By Tom Krasniqi
One more preseason game to go. Thank goodness for that. Most of the starting jobs are accounted for. Tomorrow night’s preseason finale against the Redskins at Raymond James Stadium provides one final opportunity for the fringe players to make a lasting impression.
For guys like defensive backs Keith Tandy and Rashaan Melvin, they need to make their snaps count if they want to make this roster. Tandy’s versatility and special teams prowess gives him a fighting chance to stick. He may have to open some eyes tomorrow night. Same goes for Melvin, who has shined during training camp but hasn’t made many splash plays during the preseason. He could be a practice squad candidate.
While fans and media immediately dismiss the final preseason game, the coaching staff takes it seriously. It gives head coach Greg Schiano a final look at players trying to make the roster. “Oh it [final preseason game] will have a factor, sure,” says Schiano. “I think that and the practice squad as well.”
There is a battle still going on at strongside linebacker. Dekoda Watson and Jonathan Casillas are running neck-and-neck for the job. Watson was the unquestioned starter at the beginning of camp but Casillas is making a strong push for the job. The feeling here is no matter who gets the starting job, both players will see playing time.
There are other positions that have yet to be determined. For instance, the starting tight end debate between Luke Stocker and Tom Crabtree. Schiano says both players will play a lot when the regular season begins but a defined starter hasn’t been determined yet. The #3 receiver position is up for grabs between Kevin Ogletree and Tiquan Underwood. Veteran Rian Lindell and unproven but impressive youngster Derek Dimke are vying for the kicking job.
Most of the starters will not play so you may not recognize the many faces who will be wearing pewter and red Thursday night at Ray Jay. On Saturday, the Bucs must trim their roster from 75 to 53. That means many of the players you see against the Redskins will be gone next week when the real season begins.
News & Notes:
- QB Josh Freeman confirmed that he won’t play in the preseason finale. He says he’s already begun preliminary work on the Jets for Week 1.
- Freeman is confident he can command the offense even with limited preseason snaps: “I’m not concerned. Obviously, things could’ve gone better in the preseason….I didn’t take that many snaps. I feel like we’ve been practicing at a very high level.”
- Bucs RB Peyton Hillis believes he’s done enough to make the team: “I believe so. I believe I’ve done a lot.” Hillis is unsure of his playing time tomorrow night.
- Hillis is confident that if he doesn’t stick around, he will land somewhere else: “Most definitely.”
- Bucs DE Da’Quan Bowers says the team is not showing their hand during the preseason: “We haven’t really shown anything. It’s just about the Bucs so far.”
- Rookie CB Johnthan Banks says veteran WR Vincent Jackson has taught him a thing or two about the speed of the game: “First time I went against VJax in the OTAs, he ran right by me…I was like ‘Whoa!’ “
- Schiano likes what he sees from WR Eric Page as a punt returner: “I think Page has done a good job every game. He’s done a better job, he looks very confident back there…he looks like he belongs. Hopefully, he can do it again [against the Redskins].”
- The Bucs will play their final preseason game against the Redskins on Thursday night from Raymond James Stadium. The game is blacked out locally on TV so the only place to catch the game on 620 WDAE and 95.3FM with the pre-game show beginning at 5pm.
- For the latest Bucs news, keep it locked all day long on 620 WDAE and 95.3FM, your home of the Bucs and the best Bucs coverage. Don’t forget to check out the Bucs blog at 620wdae.com for the latest news and audio clips.