The Buccaneers made the most of their first choice of the NFL waiver wire and claimed five players on Sunday – defensive end Kourtnei Brown, linebackers James-Michael Johnson and Jeremiah George, center Eric Kush and quarterback Ryan Griffin. In order to make room for these players, the Bucs parted ways with wide receiver Rannell Hall, linebacker Jason Williams, guard Kadeem Edwards, tackle Reid Fragel and tight end Cameron Brate.
Tampa Bay will get a look at their new players this week in practice, and will continue to tweak the roster over the next few weeks as more players become available on the waiver wire. The Bucs will have the first choice through the third week of the regular season before it reverts to the NFL teams’ current records during the 2015 season.
With Tampa Bay’s roster more settled now than it was yesterday when the team had to whittle down to 53 players, it’s a good time to analyze the current crop of Buccaneers and see how each position shapes up.
QUARTERBACKS – 3 QB Jameis Wintson QB Mike Glennon QB Ryan Griffin
PR Analysis: Winston, the first overall draft pick in 2015, is the starter with Glennon a young, experienced reserve. The Buccaneers surprised everyone by acquiring another quarterback in Griffin off waivers. The plan for Griffin, who played collegiately at Tulane and spent the last year and a half with New Orleans, is to come in on the 53-man roster and learn the system. If he’s deemed a keeper as a future backup, that could make Glennon expendable and a candidate to be traded later this year before Week 8, but more likely next offseason.
RUNNING BACKS – 5 RB Doug Martin RB Charles Sims RB Bobby Rainey RB Mike James FB Jorvorskie Lane
PR Analysis: Martin is the starter and Sims is deemed the backup, although he underwhelmed in the preseason. Rainey will compete with Sims for carries because he is a reliable backup that brings speed, shiftiness, pass-catching ability and punt and kick return ability to the table, while James offers power in short-yardage situations. Lane returns as the Bucs’ lead blocker, although tight end Luke Stocker can also serve in that capacity, too.
WIDE RECEIVERS – 5 WR Vincent Jackson WR Mike Evans WR Louis Murphy WR Russell Shepard WR Adam Humphries
PR Analysis: Tampa Bay kept five wide receivers with Jackson and Evans as the starters and Murphy as the slot receiver. Shepard, a special teams ace, proved he could do more than just cover kicks in the preseason and will see a big role on offense. He may do some kick returns this year. Humphries, an undrafted free agent, beat out Rannell Hall, Kaelin Clay and Donteea Dye for a roster spot with his clutch hands and ability to separate. Humphries can also return punts and may be involved in kick returns, too.
TIGHT ENDS – 3 TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins TE Luke Stocker TE Brandon Myers
PR Analysis: The Bucs kept three tight ends with Seferian-Jenkins being the starter and Stocker being the primary blocker on the edge, which is his specialty. Tampa Bay kept Myers over Cameron Brate because of experience and reliability. Brate dropped an easy catch against Miami after being wide open in the preseason finale, and Myers is a safer alternative as a backup tight end. The Bucs traded fifth-string tight end Tim Wright for kicker Kyle Brindza, who was never going to make the roster anyways.
OFFENSIVE LINE – 9 LT Donovan Smith LG Logan Mankins C Evan Smith RG Ali Marpet RT Gosder Cherilus OT Kevin Pamphile C Jeremiah Warren G Matthew Masifilo C Eric Kush
PR Analysis: The starters are set from left to right with Smith, Mankins, Smith, Marpet and Cherilus, but this unit as a whole is very, very inexperienced. Warren proved to be a reliable backup center and earned a roster spot. Because Garrett Gilkey went down with a season-ending knee injury, Tampa Bay claimed Kush off waivers from Kansas City. He’ll be cross-trained at center and guard. Pamphile is capable of playing either side and will be the swing tackle in Tampa Bay, while Dotson, who was placed on injured reserve with a designation to return later this season, recovers from his knee injury he suffered in the first preseason game. Masifilo deserves major credit for making a position switch from defensive tackle to guard this offseason. That’s very hard to do successfully at the NFL level.
DEFENSIVE LINE – 9 LE George Johnson DT Gerald McCoy NT Clinton McDonald RE Jacquies Smith DT Henry Melton DT Tony McDaniel DE Will Gholston DE T.J. Fatinikun DE Kourtnei Brown
PR Analysis: The Bucs have the league’s deepest defensive tackle position with McCoy, McDonald, Melton and McDaniel. Gholston also shined there in the preseason as a nickel rush interior lineman, and has experience as a left defensive end on run downs – as does Melton. The defensive end position lacks proven experience and production as a whole where starters Johnson and Smith have a combined 12.5 career sacks – and all of those came last year. Fatinikun and Brown, who starred on HBO’s Hard Knocks with the Houston Texans, are fast, light and inexperienced pass-rushing specialists.
LINEBACKERS – 6 WLB Lavonte David MLB Kwon Alexander SLB Danny Lansanah SLB Bruce Carter MLB James-Michael Johnson
WLB Jeremiah George
PR Analysis: The Bucs starters – David, Alexander and Lansanah – along with Carter, who can back up at any position, were in Tampa Bay this offseason through training camp, while Johnson, who plays middle linebacker, and George are newcomers. They’ll start by helping on special teams as they learn the defense. Having only four linebackers know Lovie Smith’s Tampa 2 scheme one week prior to the season opener is a bit of a risk from a depth standpoint. Carter can fill in adequately if the Bucs lose one linebacker to injury, but if two should go down against Tennessee, Tampa Bay’s defense could be in trouble.
CORNERBACKS – 5 CB Alterraun Verner CB Johnthan Banks CB Tim Jennings CB Mike Jenkins CB Sterling Moore
PR Analysis: Verner and Banks are the starters, but there are a host of veteran cornerbacks behind them in the newly acquired Jennings, who will sign on Monday, Jenkins and Moore. Jennings and Moore will likely see time at nickel cornerback, although both can play outside as well, which gives the team great versatility and experienced play inside and outside on defense. Nickel cornerback was a weakness last year with Leonard Johnson and Isaiah Frey as neither were the playmakers that Jennings and Moore have the track record of being in the slot.
SAFETIES – 5 FS Bradley McDougald SS Major Wright SS D.J. Swearinger FS Keith Tandy FS Chris Conte
PR Analysis: McDougald and Wright are the starters, although Swearinger earned playing time at strong safety with a great preseason, too. Tandy earned a roster spot with great play on special teams and defense in the preseason, especially in the finale at Miami. Conte was hurt for much of training camp and the preseason, but he is a veteran with experience at free safety and strong safety in Smith’s Tampa 2 defense.
SPECIAL TEAMS – 3 K Kyle Brindza P Jacob Schum LS Andrew DePaola
PR Analysis: Brindza was acquired in a trade with Detroit, who parted ways with their backup kicker. Brindza was 5-of-5 on field goals in the preseason, including a 57-yarder and a 55-yarder in the preseason finale at Miami, where he won Tampa Bay’s kicking duties. Schum beat out veteran Michael Koenen and newcomer Karl Schmitz in the preseason with a healthy gross and net average and good holds on placements. DePaola is a reliable long snapper for punts, field goals and extra point placements.
Scott Reynolds is in his 25th 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 spent six years 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: email@example.com