TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Ready or not, here come the Washington Redskins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
With every starter, and many key reserves, sitting out on both sides, the Redskins dominated statistically for much of a preseason finale in which neither team was able to get the ball into the end zone until Josh Harvey-Clemons scored on an interception return with less than six minutes remaining in a 13-10 victory Thursday night.
Washington (2-2) opens the regular season at home against Philadelphia on Sept. 10. Tampa Bay (1-3) begins on the road at Miami.
“None of us really know how the season is going to unfold,” Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said, stressing that preseason records are meaningless. “There has been a lot of talk … but talking time is over.”
Sputtering offense was a problem for the Bucs all preseason, even with Jameis Winston directing an attack that’s expected to be more potent following the acquisition of receiver DeSean Jackson and drafting of tight end O.J. Howard.
Winston threw for more than 4,000 yards in each of his first two pro seasons, however Tampa Bay had difficulty scoring points while winning just six games two years ago and going 9-7 in 2016, when the team missed the playoffs for the ninth consecutive season.
The Bucs’ first-team offense worked 14 possessions over three preseason games, producing one touchdown and five field goals.
Koetter reiterated that is difficult to assess a team’s progress at this time of the year because keeping players healthy is every team’s top priority in training camp.
“Preseason football is really weird because winning isn’t the thing,” Koetter said.
With backups Ryan Fitzpatrick and Sefo Liufau running the show against the Redskins, there was little for fans in half-empty Raymond James Stadium to cheer about.
Third-stringer Nate Sudfeld started at quarterback and played the entire game for Washington, which outgained the Bucs 194-40 in the opening half and 290-75 through three quarters.
“He did some good things,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said after Sudfeld completed 22 of 33 passes for 228 yards and no interceptions.
“He missed a couple of throws which I’m sure he wishes he had back,” Gruden added. “For the reps he’s received in training camp and all that stuff to go out and perform the way he did, I thought he led the team well, got them in and out the huddle, good tempo and he did enough to win the game.”
Fitzpatrick started for Tampa Bay and completed 2 of 7 passes for 6 yards before being replaced by Liufau late in the second quarter.
Liufau, an undrafted rookie from Colorado, rebounded from throwing the interception Harvey-Clemons ran back 41 yards for Washington’s only touchdown by leading a late scoring drive that ended with Bernard Reedy’s 10-yard TD catch.
The starters rested for both teams, with the Bucs holding out a total of 37 players. The Redskins released a list of 33 players who were not expected to play, including 2016 first-round draft pick Josh Doctson, who sat out the third preseason game Cincinnati with hamstring/groin tightness. Doctson missed almost all of last season with Achilles tendon injuries.
Redskins: DL Jonathan Allen and LB Ryan Anderson, the team’s first- and second-round draft picks, did not play. Anderson has been out with a shoulder stinger since the first preseason game.
Buccaneers: Howard, a first-round draft pick and college teammate of Allen and Anderson at Alabama, did not dress. LB Kendall Beckwith, competing for playing time behind starting strong-side LB Devante Bond, had five tackles in the opening half.
“I feel like I’ve had confidence for a long time that I can play in this league. … I still have a lot of areas to improve to be the kind of player I know I can be. I’m not looking too far ahead just one day at a time, trying to keep improving because one day hopefully soon I’m going to be a pretty solid player in this league.” — QB Nate Sudfeld, third on Washington’s depth chart behind Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy.