Tonight, the Cleveland Browns take on the for their third preseason game of the year. To help preview this week's game, I reached out to Sander Philipse from Bucs Nation and exchanged five questions with him. Enjoy!
Chris: "Without going into too much detail, how has Jameis Winston looked as a member of the Buccaneers? Like a typical rookie with promise, or has he exceeded expectations? Who has looked more comfortable in camp, Winston or Mike Glennon?"
Sander: "Jameis Winston has looked like the player the Bucs expected to get -- which is significantly better than a typical rookie with promise, I'd say. He struggled a little in his first preseason game, but took some massive steps forward against the Cincinnati Bengals last week and we're hoping to see the same thing this week. While there are still plenty of rough edges and deficiencies to improve upon, his performance has been very encouraging. And while Mike Glennon has looked pretty good in preseason and training camp, it's really obvious that Winston's already the better quarterback -- he's much more comfortable making tough throws down the field and looks like he has a better command of the offense overall."
Chris: "Josh McCown was the Buccaneers' starter last year and the team did not fare well under him. Would you assign McCown a good amount of the blame for that, or was it just an overall team collapse?"
Sander: "I'd say it was both. Obviously when you go 2-14 there are a lot of things that are going wrong and it's not just the quarterback. McCown didn't stand much of a chance behind the pitiful excuse for an offensive line the Bucs trotted out there last season. Even so, he certainly contributed to the team's downfall -- which is why the team cut him this offseason. I'd still say he's not entirely hopeless behind a competent offensive line with a good supporting cast, but he was a replacement level player at best last year. And that's just not good enough to win games in the NFL."
Chris: "Former Browns offensive lineman Garrett Gilkey is with the Buccaneers now. Is he competing for a starting or backup role? Do you think he'll make the roster?"
Sander: "Gilkey is not going to start and may not even make the roster at this point. He has to compete for a backup spot at guard with Kadeem Edwards, who has the advantage of being a 2014 draft pick, and Jeremiah Warren and Josh Allen, who have the advantage of being able to snap a ball without rolling it across the floor or launching it over a quarterback's head. To be fair, Gilkey's actually looked competent as a guard -- but that's probably not good enough to earn him a roster spot. He started the first preseason game, but was running with the backups and third-string line against the Bengals."
Chris: "How has the Buccaneers' run defense fared in their first two preseason games?"
Sander: "The run defense has looked pretty good. In fact, the defense as a whole looked pretty good -- although they certainly performed much better against the Bengals than they did the Vikings. The Bucs actually had one of the best run defenses in the NFL last season, and they may have actually improved this season by replacing Mason Foster with Kwon Alexander and adding Tony McDaniel at nose tackle on early downs."
Chris: "Tell us about one player on offense and one player on defense, who is a late draft pick or an undrafted free agent, who Browns fans should pay attention to when they are in the game."
Sander: "On offense, I'd keep an eye on Donteea Dye, an undrafted receiver out of Heidelberg. He wasn't quite the talk of training camp, but he's been fairly impressive in preseason so far, with three catches through two games. He might make the roster as a slot receiver -- the Bucs have few small, nimble guys at that position and he could find a niche for himself there.
As for defense, I would have named fourth-round pick Kwon Alexander, but he's already been the starting middle linebacker so that would kind of feel like cheating. Instead, pay attention to free safety Chris Hackett. The Bucs don't have a lot of depth at free safety and Hackett has a chance to squeak in at the bottom of the roster. He's gotten a lot of playing time because Chris Conte has been out with a hamstring injury, and there's a non-zero chance he actually beats out Conte."
Thanks again to Sander for taking the time to answer my questions.