Cover 3 is a weekly feature column written by PewterReport.com’s Tampa Bay Bucs beat writer Trevor Sikkema published every Tuesday. The column, as its name suggests, comes in three phases: a statistical observation, an in-depth film breakdown, and a “this or that” segment where the writer asks the reader to chose between two options.

Sikkema’s Stat of the Week

Welcome Pewter Report readers and listeners to… wait, wrong intro.

Welcome back to another edition of the Cover 3 column by Trevor Sikkema. I’ll be your host … Trevor Sikkema.

This week the Cover 3 is taking on a new form this week as the Buccaneers wrap up their preseason schedule. With only one game in Jerry World separating us from meaningful football, I figured it was time to give you my final 53-man roster prediction for head coach Bruce Arians and his Bucs, as final cut downs are due this Saturday, August 31 at 4:00 p.m.

Sometimes you have a good idea about which players will make the roster when camp begins, but I’ll tell you what, this past month has really changed my opinion on some of the guys; it’s both made careers and – on the other hand – handicapped some, too.

With all kinds of roster movement in motion throughout training camp and the preseason, here is what I believe the final 53-man roster will look like for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a week from now*.

*I can’t exactly predict who they’re going to pick up off waivers, which, there will probably be a few. But you get the point.

QUARTERBACKS – 3

QB Jameis Winston
QB Ryan Griffin
QB Blaine Gabbert
Analysis: I believe the Buccaneers are going to roll with three quarterbacks to start the season. Initially I would have told you it was just going to be Winston and Gabbert, but Gabbert’s shoulder injury in the third preseason game opens the door for Griffin to assume the QB2 role.

Griffin was having a good camp, and some wanted him to make the team regardless. I just don’t think it was going to happen. Gabbert’s injury is to his non-throwing shoulder, and Arians said that it “wasn’t as bad as it looked.” Gabbert was seen walking around the halls at One Buc without a sling this week, so that makes me think they’ll keep three quarterbacks on the roster while Gabbert heals up.

RUNNING BACKS – 4

RB Peyton Barber
RB Ronald Jones
RB Dare Ogunbowale
RB Andre Ellington
Analysis: I told y’all Ogunbowale was going to make this team.

The Bucs don’t seem to be as bullish on Peyton Barber as they were going into training camp. Not due to anything Barber hasn’t done, but rather, for how good Ronald Jones and Ogunbowale have looked behind him.

Bucs RB Dare Ogunbowale
Bucs RB Dare Ogunbowale – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

I think Barber is the starter for Week 1, but it will be close to an even split with Jones for carries and touches. Jones has been the better back in terms of running the ball this preseason, but the problem is he’s still unreliable in pass blocking situations. That will continue to limit how much they can play him until he gets it down.

As for the other two, I expect Ogunbowale to be the initial third down back. Ellington was penciled in as that guy to start camp due to his experience, but whether it’s been running with the ball, catching it out of the backfield or pass blocking for the quarterback, Ogunbowale has, at times, looked like the best back they have – not even just the best third down back. It wouldn’t surprise me if he starts some games for this team at some point this season.

WIDE RECEIVERS – 5

WR Mike Evans
WR Chris Godwin
WR Breshad Perriman

WR Justin Watson
WR Bobo Wilson
Analysis: About a week ago we asked Arians how the wide receiver position was shaping up. We were mainly asking to try to gauge how the team was viewing rookie wide receiver Scotty Miller, who had just returned to practice from a lingering hamstring injury. Instead we learned that, beyond Evans, Godwin and Perriman – who are WR1-WR3, in that order – no one was a lock to make this roster.

That makes me think that the Bucs are likely only going to keep just five wide receivers, especially since they will have to carry extra bodies on the roster to cope with Lavonte David and Vita Vea’s recovering injury situations.

I ultimately believe they’ll land on Wilson and Watson as their fourth and fifth receivers. Wilson has been with this team for a while now, albeit not with this coaching staff. He brings a dynamic element to the receiver room and on special teams. Watson’s value as a receiver did not ascend to the levels we thought it would this camp, but he is a solid special teams player, so I think he’ll stick due to those reasons. Scotty Miller probably starts on the practice squad.

TIGHT ENDS – 4

TE O.J. Howard
TE Cameron Brate
TE Tanner Hudson
TE Antony Auclair
Analysis: Do you want the truth or do you want the truth?

The truth is, despite now becoming the Buccaneers all-time leading receiver for a single preseason campaign, Hudson probably would not have made this team had Auclair gotten hurt in the team’s third preseason game.

Hudson brings some high-end ability as a receiving tight end, but when you’re TE3 or TE4, even on a team that uses two tight ends like the Bucs, you have to be able to block and play special teams. Hudson is not the blocker he needs to be right now on offense or special teams. He’ll have his chance to prove he’s more valuable while Auclair is sidelined. But, if he can’t, when Auclair comes back, don’t be surprised if Hudson is off the active roster and onto the practice squad – where he is in danger of getting signed elsewhere.

OFFENSIVE LINE – 8

LT Donovan Smith
LG Ali Marpet
C Ryan Jensen
RG Alex Cappa
RT Demar Dotson
OL Earl Watford
OL Zack Bailey
OT Caleb Benenoch
Analysis: What was touted as an experienced, cohesive offensive line unit with limited weak spots was really exposed in the Bucs’ third preseason game. I’m not ready to smash the panic button yet – as it is still the preseason – but the dress rehearsal for the first-team unit was spoiled by the Browns pass rush for most of the first half.

Bucs C Ryan Jensen and LG Ali Marpet
Bucs C Ryan Jensen and LG Ali Marpet – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

The Bucs cannot afford to be that poor when blocking once the regular season hits. They have to go up against two of the best defensive lines in there NFL to start the season, and if they can’t figure it out in two weeks, they’ll be in for a rough five days.

There is a good chance the Bucs look for an interior offensive linemen as well as an offensive tackle that they like who could be cut from other teams later this week. The Bucs have the fifth spot in the waiver wire, so if they like one they have a good chance of getting them. As for who they have as depth pieces now, Earl Watford will likely be the primary utility backup who is the “next man up” at all five positions. They’ll likely hold onto Benenoch, too. I’ve also heard they really like what they’ve seen from Bailey as a developmental player to hang onto.

DEFENSIVE LINE – 6

DT Ndamukong Suh
DT Vita Vea
DT Beau Allen
DE Will Gholston
DE Rakeem Nunez-Roches
DE Jeremiah Ledbetter
Analysis: Not that they didn’t have guys to like, but top-to-bottom I was worried about what I was going to see from the Bucs defensive line group. But, since camp began, Suh has looked pretty good in the snaps and opportunities they’ve let him go full speed in, Gholston looked much more effective as an interior player, and Vea, when he was healthy, looked like he was about to have a breakout year. They’ve been solid.

Though I was pleasantly surprised with how the first-team defensive line was playing, what i was even more impressed with was how two of their second-team defensive linemen have been difference makers every time they’ve taken the field. Nunez-Roches and Ledbetter have been fantastic throughout the preseason. Not only have they done enough to make the team, I think they’ve done enough to be in consideration for the regular season rotation.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS – 6

MO Lavonte David
MIKE Devin White
MO Deone Bucannon
MIKE Kevin Minter
MIKE Jack Cichy
MIKE Devante Bond
Analysis: White and David are going to be the two starting middle linebackers on this team, but expect Bucannon to play plenty of snaps, too. In fact, Bucannon will be the starter next to White if David can’t go Week 1. This coaching staff also won’t be afraid to throw Minter into the mix a little, too, but not over those top three guys, if healthy. Finally, Bond looks so much more comfortable this year than he ever has. He’s thriving as an interior linebacker.

When it comes to execution, linebacker might be one of the deepest positions they have.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS – 5

SLB Carl Nassib
WLB Noah Spence
WLB Shaquil Barrett
SLB Anthony Nelson
WLB Jason Pierre-Paul*

Analysis: I have a feeling that this group will hold the Bucs fate in their hands.

With no Pierre-Paul for likely half the season – at best – the Bucs will have to find a consistent source of pass rush on the edges. Nassib was a pleasant surprise last season, but even a repeat of last year’s production from him will need help, as he still finished third on the team in sacks.

Bucs D-linemen Will Gholston, Jason Pierre-Paul and Carl Nassib
Bucs D-linemen Will Gholston, Jason Pierre-Paul and Carl Nassib – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

One of these players – Spence, Barrett and Nelson – will have to step up. Ultimately I think Barrett will start the year as that extra pass rusher on double edge rush situations. But Spence will have to stay ready; the Bucs need the best year they’ve ever been able to get out of him.

The pass rush from the starting unit looked pedestrian against the Browns in the team’s third preseason game. They, like the starting offensive line, have to be better.

CORNERBACKS – 5

CB Vernon Hargreaves III
CB Carlton Davis
NCB Sean Murphy-Bunting
CB Jamel Dean
CB Mazzi Wilkins
Analysis: Did I say that the outside linebacker position holds the fate of the season in their hands? What I meant to say was the cornerback group holds the fate of the season in their hands.

(Okay, so they’re both important.)

The cornerback group has been an Achilles heel for the team for a while now. Here in 2019, they’re hoping that Hargreaves plays the best ball he’s ever played as an outside cornerback, and so far in camp he has. Carlton Davis will likely start opposite Hargreaves on the outside with Jamel Dean as their primary backup, or at least that’s how I see it. That will leave Murphy-Bunting to command nickel duties with Wilkins making the roster as the last corner.

SAFETIES – 4

SS Jordan Whitehead
FS Mike Edwards
SS-NCB M.J. Stewart
FS Justin Evans

Bucs S Justin Evans - Photo by: Clifff Welch/PR
Bucs S Justin Evans – Photo by: Clifff Welch/PR

Analysis: As of the date this column publishes, we have yet to see whether or not Evans will assume his starting role again with this new coaching staff. I am going to assume he does, and when all parties are healthy, I think he and Edwards will be the starters. I have liked what I have seen from Whitehead this preseason, too, so he could play pretty heavy into a safety rotation if either Evans or Edwards can’t pull their weight. Whitehead has shown he can be trusted to get a chance to start.

Stewart is the big wild card here, mainly what they do with him. He’s been playing a lot of slot corner this preseason, but he really struggled to keep up with receivers from the slot last year. Not sure how well he’ll fare once first-team offenses stay in the game.

SPECIAL TEAMS – 3

P Bradley Pinion
K Matt Gay
LS Zach Triner
Analysis: The big name here is Gay, who I believe will win the job over Cairo Santos. It’s as decision that I believe is the best one to make. Gay has the leg and he has the mental makeup to be their kicker for the foreseeable future.

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Trevor Sikkema is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat reporter and NFL Draft analyst for PewterReport.com. Sikkema, an alumnus of the University of Florida, has covered both college and professional football for much of his career. As a native of the Sunshine State, when he's not buried in social media, Sikkema can be found out and active, attempting to be the best athlete he never was. Sikkema can be reached at: [email protected]
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bucballer

Just wondering… if we do pick up an OL after cutdowns does this mean the last man on depth chart(appears) to be Benenoch, will be cut to make room for any OL picked up? This would not bother me one bit. I’m just saying…

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Sector2814

That’s more than fine. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

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Easythe great

Jack Cichy is gonna make this team

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Horse

I see a trade for Brate.
Also wouldn’t surprise me if we make a swap for older back up Guard or Tackle for Spence or Golston.
Doubt #4 RB and #5 wide receiver will end up being the actual ones on the roster when season starts.

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Boca James

Any team that is deep at G, or T i would look for their cuts next week.

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Itch

We are going to need three productive QBs given how the OL is performing. The risk of injury is very high at this point with Gabbert already being injured. Winston cannot take 5+ sacks a game and not end up injured, much less playing well. Which speaks to the absolute need to pick up OL discarded gems in waivers. We need to instill a constant level of competition on the OL to drive better performance, but I am not conviced we have the OL talent to handle some of the DL talent we will face this year. With that said,… Read more »

Alldaway 2.0

There is an outside chance that Legget makes the team. And I think based on Bowles history he tends to like to keep five safeties on the roster. As for Ellington I am not sure if he is a lock because while he has seen playing time with the 1s he hasn’t done much to capitalize on it. Other than that I agree with this 53 man Bucs roster projection. I will say though that I can see a scenario where the Bucs add 2-3 new backup OL to join Watford. However, if the team really likes Bailey I can… Read more »

Alldaway 2.0

Let me add that the Bucs were a topped ranked offense with some of the worst RG play I ever saw last year. Cappa will improve and hold down RG or Watford can come in and play at a more consistent level than Benenoch.

However, if the tackles play the way they did it will be hard to win five games with that type of play.

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Buc-Up

I see at least three OL, one or two DL, one or two OLB claimed off of waivers or signed as free agents. I can see them releasing Spence to make room for another OLB because I think he can only speed rush and I still see him get neutralized on most of those.

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Alldaway 2.0

Agreed.

If Spence makes the team he will be used exclusively in pass rushing situations from a wide 9 or stand up rusher.

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Buc-Up

All of you that voted down on my post can BITE ME! They released Spence and traded for an OT.

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Itch

I think because speed is our best weapon to overcome our OL glaring weaknesses, the team will keep six WRs including Scotty Miller. I do not believe they will risk placing Scotty on the parctice squad and having another team steal him. They are already risking that with Schnell and Hall. I even think they would go to the length of releaseing Ellington to keep six WRs that allow for quick outs and dumps over the middle. This sia play action offense, and we still have an unproven running game. We are going to have to keep defenses honest by… Read more »

jeff becker

we need a running back. drop ellington.

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Spitfire

For the record Nassib was 2nd on the Team in Sacks, not 3rd. Not a big deal just pointing it out. The evaluation on the Oline was exactly the way I felt. During the game I was sweatin and frustrated with the lack of protection but when you went back and looked at it it was some very specific circumstances that they missed on and it “mostly” looked like things they were tricked by and could definitely catch and learn from. When Cappa is on he looks solid, strong and mean. The plays he got beat on comes from a… Read more »

Itch

Some of our OL issues were “basic blocking and tackling” to use a stupid pun. Look at the footwork and body positioning when we got beat on edge rushes, especially Dotson, Smith and even Cappa. The legs are crossing over which throws the body off balance and then they end up on their ass. This is startling because look how far back our tackles were lining up to allow for more reaction time. This is a real fundamentals issue that speaks to deeper concerns. We also got beat by inside stunts several times, with missed pickups. There was no RB… Read more »

Itch

When Barber and Jones found a hole, they made the most of it. They were running hard and violently. The overall lack of running production was due to the number of time the were stopped in the backfield or before a play could fully materialize, and that is on the OL. It is also on the play design because even some of our running plays took too long to materialize. Jury is still out on how our RBs can be big play makers, but I do not think our RBs are our problem. We need to go straight at the… Read more »

SCLOBERNOCKER

I dont see a reason to keep Ellington. There isn’t a single thing he provides that one of the other 3 don’t do better. Id rather use his spot on a young contributer.

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Dman

Agree he’s the 4th man on the depth chart, I just think it’s an issue of having an extra guy at a position where guys get hurt. it’s a long season.

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76bucsfan46

I believe that Mazzi Wilkins is our #4 corner this season. I’m also looking forward to the new WR from Missouri sticking around long enough for BA to evaluate him in a game situation, speed kills. I didnt see anything from Scotty Miller in his limited playing time for him to make the 53. O’Line O’Line O’Line enough said.

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Dman

76bucs fan – I’m really hoping to get a look at Hall (WR from Mizzou) this last preseason game. I think he’s a better long term prospect over Miller and won’t last if we put him on the practice squad.

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bfarbs

Agree with all of this except I dont see the Bucs keeping Ellington. No one is going to pick him up off of waivers and he has no upside given his age. Instead, I see the Bucs keeping Schnell or Miller on roster rather than risk losing them to another team. We also have seen how injury prone Perriman is so the depth will likely be necessary at WR this year.

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Dman

Gonna be interesting to see where some of these young guys land that can play but may be lost in the numbers game. Wilkins, Miller, Hall, Hudson. plenty of others. I also think MJ Stewart got a bad rap for being slow last season due to scheme, coaching and inexperience. He’s outplayed Murphy Bunting for the slot CB position and has a year under his belt.

Will be interested to see what BA does with the O line. Glaring weakness coming into this offseason and nothing has been done.

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rocky

What about darian Stewart? I haven’t heard much about him since the signing a few weeks back but he’s a veteran safety who who would bring a lot of stability to the back end of that defense especially considering the injuries we have already had at that position. Figured he might be penciled In there

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Alldaway 2.0

That fifth safety spot may be up for grabs so any of the other safeties could stick. So it is possible.

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surferdudes

Thank you Trev for not putting Miller on the final 53 like Scott did. I don’t see the fan love affair with this kid. Bobo, and Watson are just plain bigger, tougher, and more seasoned. You want to know what I’d do with this O line? I’d move Marpet back to RG, and start Bailey who played big time football in the SEC at LG. I don’t know why Cappa was never given a shot at tackle. Benenoch struggled at RG, but looks much better at RT which is what he played in college. I think he replaces Dotson there… Read more »

deeznuts

Ogunbowale is solid – I remember watching him impress with the Giants when Wilson went down (the guy who got drafted right after Doug Martin). Not sure why they ever let him go.

Why is JPP just now showing up? Coming off double digit sacks, 12$M, and a new head coach/defensive position isn’t enough motivation? I remember him calling out the bad apples last year, but he’s gotta get ready to play asap..no one is going to push him at home. Ice up homie

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wnb0395

JPP just got cleated to start rehabbing Tuesday. I’m sure there are legal issues preventing a player not medically cleared from being at the facility for sprung training and the preseason. If something were to happen to Him before he is cleared the bucs would be held responsible.

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76Buc

Next year’s draft will see heavy doses of OL, DL, and a RB.

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Tunnelvizn

Gee, I remember hearing that about this past draft

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Mee Loopa

I liked what i saw from Ryan Smith, he’s also a special team stand out. I think i’d go with him rather than Mazzi Wilkins. Even if i love Cam Brate for what he’s done in the past. We have a younger and cheaper version of him in Tanner Hudson. I like the idea trading him for an o-liner, as long he has some value. Just trade Jake Matthews for Cam Brate. Koetter would love to have him in Atlanta – Austin Hooper can’t be their go to guy. Our late round picks could develop in our practice squad. Rate… Read more »

liquidmuse3

Usually Trevor’s so good. Bunting over MJ for nickel? Isn’t nickel in this D the Honey Badger position? And didn’t Bond shine as an OUTSIDE LB 2 weeks ago? And Whitehead has absolutely locked down a starting spot. This legit feels like Trevor based half of this on what he heard or thought would happen rather than the reality.

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buddah

I still think way too too much is being made of preseason games. These are glorified practices without detailed prep time and game-planning. Do you really think that the Buccaneers offensive line spent detailed time running through tapes of the moves of all the Cleveland defensive lineman and how to deal with them. I don’t. They have much more on their minds, especially 49ers and Carolina. Will be interesting to see how Carolina competes given that Cam was held out of games and many practices due to his shoulder surgery and now isn’t practicing due to the angle injury. Besides,… Read more »

avez8811

great article, i feel like this team is stacked with great players looking at it on paper but whether they all so up on sundays is another story. o-line is definitely our issue especially with depth we should be developing at least one guy there that and our outside linebackers make me nervous without jpp. that being said our secondary will be exciting to watch grow dean will be a stud as will others. with bruce arians and gang im looking forward to this campaign.

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owlykat

I would keep Holcomb over Benenoch. Holcomb was better at Guard than the South Carolina rookie and he subbed for Dotson at Tackle last year and played well!

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Alldaway 2.0

Good catch because I was wondering why Arians was interested in seeing Holcomb come back from injury and onto the field. That makes sense that the coaching staff is looking at turning over every stone to find players that can play at the bottom of the roster.

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owlykat

Overall a very good job, Trevor. I was pulling for Miller til he was chicken in a runback opportunity and then played poorly as a pass receiver. He needs to bulk up on practice squad so he is more durable and get more training and build his confidence. You were right not to put him on the top 53.

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The Vicness

Benenoch makes this team? I think it more than likely we pick someone off of waivers and let Benenoch go. I’ve seen zero improvement in games; granted I’ve watched no practice, but if you don’t perform when the lights are on what is the point. I love Cam, but if his hip is injured again, place him on IR or let him go. We need to win. Miller, unless he balls out, isn’t making this team. Arians in essence called him soft, especially when he was talking about how Obugunwale is playing hurt and is playing at a high level.… Read more »

ryan24

By my count the roster has 52 by Trevor. JPP doesn’t count vs. the roster.

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