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Tampa Bay's active roster still is a work in progress. The Bucs only have 51 players on their roster due to the fact that safety Tanard Jackson is suspended for the first four games of the 2009 regular season for violation of the league's substance abuse policy.
The Bucs likely will add two more players between now and the start of their preparation for the Dallas Cowboys on Tuesday. In the meantime, here is PewterReport.com's breakdown of the current active roster.
QUARTERBACK (3) Byron Leftwich Josh Johnson Josh Freeman
Analysis: Tampa Bay decided to keep four quarterbacks on its 53-man roster … for a few hours. That was until the team traded Luke McCown to Jacksonville for a third day draft pick in 2010. Parting ways with McCown clears $2.5 million from Tampa Bay's payroll in 2009, but also gives Freeman, a first-round pick, the reps — and likely the playing time — he'll need to develop. Unfortunately for the Bucs, their quarterback position is void of experience behind Leftwich. In fact, neither Freeman nor Johnson has played in a NFL regular season game. Although Johnson performed better in camp and preseason, Freeman could serve as the backup signal caller to Leftwich.
RUNNING BACKS (4) Derrick Ward Earnest Graham Cadillac Williams Clifton Smith
Analysis: There were no surprises here. Unlike the quarterback position, Tampa Bay's stable of running backs has to be considered a strength of the team, especially considering how good Williams looked in camp and preseason. While Tampa Bay will have a committee approach, Williams could steal reps from Graham, who might be called on to play more fullback since the Bucs elected to keep just one of those on their roster. The biggest question is can Leftwich do enough in the passing game to keep extra defenders out of the box?
FULLBACKS (1) B.J. Askew
Analysis: The Bucs opted to part ways with Jameel Cook, who was one of three members remaining from Tampa Bay's Super Bowl XXXVII team. Cook used to be a special teams ace, but wasn't going to see the field much had he made the team. In fact, Askew will be hard pressed to receive a ton of playing time outside of special teams since Tampa Bay's offense will feature plenty of two-back sets that feature running backs. Still, Askew is a valuable player for the Bucs because of his ability to lead block, catch the ball and play special teams.
WIDE RECEIVERS (5) Antonio Bryant Michael Clayton Brian Clark Maurice Stovall Sammie Stroughter
Analysis: The Bucs have two roster spots available, and no one should be surprised if the team uses one of those spots to acquire a wide receiver since Tampa Bay elected to keep just five. There is serious cause for concern here, as Bryant and Clayton missed most of training camp and preseason with knee and hamstring injuries, respectively. Bryant and Clayton need to stay healthy as the Bucs are very thin behind their starters here. In fact, Clark, Stovall and Stroughter have combined for just three NFL starts. All three players likely will be worked into the lineup as a No. 3 receiver, which should give these young players valuable playing time.
TIGHT ENDS (3) Kellen Winslow Jerramy Stevens John Gilmore
Analysis: The Bucs elected to keep three tight ends, which is not a surprise. No one should be shocked if the Bucs sign rookie TE Ryan Purvis to their eight-man practice squad, especially with Gilmore still recovering from a quad injury. Winslow and Stevens should see a significant amount of playing time, especially in the passing game.
OFFENSIVE LINE (9) C Jeff Faine C Jonathan Compas G Davin Joseph G Jeremy Zuttah G Marcus Johnson T Donald Penn T Jeremy Trueblood T Demar Dotson OL Marc Dile
Analysis: The Bucs elected to keep nine offensive linemen as opposed to eight, and that was with rookie T Xavier Fulton going on injured reserve. Had he not sustained the knee injury, Fulton would have made the active roster. Although it wasn't a huge surprise, it was interesting to see the Bucs elect to keep rookie Marc Dile instead of Rob Bruggeman, who could be headed for the practice squad. Bruggeman received more playing time in camp and preseason, but the Bucs felt more comfortable with Dile's versatility. Tampa Bay must also like the upside in newcomers Compas and Johnson, who were acquired less than one week ago. The Bucs are seriously lacking experience at the backup O-line positions, especially center, which means Faine, who has battled groin and back injuries this offseason, must stay healthy in order for Tampa Bay's offensive line to excel and live up to expectations.
DEFENSIVE LINE (8) DE Gaines Adams DE Jimmy Wilkerson DT Ryan Sims DT Chris Hovan DE Stylez G. White DE Kyle Moore DT Roy Miller DT Dre Moore
Analysis: Perhaps one of the biggest surprises in terms of the roster cuts was the fact that Bucs DL Louis Holmes was on that list. He had an impressive preseason and showed up in the sack department. However, the Bucs might be hoping to sneak Holmes onto their practice squad. In the meantime, Tampa Bay has a decent amount of depth along its D-line, and it was encouraged to see Moore, a second-year player and 2008 fourth-round draft pick, do enough to earn an active roster spot this year after spending last season on the practice squad. The Bucs are extremely high on rookies Kyle Moore and Miller, so expect to see those players worked into the rotation on game days. The Bucs have good depth and run-stuffing ability here. The question is do they have good enough pass rushers?
LINEBACKER (7) Barrett Ruud Quincy Black Geno Hayes Matt McCoy Niko Koutouvides Rod Wilson Adam Hayward
Analysis: Tampa Bay is loaded at linebacker, having kept seven on its active roster. This unit better contribute mightily on special teams. Otherwise, seven might have been too many to keep. Unfortunately, this position can't be considered a strength yet since the Bucs' two starting outside linebackers – Black and Hayes – have never started a regular season game. Once Tanard Jackson returns from his suspension, the early guess here is that the Bucs will part ways with either Koutouvides or Wilson to make room for Jackson on their active roster.
Analysis: Like several other positions on Tampa Bay's roster, the Bucs lack experience in terms of the depth behind starters Barber and Talib, who could still be suspended for his arrest after an altercation with a cab driver. While some were surprised Cox made the active roster since he was inconsistent in training camp and preseason, he is the only player behind Barber and Talib that has started a regular season game in the NFL. He's also a special teams ace. Mack will serve as the team's third cornerback. Biggers will be given the opportunity to groom behind the veterans, but must make an immediate impact on special teams.
SAFETY (4) Sabby Piscitelli *Tanard Jackson Jermaine Phillips Will Allen
Analysis: Despite losing Jackson to a four-game suspension to start the season, the Bucs elected to keep just four safeties, which essentially means three until Jackson returns. It also means Phillips' move back to safety likely will be permanent. The good news for the Bucs is all four safeties have significant playing and starting experience, which should make this position a strength once Jackson returns to action.
KICKER (1) Mike Nugent
Analysis: Bucs head coach Raheem Morris suggested he had a tough decision to make here, but it really wasn't. Nugent kicked in the preseason. Matt Bryant didn't due to injury. Nugent showed a strong and accurate enough leg to easily win the job.
PUNTER (1) Dirk Johnson
Analysis: Initially, it looked like the Bucs were going to sorely miss P Josh Bidwell, but Johnson has done a good job in terms of holding on field goal attempts and directional punting. He doesn't have the strongest leg, but it might be good enough to help the Bucs in 2009.
LONG SNAPPER (1) Andrew Economos
Analysis: The Bucs did not provide Economos with competition this offseason because he's a reliable player. He had a few shaky long snaps in preseason, which is unusual, but the Bucs aren't too concerned about it.