Juggling lines to get the best possible matchup is something usually associated with a hockey coach. At least one football coach intends to make regular use of the practice as well this season.
Convinced that he has more of an array of talent and depth at the position than ever before, Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Raheem Morris plans to juggle and change his defensive line as situations and opponents suggest this season.
"I was thinking the other day that this thing could really be a battle from week to week in terms of who's going to go out there first and what package we're going to start the game with,'' Morris said.
"It's going to come down to, who's competing the best (in practice) and how do you want to look inside? Do you want to look short, fit and quick, or do you just want to look (Frank) Okam-ish.
"So it could change a lot. That's why I put such a low quality on who runs out of the tunnel and actually starts the game for us because I think that group has definitely changed for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.''
It's not just the defensive line that will get juggled. Morris intends to juggle his linebackers as well in an effort to get second-year Florida State produce Dekoda Watson on the field more.
Watson went into Thursday's preseason finale ranked second among Bucs defenders in tackles (12) and sacks (2.5). Throw in a forced fumble as well and Morris sees a player who has earned regular playing time.
"I actually look at him as a starter because of all the situations that we do use him in,'' Morris said of Watson. "That (ability to) rush (the passer) and do all the things that he does are special.''
Looking ahead to Saturday's roster cut down to 53 players, the Bucs have some difficult decisions to make at not just quarterback, but defensive line, cornerback and wide receiver.
The Bucs kept six receivers last year and they may opt to keep at least that many this year, Morris said.
"Last year we were wide receiver heavy and it could certainly happen again,'' Morris said. "The Ed Gants and Maurice Prices of the world, those guys certainly make it tough on you.''
Gant continued to make it tough Thursday, taking a short pass from quarterback Rudy Carpenter and turning it into a 96-yard touchdown pass.
Assume for a moment that the Bucs follow the seemingly growing trend and keep just two quarterbacks on their roster this year. Who in that case would they turn to should both their starter and their backup go down on game day?
The answer is Micheal Spurlock.
Spurlock was a quarterback in high school and in college at Ole Miss, where he threw 142 of 267 passes for 1,709 yards, seven touchdown and nine interceptions. He's also put in some work there with the Bucs this preseason.
"Spurlock (has been) over there taking QB (snaps) and exchange all (pre)season,'' Morris said. "We always have our Spurlock option. He is certainly an option."
Odds and ends
Morris's challenge skills appear to be in regular-season form. He challenged the ruling on a first-quarter downed punt that left the Bucs with the ball at their own 1-yard line, and after review, the ruling was changed to a touchback. … CB Myron Lewis, who spent most of the preseason nursing a sore hamstring, got knocked out of Thursday's game early with a ankle injury. … FB Erik Lorig came up limping after he leaped over a would-be tackler at the end of a third-quarter pass reception, but he returned to the game