The Buccaneers have yet to hold their first OTA (organized team activity), mini-camp or training camp practice yet, but PewterReport.com takes an early stab at what Tampa Bay’s 53-man roster could conceivably look like in September based on what the team accomplished in free agency and the draft. With unforeseen injuries a lot can change prior to the final roster cut-downs, so this exercise should be treated more for entertainment purposes than as an actual prediction.
Starters are marked with an asterisk (*), and there are 12 on offense and defense, including the third wide receiver and the nickel cornerback. There figures to be as many as seven new starters on Tampa Bay’s offense, which was the league’s worst last year, in addition to three new starter on defense.
QUARTERBACKS – 2 *Josh McCownMike Glennon
Analysis: We’re not sure if head coach Lovie Smith will keep two or three quarterbacks this year, but McCown and Glennon are obvious locks. Some NFL teams in this day and age only keep two. If the Bucs keep three, don’t be surprised if undrafted free agent rookie Brett Smith beats out Mike Kafka as his scrambling ability has some real appeal in Jeff Tedford’s new offense.
RUNNING BACKS – 5*Doug MartinBobby RaineyCharles SimsJeff DempsMike James
Analysis: The Buccaneers may only keep four running backs, but it’s too difficult to pick the odd man out right now. The early guess is James as Martin figures to be the starter with Rainey and Sims, the rookie, vying for playing time. Demps’ speed and versatility is too good to ignore, and he could factor in on offense and on special teams as a punt blocker and a kick returner. If the Bucs keep three quarterbacks, the team definitely will pare down its running back stable to just four backs.
FULLBACKS – 1Lonnie Pryor
Analysis: The fullback position has become devalued around the NFL with the focus on the passing game, and it’s no different in Tampa Bay. Pryor is a fullback that can block, catch and run, and his versatility, speed and ability to cover kicks and punts on special teams may give him the edge over Jorvorskie Lane. The Bucs also have tight ends like Brandon Myers and Tim Wright that can also serve as lead blockers, so don’t be surprised if the team goes without a true fullback in favor of an extra tight end.
WIDE RECEIVERS – 6*Vincent Jackson*Mike Evans*Louis MurphyChris OwusuRobert HerronTommy Streeter
Analysis: Because Tampa Bay may feature five-wide receiver sets on Sundays from time to time, there is the need to keep as many as six receivers on the roster. Jackson, Evans and Streeter give the Bucs three big, rangy wide receivers that stand 6-foot-5, and Murphy, Owusu and Herron bring speed and run-after catch ability. Herron could also win the punt return duties away from Eric Page.
TIGHT ENDS – 3*Austin Seferian-JenkinsBrandon MyersTim Wright
Analysis: Seferian-Jenkins is instantly the most athletic tight end on the roster and will be given every opportunity to win the starting job. The versatile Myers has plenty of playing experience and could start if called upon. Wright has bulked up to 235 pounds this offseason, but needs to improve his in-line blocking to see a lot of playing time in 2014.
OFFENSIVE LINE – 9*Anthony Collins*Carl Nicks*Evan Dietrich-Smith*Jamon Meredith*Demar DotsonKevin PamphileOneil CousinsJace DanielsKadeem Edwards
Analysis: The offensive line could feature as many as four new starters in 2014 with Collins at left tackle, Dietrich-Evans at center, Meredith at one guard and Nicks or Cousins at the other guard spot, depending on if Nicks fully recovers from two toe surgeries in 2013. Dotson is entrenched at right tackle and Pamphile could serve as the team’s swing tackle with Edwards providing depth at guard and Daniels serving as the backup center.
DEFENSIVE LINE – 8*Michael Johnson*Gerald McCoy*Clinton McDonald*Adrian ClaybornAkeem SpenceWill GholstonMatthew MasifiloDa’Quan Bowers
Analysis: McCoy and McDonald are entrenched as the Mac Attack in the middle at defensive tackle with Johnson at right end and Clayborn at left end. Spence is the reserve nose tackle, while Masifilo is the backup three-technique tackle. Gholston will challenge Clayborn at left end for the starting job and playing time. The final spot on the D-line depth chart will likely come down to Bowers and Steven Means. Don’t be surprised if the oft-injured Bowers, who has been a bust thus far in Tampa Bay, gets beaten out by Means, but the former Buffalo star must improve and become more consistent.LINEBACKERS – 6*Lavonte David*Mason Foster*Jonathan CasillasDane FletcherDanny LansanahNate Askew
Analysis: Tampa Bay typically keeps six linebackers and the starters are set with David, Foster and Casillas. Fletcher was brought in for depth and competition in the middle, while Lansanah, a holdover, brings versatility and backs up Casillas. In a bit of a surprise, Askew, one of its undrafted free agents, makes the team as a weakside linebacker backing up David, beating out Demaso Munoz.CORNERBACKS – 4*Alterraun Verner*Johnthan BanksMike JenkinsRashaan Melvin
Analysis: The Buccaneers like big cornerbacks and have two 6-foot-2 defenders in Banks, a likely starter, and Melvin, a promising reserve. The other two cornerbacks are 5-foot-10, but come with Pro Bowl credentials in Verner, the team’s shutdown corner, and Jenkins, a former USF grad that will compete with Banks for the right to start. While Pro Bowler Darrelle Revis is gone, Verner is a better fit for the Tampa 2 scheme and is three years younger.
NICKEL CORNERBACKS – 2*Leonard JohnsonD.J. Moore
Analysis: Tampa Bay will keep a total of six cornerbacks in the pass-happy NFC South, but two of them will be strictly nickel corners. Johnson has spent one year as a nickel with the Buccaneers after a promising rookie season in which he had three interceptions. Moore, who missed the 2013 season due to injury, is well versed in the Tampa 2 after coming over from Chicago where he played for Smith.
SAFETIES – 4*Dashon Goldson*Mark BarronMajor WrightKeith Tandy
Analysis: Goldson and Barron are set as the team’s big starting safeties. Goldson is coming of a so-so debut in Tampa Bay last year as well as offseason ankle surgery. Barron made big strides in 2013 and is poised for greatness in the Tampa 2. Wright played three seasons for Smith in Chicago and knows the defense intimately. Tandy made a splash as a reserve safety last year with three interceptions, and has the intelligence and versatility to play either safety position.
SPECIALISTS – 3*Connor Barth*Michael Koenen*Andrew DePaola
Analysis: Barth returns from an Achilles injury to assume the field goal kicking duties once more. When healthy, Barth is capable of making at least 85 percent of his kicks. Koenen’s punting slumped a bit last year, but he still has a strong leg and is capable of handing the kickoff duties, which allows Barth to concentrate on field goals. The long-snapping duties are a toss-up, but the guess is DePaola, who was in training camp last year, edges out the competition.
Scott Reynolds is in his 23rd year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds enjoys giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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