The Buccaneers Week 3 matchup against the Browns remains the most highly anticipated game of our preseason. We’ll get to see the starters for an extended period, although for how long is still TBD. We have high hopes that the Bucs starters will put on a good show nonetheless.
Bruce Arians came out this week boasting about the offensive line’s request to play a full half. BA disagreed with the request, but didn’t completely rule it out. Based on the line’s performance so far this preseason (particularly Donovan Smith), I’m skeptical it was the o-line’s request and not BA’s decision to give them the extra reps, while at the same time allowing them to save face with the public.
Mike Evans won’t play with a suspected quad injury after being held out of practice this week. We’ll get a good look at what the rest of the receivers can do, particularly Breshad Perriman (a former Brown, btw). We’ll also get to see how the coaching staff has valued the lower-tier guys currently on the bubble.
The anticipation for the Browns is also high. Some would like to see retribution for the Bucs’ victory over the Browns last season. There’s excitement amongst the fanbase for the team led by Baker Mayfield. However, once again the team is rebuilding and one unit yet to be determined is the linebacker corps. A piece by Jeff Risdon on Brownswire.com breaks down the battle:
Only two in the squad, Joe Schobert and Christian Kirksey, are safe. The team hasn’t said whether they’ll keep five or six linebackers, so there’s potentially only three spots up for grabs.
Fifth round pick Mack Wilson is a lock to make the roster, and is already listed behind Christian Kirksey on the depth chart. That leaves just two spots.
Sione Takitaki is a good run stuffer and the best blitzer on the team, but a lingering hamstring injury is a strike against him.
Ray-Ray Armstrong was brought back to the team because of his special teams prowess, but has also shown improvement in his run defense.
Former Buccaneer Adarius Taylor was picked up by the Browns on a two-year, $15M contract. However, he’s been outplayed by almost every other guy in the group. He, too, has an upside with his special teams play, but will it be enough to make the cut? He’s certainly on the bubble.
Undrafted rookie Willie Harvey has shown flashes in OTAs and on film, but is probably not making the roster.
Anthony Stubbs is auditioning for the last spot on the practice squad and hasn’t had much opportunities during the preseason.
Undrafted rookie Dedrick Young is likely not making the cut.
Another squad that’s piqued the interest of Browns fans is the punting/kicking unit. Well, really just one guy – The Scottish Hammer. Alias: Jamie Gillan.
Gillan’s family is British, but he grew up in Scotland, hence the name “Scottish Hammer”. His father, a member of the Royal Air Force, got stationed in Maryland when Gillan was in high school. A former rugby player, he’s wowed coaches with his powerful leg since then. His ability to literally flatten footballs has become legend amongst Browns fans. While only brought in to compete with Britton Colquitt for the punting job, fans would like to see him kick in this game – just to see what he can do.
That will all be up to Head Coach Freddie Kitchens. Kitchens, like many NFL coaches, has a connection to Bruce Arians. Kitchens was a holdover from Ken Whisenhunt’s staff at Arizona when BA took over, serving as BA’s quarterback coach from 2013-2016, then as runningbacks coach in 2017.
The Buccaneers Week 2 matchup against the Dolphins was by far one of the most exciting preseason games I’ve ever seen. I wouldn’t be surprised if this matchup against the Browns beats it.