Dexter Jackson: The battle for the return jobs has been waged all season between Jackson and Micheal Spurlock, but Jackson may have acquired a valuable tiebreaker with his 83-yard punt return for a touchdown, the first major return by either on special teams this preseason. Couple that with Spurlock’s fumble in the first half and that Jackson saw time at both punt and kickoff returner, and one could surmise that Spurlock may be sweating things out on Saturday. Jackson finally flashed that big-time speed and that’s going to stick in head coach Jon Gruden’s mind.
Patrick Chukwurah: The Bucs re-signed the defensive end on Thursday to fill Marques Douglas’ roster spot and the former Bucs end put up two tackles in the first half. Now, the Bucs may have signed Chukwurah as nothing more than depth for the final preseason game, but he is producing in his only action this preseason. I don’t see him making the final roster cuts, though.
Ben Troupe: The tight end needed to make some kind of an impact on Thursday and he did to the tune of two first-half catches. He finished the game with four receptions. To me, he’s definitely on the bubble, fighting with Jerramy Stevens for the third tight end spot. I just don’t see the Bucs keeping four tight ends this year, but they have in the past and if the Bucs feel Jackson can handle both return chores, that could open up a spot for Troupe. I still think Stevens makes it, based on his familiarity with the offense. Stevens did not play on Thursday.
Josh Johnson: In his longest outing of the preseason, Johnson drove the Bucs downfield and helped set up a Matt Bryant field goal. He finished 8-of-13 for 85 yards. He’ll either make the final roster or end up on the practice squad.
Michael Bennett: He finished off a fine preseason with 48 yards on 13 carries. I’ll make a prediction — Bennett will have a larger impact on the offense than anyone envisioned at the start of training camp, but he’ll do it with just 6-8 touches per game. The Bucs may get a lot of bang for their buck with this guy.
Micheal Spurlock: The fumble is only going to aggravate Gruden, who watched Spurlock fumble away the second-half kickoff against the New York Giants, a turning point in that playoff game. Add the fact that Spurlock didn’t have a first-half catch and, well, you can see that the former Ole Miss product may be unemployed soon. He did return a kickoff for 28 yards later in the game.
Clifton Smith: He didn’t do enough to avoid the ax. He rushed for only 5 yards. His receptions were up there (4), but the rushing yards are what count with a player like Smith. The Bucs should make a play to sign him to the practice squad.
Chris Simms: He didn’t have much trade value to begin with, but his middling performance on Thursday — 9-of-15 for 71 yards and an interception — probably snuffed out the remaining trade value. That’s probably fine by Simms, who wanted his release anyway. He’ll have a few suitors next week.
Fans hoping to see starters: As usual, the final preseason game wasn’t worth the money. Most of the Bucs’ regular starters didn’t play. For that matter, neither did any of the Texans’ starters. Makes you want to go out and get season tickets, doesn’t it?
OTHER NOTES: PK Matt Bryant had three field goals in the second half. … Tampa Bay dominated the game offensively, especially in the categories of first downs (20-9), average gain per offensive play (4.6 yards vs. 3.8 yards) and touchdowns (1 to none). … Like their earlier preseason games, the Bucs had a distinct advantage in time of possession, holding the ball for nearly 40 minutes.
Matthew Postins is the editor and publisher of bucsblitz.com.