Preseason football is finally right around the corner and ears have started to perk up in anticipation, especially for the Buccaneers. Typically, preseason football is seen as a bunch of no-name players battling for bottom feeding roster spots with lazy glimpses of starters and star players not trying to hurt themselves. With the magnitude of roster turnover this offseason for the Bucs, there is plenty to watch for during this preseason. While we may not see too much of Gerald McCoy, Lavonte David, Josh McCown, or Vincent Jackson and his rookie doppelganger Mike Evans, there are a ton of great players to watch fight for important spots on this roster. We might also see what this secret Jeff Tedord offense is going to look like.
Battle at Defensive End
Sep 15, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Adrian Clayborn (94) reacts during the first half against the New Orleans Saints at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Michael Johnson has one side of the field secured, we know that much. Things aren’t so clear on the other end of the line, where Adrian Clayborn and up-and-comer William Gholston have plans to line up. Clayborn has had a slower start to his career after being picked 20th overall in 2011. Recording 7.5 sacks in his rookie campaign, Clayborn injured a knee and only appeared in three games the following season. He returned last year proving the injury is behind him, recording 5.5 sacks and 64 tackles. William Gholston has a very good chance to beat Clayborn for the starting position with a solid showing in the back end of the season. The 4th round pick fought for a roster spot and ended up finding the starting line up in 2013. Gholston recorded 60 tackles and 2 sacks through 12 games.
Jun 10, 2014; Tampa Bay, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Mike Glennon (8) hands the ball off to running back Charles Sims (34) during mini camp at One Buccaneer Place. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
After the Bucs took pass-catching RB Charles Sims in the 3rd round, they found the backfield overloaded with depth. Each of the backs battling for roster spots (and snaps) have strong arguments going for them to make the team, but the reality is there may be too many back there to claim a roster spot. Doug Martin is the lock for the starting spot. Beyond that, the depth chart is unclear. Mike James was Martins backup who showed up against Seattle in a close loss to the Superbowl champions posting 158 yards and got off to another strong start the following week against Miami, the Bucs first win of the season, before going down himself. This opened the door for Doug Martin clone, Bobby Rainey, to show that he deserves a spot in this backfield, posting 566 yards over the remainder of the season after being signed and immediately thrown into a starting role on a new team. Despite having a solid group of running backs, Licht just couldn’t pass on Charles Sims when he was still sitting there during the Bucs pick in the 3rd round. Add the lightning speed of Jeff Demps and the Bucs have five guys that all appear roster locks. That’s a lot of roster space devoted to one position and it appears that something (someone) has got to give.
Rookie speed-in-space Robert Herron, Chris Owusu, new comer David Gettis, a post-Manning Louis Murphy, and other hopefuls are still battling it out to see who will become the 3rd receiving target for Josh McCown. Which brings me to our next thing to look out for during preseason and the guy who’s likely going to help one of these WR hopefuls win a starting position:
Dec 29, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Mike Glennon (8) yells prior to the snap against the New Orleans Saints in the first half at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. New Orleans defeated Tampa Bay 42-17. Mandatory Credit: Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports
In just no time at all Mike Glennon was handed the keys to an already struggling 2013 Bucs offense. And in even less time a rift developed between Mike Glennon lovers and haters. Glennon turned in the best performance out of any QB in the 2013 draft but still managed to drive the least productive offense in the league. There’s no doubt McCown is the opening day starter, which is why Mike Glennon will be fun to watch during the preseason. Having showed what he can do after being thrust quickly into a raging fire, Glennon will get a chance and plenty of reps during the preseason to show that he’s developing into the future leader of the Buccaneer offense that Licht and Lovie claimed he is on draft day. Not only can we monitor his development into a future HOFer, we actually get to watch decent quarterback play in the preseason, and I can cheers to that.
May 31, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Tennessee Titans running back Bishop Sankey and Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins during the 2014 NFLPA Rookie Premiere at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
This is absolutely what I’m looking forward to the most and it all comes down to one guy: Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Being picked in the 2nd round is a great way to get yourself into the starting lineup, but because ASJ missed most of the offseason to finish up his last term of college we haven’t gotten much of a look at the new “Dunkaneer”. He’s massively tall, extremely athletic, and full of potential. Hopefully we get an eyeful of rebound-like catches from Glennon all preseason long. If we don’t see much of ASJ, we’ll see converted WR to TE Tim Wright battle for snaps with Brandon Myers and the always promising, never delivering Luke Stocker. Whoever we see at tight end during the preseason should be very revealing for the future of the position.
There’s a lot of talented players to watch with a decent chance of securing a roster spot, here’s some of the guys I’d rooting for that we’ll definitely see playing a lot in the preseason:
– 6’4 240 pound undrafted linebacker and Johnny Football teammate Nate Askew is rumored to be freakishly athletic, having been converted from wide receiver.
– Euclid Cummings is another promising undrafted rookie. Lovie is hopeful Cummings can become Gerald McCoys backup at defensive tackle.
– Safety Major Wright had a down year in Chicago but is hopeful Lovie Smith can help him return to form.
– Rashaan Melvin apparently used to own an island much like one-year rental superstar corner Darrelle Revis, can the long and tall (6’2) prototype corner lock down an entire side of the field?
– Chaz Sutton played defensive end opposite the behemoth South Carolina star and number one pick Jadeveon Clowney and showed a lot of promise as an UDFA.
– Solomon Patton is another speedy UDFA wide receiver we’ll be seeing in the preseason. I’m all for more guys with more speed.