Commentary | Tampa Bay Buccaneers' soap opera of a preseason ends Thursday against Washington

August 29, 2013 

Buccaneers Dolphins Football

Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver David Douglas, right, celebrates with wide receiver Chris Denton after scoring a touchdown when he caught a 12-yard pass from Mike Glennon during the second half of a preseason NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins, Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013, in Miami Gardens, Fla. The Buccaneers defeated the Dolphins 17-16. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

WILFREDO LEE — AP

TAMPA

The preseason for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers has been similar to a reality TV show gone bad.

Interest has been generated for all the wrong reasons.

There have been Josh Freeman's struggles, the locker-room invasion of MRSA and chunks of armor on both front lines scattered all over the field.

And we can't ignore the Mike Glennon rabble rousers, a collection of Josh Freeman haters and backup quarterback lovers.

Bucs head coach Greg Schiano sparked some of this fire before the preseason with his fickle comments about Freeman.

Lawrence Tynes' wife, Amanda, kept the flames burning with a tweet Wednesday that her husband isn't responding well to MRSA treatment as the Bucs had claimed.

Thursday night's final preseason game against the Washington Redskins is more about who doesn't play, which in this case is

RG3 and Freeman.

Does this sound like a Kardashian show without Kim or Khloe?

So the soap opera ends Thursday night at Raymond James Stadium and fans can look to regain their sanity. NFL rosters must be down to 53 on Saturday, and this is the last chance for the bubble boys to make an impression.

A lot that happened at One Buc Place this preseason defied logic, particularly in how Freeman was used. He didn't play much until the Miami game, but considering he was sacked nine times in 62 snaps that might have been a wise move.

Freeman took 21 snaps in the first two preseason games, which was fewer than every projected NFL starting quarterback except San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick.

Freeman ranks 25th in snap counts overall in the preseason among the presumed 32 starting quarterbacks. But it's the uneven approach toward his use that raised questions.

He had 41 snaps against Miami last week, which was one of the biggest increases in any projected starting QB from the first two games to the third.

For the preseason, he completed 12 of 26 passes for 101 yards without a touchdown or interception and was sacked nine times, a scary number, preseason or not preseason.

It begs the question whether he would have been more productive if his workload was more evenly spread out.

Schiano is preaching not to worry and says the Bucs' offense is better because it is in its second year.

"I don't know if you can assume that his confidence is shaken. I'm not sure it is, to tell you the truth," Schiano said. "I think in his mind he feels more comfortable than he's ever felt in this offense since he's been part of it. I think he is going to be fine. He's going against the first-team defense, and it's high speed and it's all the things we do, game-type situation. It's not the same as a game; I'm agreeing with you on that. But he'll be fine."

In the preseason, Freeman has been the victim of drops and a make-shift offensive line that might not change that much in the season opener at the New York Jets because Pro Bowl guard Carl Nicks could be out for an extended period with MRSA.

Freeman echoes his boss. Not to worry, he says.

"I didn't take many snaps, (but) I feel like we've been practicing at a very high level. We're excited to make it through with everyone healthy," Freeman said. "I know our guys. I know what kind of fight they've got in them. There is such a difference between preseason and regular season; everything's amped up.

"I feel like I'm playing well, throwing the ball, understanding what we are trying to accomplish each play, each situation. On Sundays, I know these guys are going to be there to make the plays."

Schiano will be focusing on things other than Josh Freeman, including the guys on the bubble. The coach will have to make some adjustments on the offense line, and he is still seeking a backup at running back for Doug Martin and a third-down back and fullback. All of that could be rolled into Brian Leonard.

"I came in this year knowing that it was going to be a lot of work for that second spot, and I've been putting it in and hopefully we'll see what happens," Leonard said. "You always have to prove yourself every practice. It's like a job interview. You've got to be able to pick up your protections, to run routes and catch the ball. I feel I can do all of that. Every day is a new day. It doesn't matter what you did in the past."

Schiano says every player on the bubble has his own situation and will be evaluated depending on his position and team needs. "If you're on the bubble, then you're a depth guy," Schiano said. "So then what is your role and who best fulfills that role and do we see things all through camp that lend us to believe you'd be able to fill that role the best out of anybody?"

Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7080, ext. 2112. Follow him on Twitter at @ADellSports.

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