Coach Dirk Koetter acknowledged that McNichols is behind, which is why he was pulled after just two snaps on offense Saturday night in the loss to the Cleveland Browns. In the first, he was pinned back for a 1-yard loss. The second, he missed a blocking assignment that led to Ryan Fitzpatrick getting sacked for a 9-yard loss.
"He's just making too many mistakes on offense," Koetter said. "He had a protection error that led to a sack so I took him out at that point. That was my decision. He's going to play a lot on Thursday night and he's going to get one final chance to show what he can do."
McNichols also got two snaps on special teams, and Koetter said he has been doing fine there.
The Bucs had high hopes for McNichols, who they thought was a steal when they selected him in the fifth round of the 2017 NFL draft. Some even thought that, given his college production, he could provide extra insurance given the situation with Doug Martin.
There was also talk that he could assume Charles Sims' role if Sims was not brought back after next year. That has not been the case at all, however.
McNichols was sidelined during rookie camp, OTAs and mandatory minicamp while recovering from shoulder surgery. He was still at these practices, getting mental reps, but clearly they haven't helped, as his biggest issues have been between the ears.
Koetter and Spencer both said earlier this month that he needed to "get in his playbook," and he's still struggling. He has been featured on HBO's "Hard Knocks" studying his playbook with Jameis Winston and DeSean Jackson.
The Bucs already have Martin, Sims and Jacquizz Rodgers, and presuming all three make the cut, there probably would be one final roster spot for a running back.
The team has been very happy with the progress of second-year running back Peyton Barber, whom Koetter called "one of the most improved guys on the team." Russell Hansbrough also has some experience in the Bucs' system, having seen action in two games last year.