Halfway through the NFL Preseason, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have shown resilience under Bruce Arians. In Week One, Tampa Bay trailed by 14 late in the fourth quarter against Pittsburgh, and ended up losing by just two.
Last week against Miami, Ryan Griffin and the Buccaneers had just 34 seconds to march down the field and get into field goal range for Matt Gay, who kicked the game-winning 48-yarder. This week, Tampa Bay will face their toughest challenge yet, the Cleveland Browns. There is a lot of hype surrounding the Browns this year, and deservedly so. They have a ton of talent on both sides of the ball. Typically, starters play the whole first half in the third preseason game, but Arians has erred on the side of caution so far. I would still expect to see at least a full quarter of play from the offensive and defensive starters. There will be plenty of match-ups to keep an eye on.
The (2-0) Cleveland Browns will visit the (1-1) Tampa Bay Buccaneers Friday Night at Raymond James Stadium. Both teams will be led by new head coaches in the regular season: Bruce Arians for Tampa Bay and Freddie Kitchens for the Cleveland Browns.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers hold a 4-6 franchise record vs. the Cleveland Browns. Despite the losing record, Tampa Bay has won four of the past five meetings against Cleveland. Tampa Bay won last year’s game in overtime when Chandler Catanzaro kicked a game-winning 59 yard field goal to defeat the Browns 26-23.
Donovan Smith Vs. Myles Garrett
This is the most concerning match-up for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in my opinion. Myles Garrett was a force to be reckoned with against the Buccaneers last season. In Week Seven, he sacked Jameis Winston twice and forced a fumble. The first overall pick in the 2017 Draft had his way with Donovan Smith.
Smith signed an expensive contract extension in the off-season, and if this team wants to go anywhere, he simply has to play better. Smith made three costly holding penalties last season, and six total penalties in 2018. Many Buccaneers fans wonder why Smith was re-signed. The answer is simply that he does not miss games. Since being drafted in 2015, Smith has started all 64 games. He’s tough and plays through injury to stay on the field. He has the size of a franchise Left Tackle, but truthfully, the skill has not been consistent in his career.
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Chris Godwin Vs. Denzel Ward
On Wednesday, Arians said Mike Evans will not play Friday Night due to a quad injury. Evans should be fine for Week One against San Francisco. This means Chris Godwin will be WR1 vs the Browns. Godwin has had an outstanding off-season and looks like one of the best Wide Receiver Twos in the entire NFL. He will line up against the fourth overall pick of the 2018 Draft, cornerback Denzel Ward. Ward had an impressive rookie season, recording three interceptions and lining up against his opposition’s number one receiver almost every week. Expect a physical battle between these two as long as they are in the game.
Blaine Gabbert Vs. Ryan Griffin
The backup quarterback position does not look anywhere near solidified. New-comer Blaine Gabbert has more experience as an NFL starter, but Ryan Griffin has been with Tampa Bay since 2015 and has looked a little bit better so far in the preseason. Griffin has a 99.2 QBR rating entering this game, with two touchdowns and zero interceptions. Gabbert holds just a 67.1 QBR and has not thrown a touchdown or interception in the preseason. I would expect each player to get several drives Friday night once Winston is pulled. Personally, I believe Griffin is the favorite right now, despite being listed as third string on the depth chart. If his quality play continues, it would be a shame to see him lose this battle.
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