Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Washington Redskins: Bucs Preseason Week 4 Game Preview
For the fourth consecutive year, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will wrap up their preseason slate against the Washington Redskins. This year's installment will take place Thursday at Raymond James Stadium, with kickoff set for 7:30 p.m. ET.
The Bucs are coming off their first win this preseason after beating the Bills 27-14 in Buffalo last week, while the Redskins are coming off their first preseason loss, a 23-17 defeat at the hands of the Ravens.
Fans shouldn't expect to see many starters on either side, as this final preseason game is normally used to evaluate the rest of the depth chart heading into final cuts. There will be plenty of position battles to keep an eye on for the Bucs, particularly along the defensive line, as well as at receiver and cornerback.
Here's everything you need to know heading into the Bucs' final preseason game.
Bucs Preseason Week 3 Recap
The Bucs used a dominant performance on defense and opportunistic play on offense to jump out to a 24-0 halftime lead, cruising to a 27-14 win over the Bills last week.
Tampa Bay's defense sprinkled five sacks and three takeaways over four quarters of their best preseason football yet this year. Buffalo finally put two touchdown drives together in the second half, but at that point the Bills starters were still in the game, facing reserves on the Buccaneers' side.
Dashon Goldson got things started for the defense with an interception on the game's first possession, while a Michael Johnson strip-sack was scooped up by Clinton McDonald, who lumbered 17 yards for a score. Lavonte David also forced a fumble that was recovered by fellow starting linebacker Mason Foster.
Larry English, a former first-round pick who has barely spent a week in Tampa Bay, took down the quarterback twice, while Scott Solomon and Anthony Gaitor each added a sack of their own.
Josh McCown overcame an early interception to finish 13-for-16 passing for 112 yards, adding a 24-yard touchdown to rookie first-rounder Mike Evans. Evans led the Bucs with 44 yards receiving on three catches, while Vincent Jackson caught five passes for 43 yards.
Doug Martin also flashed some of the ability that made him a Pro Bowler as a rookie in 2012, making a juggling 22-yard catch that was originally ruled a touchdown, but was overturned. Martin would punch it in from one yard out on on the next play and finished with 65 total yards on 14 touches.
News and Notes
Out with the Old Guard, in with the New
Due to their glaring need at the guard position, the Bucs brought in embattled former Dolphin Richie Incognito for a visit on Monday. But that wasn't the big move the team would make to fill the void, turning around on Tuesday and trading for six-time Pro Bowler Logan Mankins from the Patriots.
He has a history of a certain type of play in the league. Most people say Logan Mankins—tough football player, real man, everybody loves him, great guy in your locker room...exactly what we need on our football team and of course in the offensive line room.
The Bucs sent tight end Tim Wright and a fourth-round pick in next year's draft to New England, which is a small price to pay for shoring up their biggest area of need with a veteran who has tons of experience playing at a high level in the NFL.
The Bucs could be without their offensive coordinator Thursday, as Jeff Tedford underwent an unspecified medical procedure on Monday. Smith said his play-caller is resting comfortably, but the rest of the offensive staff might have to pick up the slack, per The Tampa Tribune's Ira Kaufman:
He’s resting comfortably and he’ll be out for a short period of time. Things should be OK. Our offensive staff will come together and (handle Tedford's duties). We have a coordinator, yes. From there, there’s always a backup plan. Everything keeps going.
There's no reason to rush Tedford back for this game, and it could be an opportunity to practice such a contingency plan. Here's hoping the Bucs' offensive guru makes a full recovery and can be ready to go for Week 1.
What Could Have Been
Many Bucs fans expected the team to address its need at guard early in the 2014 draft, but the team selected offensive skill players with its first three picks instead. Without a fourth-rounder, Tampa Bay waited until the fifth round to grab Tennessee State's Kadeem Edwards, who will need some time before he's ready to start at the NFL level.
As ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas points out, the Bucs could have taken a number of quality guards with their pick in the third round instead of taking running back Charles Sims, who will miss most of his rookie season with an ankle injury:
Had they not taken Sims, they could have taken Spencer Long, Gabe Jackson, Chris Watt, Trai Turner or Brandon Linder, all guards who went in the third round. Any of those guys would have been an instant candidate to start. Sims never was a candidate to start. That job belongs to Martin. Sims was going to be a rotational player. But he won’t even be playing for at least the first half of the season. Sims suffered an ankle injury that will keep him out 12 to 14 weeks. You can’t control injuries and you can’t blame Licht and Smith for what happened to Sims. He still might turn out to be a terrific player. But you certainly can question why the Bucs didn’t use a third-round pick on a guard.
Hindsight is 20/20, and it's obviously too early to tell if any of those third-round guards will end up being better than Edwards or anyone else on the Bucs' roster. But it's worth pointing out Tampa Bay could possibly be in a better spot had they taken a guard earlier instead of adding to an already-stacked backfield.
The trade for Mankins takes care of the left guard spot, but they could still use an upgrade on the left side over the likes of Patrick Omameh, Oniel Cousins and Edwards. That upgrade could have easily come with that third-round pick.
*All injury statuses courtesy of the Tampa Bay Times' Greg Auman and Matt Baker
The Bucs have yet to rule out anyone for tomorrow's game, with Lovie Smith saying on Monday that "everyone is in play."
With the starters unlikely to see the field this week, the rash of injuries the Bucs have endured to their reserves will be even more detrimental this week. The secondary looks to be the worst off, with three cornerbacks and two safeties nursing various ailments.
In a bit of positive news, Rashaan Melvin (foot) is no longer wearing a boot, nor is linebacker Brandon Magee (foot).
On offense, Mike James (shoulder) and Jorvorskie Lane (hand) participated in practice earlier this week, which bodes well for their availability tomorrow night. Even though he's a starter, Lane might get to see a few snaps.
Da'Quan Bowers (groin) is on the roster bubble, and if he has any hope of making the final cuts, he needs to be on the field for this game.
X-Factors and Matchups to Watch
This game should feature plenty of action from two of the better young backup quarterbacks in the league as Kirk Cousins and Mike Glennon should start and log plenty of snaps.
Glennon will face the disadvantage of playing behind a weak offensive line that lacks quality depth, while Cousins should enjoy throwing against a reserve Tampa Bay secondary that is riddled with injuries.
Both signal-callers were popular names in trade talk this offseason but are clearly valuable to their current teams. Look for them to do their best to showcase why other teams might be interested and why their respective teams have yet to move them.
Larry English vs. Washington OTs
English was a former first-rounder from Northern Illinois who dominated in college but never fit right in San Diego's 3-4 defense. He's only spent just over a week in Tampa and already notched a pair of sacks against Buffalo last week.
English already looks much more comfortable as a 4-3 end, and he'll be fighting for a roster spot in this game. Look for him to get after the quarterback again this week and lock up his place on the Bucs' final 53.
Bucs OL vs. Washington DL
Tampa Bay lacks depth on the offensive line, but this unit has shown at least a little improvement each week of the preseason. The addition of Logan Mankins at left guard will move Oniel Cousins down a spot, meaning he'll likely get plenty of action this week as he's no longer a starter.
This is the last chance for any linemen still on the roster bubble to prove they can perform at an NFL level before final cuts this weekend.
Bucs X-factor of the Week: RB Jeff Demps
With Doug Martin likely to remain on the bench with the other starters and Charles Sims out with an ankle injury, this week's carries should be split between Demps and Bobby Rainey. Rainey has struggled this preseason, which gives Demps an opportunity to make a big statement against Washington.
Demps has looked solid running between the tackles this preseason, especially for a runner who is more known for his speed on the outside. Look for the former Florida Gator to get plenty of touches in this game and for his explosiveness to finally shine.
This game could come down to the tone set by each team's backup quarterback. Mike Glennon and Kirk Cousins should get plenty of playing time, giving them the opportunity to set the foundation for either victory or defeat.
Unfortunately for the Bucs, depth is still one of their biggest issues, and injuries to some key reserves will continue to make success difficult for them this preseason. Tampa Bay's backups along the offensive line have struggled, and opposing quarterbacks have had too much success against the Bucs' reserve pass defense.
Winning isn't the most important thing for the Bucs in this game, and it's a good thing because Bucs fans shouldn't expect a victory from a team struggling with this many depth issues.
PREDICTION: Redskins 24, Bucs 13