What To Watch For: Buccaneers vs Ravens Tonight In The Last Preseason Game

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Buccaneers struggled against the Ravens; suffer a 27-22 loss

By J.T. Olson

Bucs Report – Special to Sports Talk Florida

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are approaching their final pre-season game of the year. This time it will be their dress rehearsal as they host the Baltimore Ravens this Saturday. With this being the last exhibition game, it will be the last chance for players to make their mark or prepare for the regular season.

With the starters playing for a half and there still being several key jobs up for grabs, there will be no shortage of storylines to follow. There are also several players still fighting for a position on this roster which I will be watching. With all these things to follow, here are the things that I’ll be paying the closest attention to.

Offensive Line Continuity

It’s no secret that the offensive line has been a concern this preseason. The depth of both the interior and at offensive tackle looks shaky at best. It would go a long way in the good faith department if the starters impressed in their first game together.

This will be our first opportunity to see Tristan Wirfs at left tackle as well as the debut of Matt Feiler at left guard. While I have confidence that these two will be fine, it will take some time for the line as a whole to jell. Especially in this system where the entire line is asked to move together towards the sideline.

Considering the youth of the other three starters, Robert Hainsey, Cody Mauch and Luke Goedeke, the left side of the line needs to bring consistency and stability. These five working together in unison isn’t an easy task. This will be their first step towards doing that together.

Baker Mayfield Is Officially The Starter

Yesterday head coach Todd Bowles officially named Baker Mayfield the starting quarterback. This was an expected move since the moment he signedwith the Buccaneers. However, after a lengthy quarterback competition Mayfield hasn’t really had a ton of time with the starting offense.

This will be his first chance to play with the likes of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin in a game setting. While Mayfield played in the first preseason game against the Steelers, Evans and Godwin did not. This means that a lot of chemistry has to be built between this group in a short amount of time.

The same can be said of Mayfield with the rest of the starting offense. Timing and tendencies matter when working as part of any cohesive team. These are the little aspects of the offense that need to be fine tuned with practice.

Secondary Depth

We are still trying to figure out who the starting nickel will be. Chris Izien and Dee Delaney both have shown well in the preseason and have a real chance to win the job. The other will make for a quality backup and special teams guy.

Beyond that, I really don’t know who to look to as reliable depth in this unit. Zyon McCollum has looked more bad than not with the exception of his most recent game against the Jets. Right now, he is going to be counted on as the primary backup behind Jamel Dean and Carlton Davis.

It would be nice if someone in this group could impress and give us all some peace of mind. Someone like Keenan Isaac or Josh Hayes to indicate that they are an NFL caliber player. If not, the waiver wire might be where the Buccaneers look to find answers.

Young Playmakers

Trey Palmer has been the story from this year’s training camp. We knew how impressive he was in terms of straight line speed, but I wasn’t expecting him to be as well rounded as he has looked so far. He has emerged as the third option at wide receiver with the loss of Russell Gage.

Sean Tucker is another guy who looks to be in position to take a main backup job. The rookie running back out of Syracuse also brings sub 4.4 speed and has the vision and toughness to be an impact player in the league. I am looking forward to seeing him get more time with established players.

There are several other young playmakers worth watching. Deven Thompkins and Rakim Jarrett are two intriguing young receivers who looked poised to make the final cut. Payne Durham could stick as a third or fourth tight end on the roster as a big body red zone target.

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