TAMPA – The only preseason game that even comes close to being worth the ridiculous price teams charge for the tickets to them is the third preseason game. It is, after all, the one in which the starters play the most, sometimes well into the third quarter.
That’s why it’s often referred to as a team’s regular-season dress rehearsal, but there are several starters who will more than likely miss the Buccaneers dress rehearsal Saturday against the Browns at Raymond James Stadium.
Wide receiver Mike Evans, linebacker Kwon Alexander, right tackle Demar Dotson and cornerback Brent Grimes all sat out the last open practice of training camp because they’re nursing minor ailments of some kind and will likely miss the game as well.
There’s no guarantee of that, but one of the Bucs primary objectives is to get to the start of the season as healthy as possible and the best way to do that is to keep players nursing minor injuries out a game in which they could wind up doing further damage to themselves.
The Bucs may opt to do the same with defensive tackle Gerald McCoy as well. McCoy walked away from a drill on Wednesday flexing his shoulder and while he was back in pads on Thursday he was very limited, both in individual and team drills on Thursday.
Don’t be surprised then if McCoy winds up taking a seat, too. After all, McCoy has been slowed in years past by shoulder issues and the last thing the Bucs need now is to see their best defensive linemen get hurt worse in a meaningless exhibition game.
The Bucs could take the same approach with right guard J.R. Sweezy, but don’t expect that to happen. Sweezy missed two straight days of workouts this week, but he was back at work on Thursday and with two days to rest up before Saturday’s game, he’ll probably be asked to play.
How much he’ll be asked to play is another matter. With Dotson out the Bucs are already being forced to move some pieces around and coach Dirk Koetter would probably like to see how the line fares with left guard Kevin Pamphile at right tackle and Evan Smith at left guard.
If Sweezy isn’t quite 100-percent, though, Koetter may pull back on the amount of time he plays his starters on offense, including quarterback Jameis Winston. And when you consider how much Winston has played already this preseason that may not be a bad idea.
Winston has already taken 66 snaps and thrown 42 passes this preseason. That’s just 25 snaps and two passes less than he accrued during the preseason last year, so it’s possible the Bucs will pass on working him as deep into as they might have originally planned.