The change from cutting 90 players straight down to 53 has been welcomed by almost all who are involved. This gives each player on the team more time to get more tape out there, and allows teams to get the best look at who to keep.
But that doesn’t make that cut day any less difficult when it comes down to the final few guys.
For the Buccaneers, these are PewterReport.com’s Top 5 players who have the most they need to prove in the team’s preseason finale against Washington in order to not get called into general manager Jason Licht’s office over the weekend.
LB Riley Bullough
Bullough took the football world and even some Bucs fans by surprise when he became a spotlight player in the early episodes of the show Hard Knocks. Before then, he was just another undrafted free agent who those in the local market knew the team was somewhat high on due to the speed in which they signed him after the 2017 NFL Draft concluded.
It’s been good to learn more about him as the show has given him some love, but though easy to root for him, that spotlight hasn’t given him any extra ability.
Bullough is on the fringe – really, on the outside looking in – of making this roster for the same reasons he went undrafted: He’s limited athletically. Bullough gives you everything you’d want in a linebacker as a leader and communicator, but it appears he just doesn’t have the speed to make the plays in the NFL.
He’s been on the third team for most of camp, and if he wants to steal a roster spot, he’ll have to have the best game of his professional career on Thursday.
WR Bobo Wilson
This undrafted Seminoles receiver has actually been making some very nice plays in practice. Truth be told, he was making so many of them that we wondered why his in-game playing time was as low as it was.
In the most recent episode of Hard Knocks, the show revealed a little bit of why that might be the case. Wilson appeared to not be the best at taking coaching. He seemed strong-headed when being told what to do and where to be, and although he has been making plays, he certainly didn’t seem to be on the coaches’ good sides.
Wilson was limited to just nine snaps last week with no targets. He’ll get his most playing time this week, and unless he really balls out, the Bucs may not think he’s worth the headache.
WR Donteea Dye
It’s been a tough camp for Dye.
Dye has been a member of the Buccaneers active roster and practice squad on and off for the last two seasons; he’s been around the team and its players for a while now, even if it hasn’t always been on the active roster. That familiarity was looking like it was paying off for him early on in this year’s training camp before he injured his ankle with bone bruise.
During the two weeks he couldn’t practice, wide receivesr Josh Huff and Freddie Martino passed him on the depth chart. But, in his first week back last week against the Browns, Dye had a few very nice catches and even got some compliments from Jameis Winston.
Thursday night’s game will be the battle for the fifth wide receiver spot. Expect to see a lot of Martino, Huff, Dye, and even Bernard Reedy as the team tries to get all the tape they can to aid them in their decision.
DT Stevie Tu’ikolovatu
Going into the mini camp and the team’s OTA period, we thought that because of how highly the team spoke of Tu’ikolovatu coming out of the draft that he would likely get the nod over fellow nose tackle Sealver Siliga when it came down to the active 53-man roster.
However, it has not played out like that during training camp.
In terms of playing time, Stevie T. has been at the bottom of the defensive line group. He’s never managed to crack second team reps like Siliga has, and with just one game to go, it’s going to be an uphill climb for him to beat out a player with more experience and a player the Bucs are clearly more comfortable with – especially since Siliga has six year of league experience on Tu’ikolovatu and is just one year older than Stevie T.
RB Jeremy McNichols
Back on draft day, some were calling the McNichols pick in the fifth round one of the best value picks in the entire draft. Fast forward to present day and Koetter has publicly told McNichols that he has one last shot to prove himself worthy of this roster – which means right now he’s not.
McNichols has really struggled to get the playbook down, and because of it, he has no confidence in his game, and that’s evident in his performances in practice and the games. He opened the preseason up with 12 yards on two carries against Cincinnati. Then led the team in carried with 11 the next week for 32 yards, though all late in the game. Last week he only managed one carry for negative one yards, and was pulled after blatantly missing a block.
McNichols is very fortunate that Doug Martin is missing the first three weeks and won’t count as a roster spot. If that wasn’t the case, McNichols would already be packing his bags. But Thursday night is one final shot to prove he’s worth hanging on to, maybe even longer than Week 3.