Ahhh, preseason game 3. Or, as some refer to it, “dress rehearsal”. Whatever you want to call it, it’s as close to the real thing you’ll get until Sunday, September 8.
Unlike the last two games, the Jameis Winston and Mike Evans-less offense will stay in the game longer on Friday. (Hopefully, they’ll see more time than the first-team defense – if you get my drift.)
Bruce Arians said he plans to play his starters anywhere from one quarter to one half. “… how much they play will be determined on how we’re playing, and we’ll make those decisions as the game goes on,” said Arians, under the infamous guise of coach-speak.
New Bucs Meet New Browns
Organizationally, the Bucs and Browns were vastly different teams when they met just ten months ago. As Tampa Bay did this offseason, Cleveland also has a new look to their coaching staff.
Arians knows the Browns team coming to Raymond James Friday are also nowhere near the same team he coached offensively from 2001-03. They were the joke of the NFL then and now are easily the most talked-about. The hype seems warranted with flashy QB Baker Mayfield and defensive end phenom Myles Garrett as the leaders. Most notable, however, are the additions of two Pro Bowlers, running back Kareem Hunt (albeit suspended the first half of the season) and receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (not expected to play Friday).
The two teams have solid weapons on both sides of the ball. “It’s a really good challenge for us,” said Arians. “It’s a heck of a good football team coming in, and it will be a nice measuring stick.”
Last October, the Bucs handled the Browns nicely in the first three quarters until Cleveland threatened a comeback. The Pewter Pirates staved off their opponents and sent them packing after a marginal 26-23 victory.
The Browns will be looking to remain undefeated in the preseason with a win over the Bucs (Somehow Mayfield would find a way to make going unbeaten a big deal).
Some Like It Offense
Like the Buccaneers starting offense, Mayfield and his boys have played very little this preseason. The second-year signal-caller should see more playing time as he tunes-up for the regular season.
After Mayfield heads to the sideline for the evening, Drew Stanton and Garrett Gilbert will take the QB reigns. Gilbert, the former St. Louis Ram and Orlando Apollo, was making his case for Alliance of American Football MVP before the plug was pulled on the league. He’s had a solid showing under center so far, and that will likely continue against the Bucs reserves.
In his campaign for second-team, Bucs QB Ryan Griffin has been lighting it up. Albeit versus reserves, he’s ended each of his three game halves with effective two-minute scoring drives. In one of those drives, he took the offense 45 yards in just 28 seconds.
“…I don’t care who you’re playing with – when you do the things he’s done in two-minute [drives], it’s noteworthy,” Arians said.
All The Feels
No matter the event’s outcome, there will be a lot of friendly postgame confrontations Friday night, starting with Browns new head coach, Freddie Kitchens. Kitchens is a former Arians understudy, having coached QBs and RBs for the Arizona Cardinals.
Additionally, current Bucs’ linebacker Carl Nassib played in Cleveland for two seasons after he was selected in the third round of the 2016 draft. Wide receiver Breshad Perriman, who was a first-round selection in Winston’s draft class, was acquired via free agency by the Bucs from the Browns in the offseason. Guard Earl Watford is also a former Brown, and Cleveland snatched up former Bucs offensive coordinator Todd Monken after Arians came in and reorganized the staff.
All in all, this should be a fun matchup.
Is it September 8 yet?