It has been an eventful week for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers heading into tonight’s preseason finale against Washington at Raymond James Stadium.
Offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford will miss the game while he recovers from a medical procedure. On Monday night, the Bucs met with controversial guard Richie Incognito. By the time practice began on Tuesday, Tampa Bay had finalized a deal that sent second-year TE Tim Wright and a fourth-round draft pick to New England for six-time Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins.
Coach Lovie Smith hasn’t ruled out the option of playing some starters (definitely not Mankins) against the Redskins, but this final exhibition game is traditionally a matchup between players on the fringe hoping to survive the cutdown to the final 53-man roster.
Ignore the scoreboard and focus tonight on these five individuals or areas of play:
Veteran Connor Barth appears fully recovered, 13 months after suffering a ruptured Achilles during a basketball game, but he faces competition from free agent Patrick Murray. Barth, slated to make $2 million this season and $3.3 million in 2015, is reliable. Murray is younger and cheaper, but he is unproven on the NFL level, and Barth’s experience could prove critical in close games.
Logan Mankins will immediately be plugged into the left guard spot between a pair of free-agent additions, T Anthony Collins and C Evan Dietrich-Smith. The right guard spot is still open, and tonight’s game might be the determining factor in choosing who will start against the Panthers on Sept. 7.
Patrick Omameh, signed off San Francisco’s practice squad in October, tops the depth chart, but keep your eye on second-year pro Rishaw Johnson, acquired from the Chiefs last week in a trade. Rookie Kadeem Edwards is also in the mix and should make it past Saturday’s cutdown from 75 players to 53.
Obtained in a trade with the Patriots last year, Demps has often been described by Smith as the fastest player in the league. But Demps might not be able to outrace the Turk on Saturday, because the Bucs are well stocked at running back, even with an ankle injury to third-round pick Charles Sims that required surgery.
A former standout at the University of Florida, Demps is averaging only 2.9 yards per carry in the preseason, and he dropped a potential TD pass Saturday at Buffalo.
Injuries to Da’Quan Bowers, Steven Means and William Gholston have sidelined them the past few weeks, providing an opportunity for Larry English and Scott Solomon to impress. The starters are set up front, and second-year NT Akeem Spence has been solid in reserve, so this is a unit that could generate some headlines when final cuts are announced.
Vincent Jackson and first-round pick Mike Evans are the starters, and rookie Solomon Patton will make the team as a kick returner. That leaves veteran Louis Murphy, rookie Robert Herron, Chris Owusu and Russell Shepard fighting for the final spots. Those four combatants have combined for one regular-season TD in the NFL.