Buccaneers at Bengals: Preview, where to watch and listen

TAMPA, FL - NOVEMBER 30: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers line up against the Cincinnati Bengals during a game at Raymond James Stadium on November 30, 2014 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
TAMPA, FL - NOVEMBER 30: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers line up against the Cincinnati Bengals during a game at Raymond James Stadium on November 30, 2014 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /

Another offseason has come and gone. Now, the Buccaneers are ready to take the field. On Friday night, Tampa Bay is back at it, squaring off with the Cincinnati Bengals. Here, we preview the matchup and tell you where to watch and listen to it.

The Buccaneers made their HBO Hard Knocks debut earlier this week. Now, they’ll make their 2017 on-field debut on Friday night in Cincinnati. The 7:30 p.m. kickoff will mark the end of a busy offseason for Tampa Bay, one that saw some big free agent signings and splashy draft picks. It’s finally time to see the team line up against someone else after a couple weeks of training camp. Starters will get some valuable reps, while position battles will continue in game action. It’s not the regular season, but it’ll certainly do for now.

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The depth chart for this week’s game didn’t mean a lot, but it was fairly clear that most starting positions on both sides of the ball are set. That doesn’t mean the beginning of the game will lack interesting storylines. Watching rookies O.J. Howard and Chris Godwin make their debuts will be a treat, as will tracking the progress of the starting offensive line. Speaking of the big guys up front, J.R. Sweezy will make his long-awaited Buccaneer debut after missing all of last season. Doug Martin, who still has three games left on a suspension, will be able to play in the preseason. Martin has received glowing reviews throughout camp, but Friday will be the first chance for him to prove that he’s back to being the Doug Martin of 2015.

Defensively, the starting 11 appear set for the most part as well, though rookie Kendell Beckwith could challenge Devante Bond for the strong-side linebacker job. Back in the secondary, rookie Justin Evans and veteran J.J. Wilcox are looking to unseat Chris Conte and Keith Tandy. Another linebacker worth watching is undrafted free agent Riley Bullough, who got a big spotlight on Tuesday’s premier of Hard Knocks. He is currently a third-team guy, but he could make his way onto the team if he continues to impress.

As far as true position battles go, the Bucs have plenty. The top four wide receivers appear set. Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Adam Humphries and Chris Godwin are locks, so the battle for No. 5 is one to watch. Donteea Dye, Freddie Martino, Josh Huff, Bobo Wilson and Shaq Hill are all fighting for what will likely be the final receiver spot. Tampa Bay also needs to figure out its depth at cornerback, especially with the loss of Jude Adjei-Barimah to injury. The Bucs are left with Ryan Smith, Robert McClain and a few unproven commodities to make up their depth. Javien Elliott is also among the possibilities, but he appears to have the starting nickel spot locked down.

There are a couple of special teams battles that will unfold throughout the preseason. Of course, the kicking competition is one that a lot of fans are keeping an eye on. Roberto Aguayo and Nick Folk are going to both get chances in these preseason games. Neither of them have been able to find any separation during camp, so the preseason opener could provide a development. The kick return job is also open, with a variety of options on the table for the Bucs. Ryan Smith is at the top of the first depth chart, but Donteea Dye, Josh Huff and Justin Evans should also get looks.

The last time these two teams met was in the 2015 preseason, with the Bucs winning 25-11. Jameis Winston completed eight of 13 passes for 90 yards and added a rushing touchdown in his Raymond James Stadium debut.

Where to Watch

Friday night’s preseason opener will be shown in the Tampa Bay area by WFLA. Chris Myers will have play-by-play duties. He is joined in the booth by Buccaneer legend Ronde Barber, with Dan Lucas providing reports from the sideline. For more television options around the state of Florida, check here. NFL Network will show replays of the game on Saturday at 1 a.m. and Tuesday at 1 p.m.

Where to Listen

Fans in the Tampa Bay area can listen to the game on 97.9 FM. Gene Deckerhoff, starting his 29th year with the team, will have his usual play-by-play duties. Former Buccaneer Dave Moore will join him with color commentary, while T.J. Rives does the sideline reporting. For more radio options around Florida, check here.

Satellite radio subscribers can listen to the Tampa Bay broadcast on XM Internet 829. The Cincinnati broadcast will be on XM 225.

Next: Buccaneers: Hard Knocks Recap (Episode One)

For in-game and postgame coverage, follow @ThePewterPlank on Twitter and check out the Walking The Plank podcast where the guys preview the game!