Buccaneers final 53-Man roster projection
With preseason over, we give you one final 53-man roster prediction.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers wrapped up their preseason with a 1-3 record, finishing things off with a 13-10 loss in the final game to the Washington Redskins. The Bucs didn’t play any of their starters and a total of 36 players, the vast majority of which are locks to make the roster. With most of the cuts likely going down directly after the game tonight and more coming at the deadline on Saturday, I figured I would try to offer up my insights in to what I think the team will do with their roster construction. Let’s get into it.
Ryan Griffin (Injured Reserve)
The Bucs figure to carry three quarterbacks, and the top two have been locks for the last two weeks. Jameis Winston is the franchise quarterback and there has never been a question as to whether he was the starter on this team, but in the second half of training camp and the first two preseason games Ryan Fitzpatrick (signed to a 1 year, $4.5 million dollar contract this offseason) and Ryan Griffin, who has been the third quarterback on roster for two years now, for the backup job. Griffin suffered a shoulder injury that will keep him out to at least Week 6, and the team has restructured his contract over the next two years so that he can be placed on IR with an option to return mid-season. Sefo Liufau was signed as an undrafted free agent from Colorado and was horrendous in the fourth preseason game, throwing a pick six in the fourth quarter to seal the loss.
Running Back (5)
Doug Martin (Suspended)
Charles Sims III
The Bucs will be without Doug Martin for the first three games of the 2017 season due to suspension, but Jacquizz Rodgers can fill in as the starter admirably while he is out. Martin has looked re-energized and has run with a new purpose after spending time in rehab this offseason and is the presumptive starter, and Rodgers returns after being the team’s top rusher last season. Charles Sims is a former Day 2 pick who has been talented when healthy but hasn’t been able to stay healthy long enough to warrant a contract extension and now looks to provide injury insurance and a pass catcher out of the backfield. Peyton Barber was an undrafted free agent who made the team last season and has outperformed fifth round pick Jeremy McNichols this offseason, acclimated into the NFL rigor now. McNichols has lacked confidence and has seemed hesitant in his cuts and not trusting himself so far and while it could have cost him a roster spot, he is at least on the team until Week 4 when Martin returns.
Wide Receiver (5)
The Bucs have had their top four receivers locked in since the start of the offseason in Evans and Jackson with Humphries and Godwin. Evans and Jackson have looked as advertised so far, as the dynamic duo complements each other with contested catch ability and speed and figure to be some of the league’s best this season. Adam Humphries is the epitome of consistency out of the slot and rarely drops passes and has been a reliable target for Jameis Winston so far in his NFL career. Godwin was picked 84th overall in this year’s NFL Draft and has impressed in the offseason so far and will see significant reps playing both on the outside and in the slot in 2017. Josh Huff has nailed down several of the jobs on special teams and has made some splash plays throughout the offseason so far and will figure to provide depth but mainly do what he has carved out a niche for doing so far in his career and that is return kickoffs.
Tight End (5)
This may come as a surprise to some leaders but I think the Bucs will carry a number of players at tight end above what the league considers average. O.J. Howard, the team’s first round pick in this year’s draft has lived up to the hype he garnered before the draft and may not have the box score stats that fans look for but has shown off a mean streak as a blocker and doing well in nuanced areas of the game. Cam Brate caught 10 touchdown passes last season, amongst the tops at his position in the league, and is still on the roster and could see an extension very soon (look for that in a piece this weekend) and will continue to be a reliable option for Jameis Winston. Luke Stocker continues to be a move piece and is now the veteran of the group and the team will continue to line him up in the backfield in what most would call a fullback role and in three tight end sets that the team has shown off this offseason. Alan Cross, son of PewterReport.com’s Mark Cook has proven his value on special teams and carved out a role on all four units and has well earned his roster spot, and Antony Auclair has flashed enough as an all-around talent for GM Jason Licht to deem him worth of being on the roster even if he doesn’t play on game day.
Offensive Line (9)
(L-R) Donovan Smith
(Backups) Evan Smith
The Bucs offensive line hasn’t been much of a question in camp so far. The starters have been locked in all offseason and there hasn’t been much question to their roles, and Ali Marpet has made a quick and seamless transition to center from right guard this past year. Evan Smith continues to be a consistent option at both guard and center and his versatility and locker room personality have allowed him to stay on the roster despite a contract many said should have gotten him released years ago. Caleb Benenoch switched outside to offensive tackle in training camp due to injuries and the depth there is scary and shaky overall, but Leonard Wester, a former undrafted free agent, makes the team as well.
Defensive Line (9)
(L-R) Will Gholston
Chris “Swaggy” Baker
Robert Ayers, Jr.
(Backups) Noah Spence
Jacqueis Smith (PUP)
The Bucs starting defensive line hasn’t had much questions about it either, and looks to be “locked in” with the newly re-signed Will Gholston at five technique, star defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, a new face in nose tackle Chris “Swaggy” Baker, and pass rusher Robert Ayers. Former second round pick Noah Spence will continue to be a rotational presence off the bench for the squad and Ryan Russell has carved out a role on special teams that warrants a roster spot for him. Clinton McDonald would start on many teams at nose tackle but now becomes one of the best sub-package and backup defensive linemen in the league, and rookie defensive tackle Stevie Tu’ikolovatu beat out veteran Sealver Siliga as the “big” run stuffer at nose tackle in camp. Channing Ward provides depth as a player who can play five technique in the base defense but kick inside to three technique if needed.
Lavonte David (WILL)
Kwon Alexander (MIKE)
Kendell Beckwith (SAM)
Adarius Glanton (MIKE)
Devante Bond (SAM)
The Bucs have one of the league’s best duos at linebacker in Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander (name a more iconic one, I’ll wait) and both will look to continue their All-Pro caliber performances this season. Veteran Daryl Smith has been replaced by rookie Kendell Beckwith, picked 97th overall in this year’s draft, at strongside linebacker and Adarius Glanton and Devante Bond, especially the former, play such key roles on special teams that they cannot be overlooked.
Defensive Backs (10)
Vernon Hargreaves III
The Bucs secondary has never been in question all offseason and despite some speculation at the start of camp at a competition for both starting safety jobs, Keith Tandy and Chris Conte had it locked down from the get-go. Vernon Hargreaves has been joked about and pushed down by much of the league all offseason and has used it as fuel to motivate himself and has looked much improved in his sophomore season so far. Javien Elliott won the nickel competition despite only walking on as an upperclassman at FSU two years ago and while raw has shown off fantastic recovery speed and ball skills to warrant such a spot. Ryan Smith is a former Day 3 pick who was moved from free safety back to corner this offseason and has had expected breakdowns at times in coverage but has looked good considering the situation he was thrust into. Justin Evans was picked 50th overall in this year’s draft but the team has said since his drafting that he may need to take a year to refine his form tackling and technique to compete for the job next year and that looks to be the plan, and J.J. Wilcox was brought in on a two year deal this offseason to push Chris Conte for the box safety role. Robert McClain lost out on the nickel job but will serve as the backup there as well as the fourth boundary corner and has looked nice at both spots this offseason. Josh Robinson was moved to safety but at this point in his career is purely a special teams player and that he is elite at.
Special Teamers (3)
Nick Folk (kicker)
Bryan Anger (punter)
Garrison Sanborn (long snapper)
While the Bucs have had some kicking inconsistencies this offseason, cutting former second round pick Roberto Aguayo after a hit-and-miss performance in the first preseason game and sticking with the veteran Nick Folk from there, they do have the best punter in the league in Bryan Anger. Anger continues to be elite for the Bucs and Garrison Sanborn has been the long snapper all offseason for Anger and Folk, even if former starter Andrew DePaola — recovering from a torn ACL at the end of last season — was brought in at the end of camp, the team still gave all its reps to Sanborn.
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