defensive end battle – Michael Bennett has been impressive this preseason and Tim Crowder continues to shine as well. Kyle Moore is still pushing for playing time and Stylez G. White (the name never gets old) is also working for the position. This position has been fairly quiet through the preseason and needs to step up and produce more to help the young rookie defensive tackles. There is still a level of uncertainty about who the two starting defensive ends will be at the beginning of the season.
Wide receivers again – It sounds like a broken record, but the wide receiver battle will continue until the first snap of the regular season. Stovall is out (although he is back at practice) which means Sammie Stroughter will start next to Mike Williams, the “steal of the draft.” The other receiver positions are still up for grabs. Arrelious Benn has been quiet (Morris is defending him promising he is coming along normally), Reggie Brown and Michael “stone-hands” Clayton are still battling for their roster lives. Nunn has been cut and either Brown or Clayton could be next.
Progression of the defensive tackles – Rookies Brian Price and Gerald McCoy had a great game against the Jags, putting pressure on the Jags, even though they didn’t record a sack. They had a strong showing and look to continue their strong performance. Roy Miller continues to be very consistent on the line and should continue to help anchor the defensive line and the defense in general. The stats have not been great from this unit, but the force is being felt.
Special teams – The Bucs have looked bad on special teams, giving up huge returns on both punts and kickoffs. The field goal unit has been solid, but punting has been terrible. Brent Bowden needs to improve quickly (no one else to back him up). He cannot be shank-a-potamus on Thursday night again or the battle of field position will be lost every game. The Bucs will have to tighten up on special teams if they want to win field battle and put points on the board.