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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are scheduled to trim their roster down two times within the next week in an effort to be in compliance with the NFL-mandated 53-man roster.
The first set of cuts is scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 28, which is when all NFL teams must trim their rosters down to 65 players.
The second and final wave of cuts will come on Saturday, Sept. 1, which is when each team must announce their 53-man roster.
After talking to team and league sources, watching Tampa Bay’s organized team activities, mandatory mini-camp and training camp practices, and the Bucs’ first two preseason contests, Pewter Report is ready to unveil its 53-man roster prediction in this article.
Pewter Report could tweak this roster after Saturday night’s preseason contest vs. Miami and/or if the Bucs sign and/or trade for a player(s).
Pewter Report will reveal its updated 53-man roster prediction simultaneously on ABC Action News' Sports Zone show and on PewterReport.com at 11:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, Aug. 26.
In the meantime, Pewter Insider subscribers can view Pewter Report's current 53-man roster prediction below:
PEWTERREPORT.COM 53-MAN ROSTER PREDICTION
QUARTERBACKS – 3Jeff GarciaLuke McCownBruce Gradkowski
Commentary: There’s no question that Garcia is the undisputed starter, but who will be his backup? McCown will get the nod there. Bucs head coach Jon Gruden was high on McCown before he injured his knee during the 2006 offseason. He’s been more accurate, decisive and mobile than Gradkowski, who will earn the third-string signal caller job. Chris Simms received a limited amount of reps in training camp and has yet to see action in a preseason contest. He’s been improving, but it’s probably too late for Simms, whose throwing form and mechanics have been off since he suffered a splenectomy last September, to earn a 53-man roster spot.
RUNNING BACKS – 5Cadillac WilliamsMichael PittmanB.J. AskewEarnest GrahamKenneth Darby
Commentary: Williams and Pittman will see quite a bit of action on Sundays, especially in the “Rocket” backfield formation. Askew is Tampa Bay’s best true-blocking fullback, and his ability to catch the ball will allow him to see a significant amount of playing time as well. The real battle is between Graham, Darby and Lionel Gates. Gates started training camp strong, but has cooled off quite a bit. Graham is more versatile (can play halfback and fullback) than Darby, who could be a candidate for the practice squad. But the rookie from Alabama has impressed as a runner and pass catcher in both training camp and preseason. Mike Alstott’s season-ending neck injury makes the decision to keep Darby and Graham a little easier for the Bucs.
WIDE RECEIVERS – 5Joey Galloway David BostonMaurice StovallIke HilliardMichael Clayton
Commentary: Galloway is still Tampa Bay’s primary receiver and weapon in Gruden’s offense, and he could be poised for a big year with Garcia throwing him the ball. Boston has worked his way back from two serious knee injuries. Not only will he make the team, Boston could start at the Z (flanker) position opposite of Galloway. Boston’s recent DUI arrest certainly isn’t good news for he or the Bucs, though. Tampa Bay is deep at receiver, and Gruden plans to deploy more three- and four-receiver sets as long as the revamped offensive line, particularly the tackles hold up in pass protection. That will allow Stovall to get on the field quite more. Hilliard likely will be used on third downs, where he’s been extremely effective for the Bucs. The fact that Clayton was a 2004 first-round pick and can play special teams will buy him more time to find a way to return to his rookie form. The Bucs will flirt with keeping WR Mark Jones as a return specialist, but nickel cornerback Phillip Buchanon can handle those duties and is more proven. Receivers Chas Gessner and Paris Warren have flashed at times, but they are probably the odd men out. Gessner, however, could be signed to Tampa Bay’s practice squad.
TIGHT ENDS – 3Alex SmithAnthony BechtJerramy Stevens
Commentary: The Bucs hope to use much less “U” personnel formations, which includes two-tight end sets. For the past two seasons, this formation has featured Smith and Becht. However, this year the Bucs can swap out Becht for Stevens if they want to send both tight ends out on passing plays. Stevens has stayed out of trouble and performed well enough to earn an active roster spot. Improved pass protection should allow Smith to get more passes thrown his way. The Bucs can’t justify probably will not be able to justify keeping Keith Heinrich, who has some ability to long snap, around as a fourth tight end, and rookie C.J. Leak hasn’t impressed.
OFFENSIVE LINE – 9Luke PetitgoutAnthony DavisJohn WadeDavin JosephJeremy TruebloodArron SearsDonald PennDan BuenningMatt Lehr
Commentary: Tampa Bay’s starting five along its offensive line likely will look like this: Petitgout (left tackle), Sears (left guard), Wade (center), Joseph (right guard) and Trueblood (right tackle). However, an ankle injury sustained by Sears earlier in the week might allow Davis to start at left guard for Tampa Bay’s regular season opener at Seattle. While he might not be a full-time starter, Davis’ experience and versatility should be valuable to the Bucs. The decision on who to keep will get tough after that. Buenning, a 2005 fourth-round draft pick, is still recovering from a serious knee injury he sustained last November. However, he started all 16 games at left guard as a rookie and is versatile enough to play both guard and center. That makes him a valuable backup. Lehr, who was signed in free agency, had a rough outing snapping the ball from the center position in the Bucs’ preseason opener, but like Buenning, he’s versatile. With Buenning making the transition from guard to center this year, the Bucs might feel more comfortable going to Lehr should something happen to Wade. Penn is a sleeper. He has played surprisingly well at both left and right tackle. His ability to serve as a swing tackle likely will prompt the Bucs to keep him around. Seventh-round pick, T Chris Denman, hasn’t been that impressive, but he could be a candidate for Tampa Bay’s practice squad.
DEFENSIVE LINE – 9Greg SpiresChris HovanJovan HayePatrick Chukwurah Kevin CarterGaines AdamsEllis WymsRyan SimsGreg Peterson
Commentary: The battle along the defensive line is extremely competitive, which should help the Bucs play better against the run and record more than the 26 sacks they notched during the 2006 season. Carter is pushing Spires for the starting left end job and Adams, the fourth overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, is attempting to work his way into the starting lineup over Chukwurah. Hovan might be the only player guaranteed to start on opening day. The Bucs likely will use an under tackle-by-committee approach in 2007. This rotation likely will include Haye, Carter and Wyms, although Wyms’ $3.9 million base salary might prove to be too much for the Bucs to justify keeping him around. Sims, who landed in Tampa Bay via a trade with Kansas City several months ago, hasn’t flashed much, but the former first-round pick’s experience and 315-pound frame could make him an ideal backup to Hovan at the nose tackle spot. Peterson is a good athlete, but he’s extremely raw. The Bucs have worked him at both defensive end and under tackle. The Bucs knew Peterson was a project when they invested a fifth-round pick in him back in April. That said, Peterson probably will make the active roster this season.
LINEBACKERS – 7Derrick BrooksBarrett RuudCato JuneQuincy BlackJamie WinbornRyan NeceAdam Hayward
Commentary: In 2005, Tampa Bay began the regular season with five linebackers on its 53-man roster. That won’t be the case this time around. The Bucs have too much talent at this position to take just five ‘backers into the regular season. Plus, Tampa Bay plans to use some 3-4 formations, which means it will need to have more depth at this particular position. Brooks, Ruud and June are Tampa Bay’s starters. Winborn, a former second-round pick, and Black, who joined the Bucs a third-round selection in April, might see some playing time on defense, but their biggest contributions likely will come on special teams. Black could also be used as a rush end in certain situations. Hayward is on the bubble, but like Black, he can also play some defensive end and is expected to make an impact on special teams. Nece appears to be the odd man out, but his roster spot might have been saved by Antoine Cash’s season-ending knee injury against Jacksonville. However, the Bucs have already brought in free agent linebackers Jeremiah Trotter and Al Singleton for workouts. Should one of those players be signed, Nece is likely gone. The Bucs traded a conditional draft pick to the Jets in exchange for LB Jerry Mackey, but those conditions likely include Mackey having to actually make the team in order for the Jets to receive any compensation from the Bucs.
DEFENSIVE BACKS – 9Ronde BarberBrian KellyJermaine PhillipsWill AllenPhillip BuchanonSabby PiscitelliTanard JacksonKalvin PearsonSammy Davis
Commentary: Barber, Kelly and Buchanon will be Tampa Bay’s top three cornerbacks. Although they didn’t play well last season, Phillips and Allen performed well enough in training camp and preseason to hold off rookies Piscitelli and Jackson, respectively, for now. However, both 2007 draft picks will make Tampa Bay’s roster and should have an immediate impact on special teams. Speaking of special teams, Pearson could beat out second-year CB Alan Zemaitis for the last available roster spot at this position due to his impact in this area. Zemaitis just hasn’t impressed. With Torrie Cox having to serve a four-game suspension to start the regular season, the Bucs can justify keeping Davis, a former first-round pick, around for at least a few weeks, if not longer.
SPECIAL TEAMS – 3Matt BryantJosh BidwellAndrew Economos
Commentary: There won’t be too many tough decisions to make here. Bidwell had no problem beating out rookie punter Sean Douglas, and nobody was even brought to camp to compete with Bryant for the kicking job. Economos has proven to be Tampa Bay’s best long snapper through camp and the preseason. The Bucs could decide to dedicate a roster spot to a return specialist if they land former Detroit Lions return man Eddie Drummond. As of right now, it looks like Buchanon will handle those duties.
53-MAN ROSTER BREAKDOWNTotal Offense: 25Total Defense: 25Total Special Teams: 3
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