By Jeff Berlinicke
For two months, Matt Bryant and Todd France have been working out next to each other every day, friendly enemies in their battle for the Buccaneers kicking spot.
It's been a friendly competition with the underlying knowledge that one of them won't be here after next Tuesday. The problem for Bucs coach Jon Gruden is that neither one will have lost the position.
France and Bryant have been nearly perfect in practice and in the Bucs' three preseason games heading into tonight's finale against the Houston Texans at Raymond James Stadium. France is 4-of-4 and Bryant is 3-of-4, his only miss being a 53-yard attempt on the final play of the game in a 20-17 loss to Jacksonville on August 20. If that miss counts for anything, it can be counterbalanced by the fact that Bryant has more NFL experience, kicking for the New York Giants for most of one season.
In practice and in games, they are booming kickoffs into the end zone, something that was sadly lacking during Martin Gramatica's long tenure with the Bucs. To make things even more intriguing, Gruden hasn't exactly given either kicker a vote of confidence and will likely be watching the waiver wires next Tuesday when all NFL teams are required to pare their rosters down to 45.
Even if Gruden checks the waiver wire, there's a good chance that the best kicker on the wire will be the one cut by the Bucs.
The Bucs will also be trying to settle their offensive line against Houston. Rookie Chris Colmer will start along with John Wade and Sean Mahan. Rookie Dan Buenning will get significant time as well, and Matt Stinchcomb, who hasn't played in any of the preseason games so far, will start if healthy.
Colmer is intriguing since he's struggled at times in practice. He's start at right tackle in place of Kenyatta Walker who is out with a knee injury. Colmer will face a 3-4 Houston defense and there will be a spotlight on him for sure.
Gruden wouldn't say how much time Cadillac Williams will get at running back, but it's likely he'll get a few carries early in the game before calling it a night. With the release of Charles Garner on Tuesday and Ian Smart last Friday, it appears that Derek Watson has earned a spot on the roster along with Williams, Michael Pittman, Mick Alstott, and Earnest Graham. Watson and Graham will likely be battling for positions on the depth chart for most of the game.
Houston's main goal tonight is to keep David Carr healthy. Carr is the entire franchise and the Texans have a weak offensive line, so Carr will likely play little more than a quarter.
Make It Or Break Time for Bryant, France
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