Baby Steps, Big Boy Opportunities

August 9th, 2019

Watch the Bucs-Steelers preseason opener TONIGHT with Ira Kaufman at Buffalo Wild Wings in Wesley Chapel, just east of I-75.

BY IRA KAUFMAN columnist

Don’t blink or you’ll miss the headliners.

Safety will rule tonight when the Bucs open the Bruce Arians era with a preseason matchup at Heinz Field. Arians and his coaching staff mapped out playing time well in advance and Tampa Bay starters won’t be filing for overtime.

For example, I’m not sure Jameis Winston even makes it through his first possession before the big hook comes out. He may not last as long as the quarterback he is most compared to, Marcus Mariota.

The Titans let Mariota finish one series against Philadelphia Thursday night and he completed 4-of-8 passes before yielding to Ryan Tannehill and Logan Woodside.

Side note for Buc fans — all four of Mariota’s completions went to Adam Humphries,who was making his Tennessee debut.

“He makes it easy,” Mariota said, referring to Tampa Bay’s former slot receiver. “He finds soft zones and he’s a tough matchup for teams.”

Life goes on in Tampa without Humphries and the Bucs still have plenty of firepower with Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate. You just won’t see much of them against the Steelers.

Who will you see catching passes? Matthew Eaton, Tanner Hudson, Anthony Johnson, Jordan Leggett,
DeMarkus Lodge and Bryant Mitchell are among the targets who will get their opportunities to accumulate good tape and impress Buc coaches.

Deliberate approach

I’m with Arians on this one.

Why take unnecessary risks with key players in meaningless games?

Unless you’re a team trying to make a point, preseason matchups are rather pointless. And consider that until 1978, the NFL required its clubs to play six exhibition games. On the evening of Aug. 23, 1967, the Chiefs were out to make a statement against the Bears, coached by George Halas.

Seven months earlier, after Green Bay beat Kansas City 35-10 in the inaugural Super Bowl, Vince Lombardi sized up his AFL opponents: “I think the Kansas City team is a real tough football team, but it doesn’t compare with the National Football League teams. That’s what you want me to say and I said it.”

The Chiefs rolled to a 66-24 preseason victory against Chicago, with Hank Stram ordering up 60-yard passes until the very end of the debacle.

You won’t see that kind of ruthlessness from Arians or Mike Tomlin Friday night. Both coaches want to focus on the bubble guys.

“Young players – they’re going to play the majority of the game, 80 percent of it,” Arians says. “One or two of them are either going to get exposed or have good exposure, and that’s really what this is all about. That’s what we talked to them about. What they’re putting on tape is not just for us – 31 other teams are going to look at it. So you want to put the best thing you have on tape to be evaluated.”


Here’s a few Bucs who need a good, long look, starting tonight:

Peyton Barber doesn’t need a lot of work, but Ronald Jones has a lot to prove in Year 2. He has been one of the standouts of training camp, but NFL history is littered with August stars who flicker at show time.

Alex Cappa will start at right guard tonight

Jones needs snaps, and plenty of ’em, whether he’s running behind Ali Marpet or Zack Bailey.

 “That’s why I’d like to have him out there with the ones, to have his best opportunities,” Arians says, “but his confidence should be sky-high right now, as good of a camp as he’s had.”

Let’s get more than a passing glance at Alex Cappa. The right guard spot is his to lose, but he lacks experience at the position and Buc coaches need to evaluate his play at game speed.

When Marpet, Donovan Smith, Demar Dotson and Ryan Jensen grab some pine, Cappa should still be out there, throwing his 305-pound body around with abandon.

Noah Spence is another guy with much to prove at the pro level. He’s done some nice things as an edge rusher in camp, but he needs to prove he’s not a liability against the run and he needs to show durability.

Spence is due to become an unrestricted free agent in 2020, so this has the look of a last stand with the team that selected him with the 39th overall pick of the 2016 draft.

Ira Kaufman launched his full-time NFL work in 1979 as a beat writer for the New York Giants. That’s right, nineteen freakin’ seventy-nine. The Sage of Tampa Bay sports joined in July of 2016. He can be seen on Tailgate Sunday during football season on FOX-13, and he’s a Monday regular year-round on BayNews 9. You can also hear Ira twice-weekly on the wildly popular Ira Kaufman Podcast, and he’s a national star on SiriusXM Mad Dog Radio Wednesdays at 5 p.m. from early September through the Super Bowl. 

WATCH EVERY Bucs road game this season with Ira at Buffalo Wild Wings! The fun starts TONIGHT, when Ira will be in Wesley Chapel with about 20 gift cards for fans (while supplies last).

5 Responses to “Baby Steps, Big Boy Opportunities”

  1. BucDan Says:

    I am just excited to see the new offensive and defensive concepts in action.

    Back field and wide receiver motion to set up mismatches on offense and plenty of movement pre-snap on defense to confuse the opposing team.

  2. TOM Says:

    Let the games begin.

  3. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    We need to get a look at SMB……and a brief look at Devin White……

    How about some 60 yard FG attempts……even at Heinz…..

  4. Locked In Says:

    Humphreys is the perfect match for check down charlie MM. he’ll catch 75% of Mariotas’ passes this season.

  5. Jim Says:

    Even in “meaningless” games, there’s the opportunity to develop a winning, domineering, physical culture…