The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-2) travel to Buffalo Saturday to take on the Bills (1-2) at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y. in the all-important third game of the preseason. Kickoff is slated for 4:30 p.m. (EDT).
The third game of the preseason is approached much like a regular season contest. Starters should see significantly more playing time than they did in the first two games and will likely play into the early stages of the third quarter.
“I’m telling them, ‘You have this much time.’ The guys that start the game will play into the third quarter,” said Lovie Smith. “They know that. From there, we’ll kind of see how it all works out. They do know that. We’re trying to hit on all those different situations. Right now, we’ve done it for the most part. But now, it’s about players learning how to come in at the half, us to make adjustments, and then finish up strong in that third quarter. So this is a big part of the evaluation for us to get ready and I look forward to this team each year.”
Following Saturday’s game against the Bills, the Bucs have one more preseason test at home against the Washington Redskins before opening the regular season playing host to the Carolina Panthers Sept. 7.
Today’s game comes just days before NFL rosters must be trimmed from 90 players to 75 (Tuesday). Teams will need to have their roster down to 53 players by Aug. 30.
“When you go and play a pickup basketball game, they’re keeping score – you want to win,” Smith said. “So we would like to [win]. But there’s a bigger picture too: we would like to win, but we need to see certain guys. If we were just interested in winning, we would play our best players every down. We’re not doing that. We have other things we need to do.
“We would like to win when our guys that we’re going to tee up with for Carolina when they’re out there,” Smith continued. “At the same time though, some of the backups might have to be able to play, so you want them to play well too. So a lot goes into it. And we haven’t won a game. I’d like to go with the routine that we’re going to have during the regular season when we win a football game, and we haven’t been able to do that.”
The Bucs’ first-string defense, led by Gerald McCoy, has been stout. The Bills offense has moved the ball steadily in the preseason but the starting offensive unit is 0-for-5 in the red zone. The Bills are determined to score a touchdown against Tampa Bay.
“It’s very important,” EJ Manuel said on Buffalobills.com.“That’s what is going to help us win. The more we find the end zone the more we’ll win games. I definitely feel it’s going to come on Saturday. I think we will get that touchdown before I’m out.”
McCoy has been dominant in leading the defense in the first two preseason games. If the Bills are going to find the end zone, they will definitely have to get through a hungry McCoy, who still sees room for growth.
“We had a lot of missed opportunities in both games,” McCoy said. “We should have taken the ball away. But more importantly, we have to create more opportunities. You create your opportunities in this league and we have to take the ball away and we can’t depend on the offense to make mistakes. We have to force the opportunities and capitalize on them.”
Pregame notes: Mike Jenkins is out; William Gholston is doubtful as are Da’Quan Bowers, Steven Means, Rashaan Melvin and Major Wright. Alterraun Verner is expected to see his first game action of the preseason.
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