What to Watch for: Tampa Bay Buccaneers Vs. Miami Dolphins

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Bruce Arians

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have shown how explosive this offense can be heading into the 2019 season. The starters marched down the field on Pittsburgh’s first-team defense, which led to a Chris Godwin touchdown thrown by Jameis Winston. Most of the Buccaneers first-team defense did not surrender any points. However, it is evident there is much to work on, especially within the secondary. This Friday, the Miami Dolphins are in town for a Preseason Week Two matchup. We should see a few more drives out of the starters, so this game will give us a much better look at how the team is progressing under Bruce Arians.

The Miami Dolphins arrived in Tampa on Tuesday for joint practices with the Buccaneers. Prior to, the Miami defeated the Atlanta Falcons 34-27 in their first preseason game on August eighth. Ryan Fitzpatrick is expected to start at QB for the Dolphins, with Josh Rosen coming in after him. The Dolphins are led by first-year Head Coach Brian Flores, who was signed in February after spending last season as the defensive play-caller for the New England Patriots.

Matchup History

The Buccaneers hold a 14-17 all-time PRESEASON record against the Dolphins. However, in the 11 total REGULAR SEASON match-ups, Tampa Bay has a 6-5 advantage. The Buccaneers won last year’s preseason game in Miami by a score of 26-24.

Wide Receivers

Week one showed us there is a serious battle for the remaining wide receiver spots on the roster. It is unknown if Arians will keep five or six WRs on the roster, but he will definitely have some tough decisions to make when it’s time for the final cuts. Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Breshad Perriman, and Justin Watson are all very likely to make the team. Unfortunately, Bryant Mitchell tore his achilles during last Friday night’s game in Pittsburgh. Make sure to keep a close eye on the following players who are “on the bubble”.

This year’s sixth-rounder Scotty Miller; third-year player Bobo Wilson (Winston’s FSU teammate); surprising new-comer Spencer Schnell (Undrafted Rookie who impressed last Friday night); and recently-signed speedster Emanuel Hall are the front-runners to land the final one or two spots amongst the receiving corp.

My opinion: Wilson makes the initial 53 man roster. He has a connection with Winston and joins Evans and Godwin as the longest-tenured WRs on the team. Miller will start the season on the injured reserve list. He was the only player on the offensive side of the ball drafted by the team this year. Therefore, I do not see him getting cut, but he just can’t seem to find the practice field and is running out of chances to make the team. Schnell showed signs that he could become an Adam Humphries type of player for the team. I predict he signs with the practice squad and gets promoted for a few games throughout the year to fill in for an injury. If any other receiver not mentioned makes it through cuts, I will be very surprised.

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Tampa Bay Linebackers Vs. Miami Backfield

Miami’s running backs ran all over Atlanta in their first preseason game. Kalen Ballage, Mark Walton, and Myles Gaskin all recorded a rushing touchdown. Miami’s starting running back Kenyan Drake has been ruled OUT for Friday night’s game, but Tampa Bay will still have their hands full with these three.

The good news for the Buccaneers is Jack Cichy is returning to action for the first time since tearing his ACL in Week 7 of last season. He showed off his speed and tackling abilities on special teams last year, and when healthy can be a viable asset to the team. Cichy will be joined by Kevin Minter, Devante Bond, Corey Nelson, and Demone Harris as replacements to Tampa Bay’s starting linebacker group.

Last week in Pittsburgh, the team gave up 17 second-half points to the third-string Steelers offense. The players listed above will need to do a better job of stopping Miami’s reserves, especially considering most do not have a solidified spot on the roster just yet.

Tight End #3

OJ Howard and Cameron Brate are one of the best tight end duos in the NFL. One of the biggest mysteries on the team is who will join them. Antony Auclair has been with the team since 2017 and has been primarily used as a blocking tight end. Tanner Hudson spent nearly the whole season on Tampa Bay’s practice squad last year, but had a very impressive game against the Steelers last Friday. Hudson recorded seven receptions for 84 yards and a touchdown. Jordan Leggett is another option. He spent his first two years in the NFL with the New York Jets and recorded 14 receptions for 114 yards and a touchdown last season.

I predict Hudson will win the job. If he can stay healthy and continue to excel in the preseason, Bruce Arians will have no choice but to keep him around. He showed off his great hands with a nice one-handed snag against Pittsburgh. He is primarily a receiving tight end but has the size to develop as a blocker.

On Wednesday, Coach Arians spoke with media after practice. He said, “It would be easy to cut down to 60 players right now.” That means at least 30 guys on the roster better improve and show him something to have a spot on this team. Luckily for those guys, they still have three preseason games to show why they belong in the NFL. We’ll see what happens at Raymond James Stadium Friday night at 7:30.

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