(Photo Credit: Buccaneers.com)
The Buccaneers open the preseason Friday night with an away game at the Cincinnati Bengals.
This will be the first opportunity for a few Buccaneers and Bengals players to get live NFL experience.
It also gives us the first glimpse of who might be able to make a difference come regular season.
Here are my key players to keep an eye on in the contest.
Ryan Smith– Cornerback
Smith has worked almost exclusively with the Buccaneers second-unit in training camp. With Brent Grimes being injured and not suiting up, Smith has an opportunity to get out with the first string.
Smith, who played safety in his first NFL season could provide solid depth at a position that has been a weak spot for the Buccaneers.
Chris Godwin- Wide Receiver
The Buccaneers’ third-round pick, Godwin has been tearing up training camp all off season.
Coming out of Penn State he was highly praised for his work ethic and it seems to be translating into the NFL landscape as well.
Godwin will be pushing Adam Humphries for the third-receiver role this season, and with a strong showing on Friday he could be one step closer to cracking the starting unit.
Roberto Aguayo/Nick Folk – Kicker
One of the most publicized battles of training camp is the battle for the Buccaneers kicker.
Aguayo was taken 59th-overall in the 2016 NFL Draft. In his first season with the Bucs he went 22/31 finishing the season at 71%.
Statistically, he was the worst kicker in the NFL last year.
Enter Nick Folk who’s career average is 81% including 59% from greater than 50-yards. .
Justin Evans – Safety
The Buccaneers took Evans in the second-round to help improve their bottom of the league pass-defense from a year ago.
Evans has great awareness and has the opportunity on Friday to show just what he can bring to Tampa’s secondary.
With the incumbent safeties on thin ice after last season, Evans has a real chance to crack the starting unit as a rookie.
Getting a live look at how he reacts and play recognition could help him along this path.
Noah Smith, Justin Trattou, Stevie Tu’ikolovatu and Ryan Russell all should get a look Friday night as the Buccaneers have to sort out the problem of how to arrange one of the deepest defensive lines in the NFL.
Smith is an athletic freak who had 5.5 sacks last season and should continue to push for time right out of the gate.
Trattou for the first time in his NFL career played in all 16 games for the Vikings last season. He could provide value up front when the starters get a break if he can continue to show his run stopping ability.
Tu’ikolovatu was taken in the seventh-round due to him being a 25-year old rookie, but has shown age might be an advantage for him his rookie season.
Being more physically mature then most rookies he has a solid chance to impress Friday.
Russell who only played in eight games for the Buccaneers last season has a chance to prove what made the Cowboys select him in the fifth-round of the 2015 NFL draft.
Russell ran a 4.75 which was tops at his position in the 2015 NFL Draft combine. The potential is there and given a chance might prove a nice addition for the Buccaneers.
Sean Eck, FIU Panther. Contributor to Pro Football Spot. Follow me for more articles like this on Twitter @Sean_Eck #gobucs