There are still some starting jobs and roster spots up for grabs as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers take the field for the second time this week against Cleveland on Saturday at 7:00 p.m. ET at Raymond James Stadium. With two preseason games left for the Bucs, PewterReport.com offers up its 53-man roster prediction complete with analysis.
QUARTERBACKS – 2 QB Jameis Winston QB Mike Glennon
PR ANALYSIS: The Bucs have one of the most talented and advantageous quarterback situations in the NFL with Winston, the top pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, and Glennon, a strong-armed, intelligent backup with 18 NFL starts and plenty of upside. The Bucs may keep third-string QB Seth Lobato on the practice squad.
RUNNING BACKS – 5 RB Doug Martin RB Charles Sims RB Bobby Rainey RB Mike James FB Jorvorskie Lane
PR ANALYSIS: Martin is in great shape and is deserving of the starting job after a sensational camp. Sims and Rainey have roles as third-down, change-of-pace backs, and Rainey will contribute on special teams. James has good hands and is the most powerful runner in the Bucs’ stable, while Lane is the best and most experienced blocking fullback that can also catch the ball out of the backfield.
WIDE RECEIVERS – 6 WR Mike Evans WR Vincent Jackson WR Louis Murphy WR Kenny Bell WR Russell Shepard WR Kaelin Clay
PR ANALYSIS: Evans and Jackson are both playmaking starters that give Winston a pair of big, 6-foot-5 targets. Murphy brings experience and the ability to play inside and outside to Tampa Bay’s offense, while Bell and Shepard are developing receivers and special teams standouts. The Bucs have been pushing Clay to be the return specialist, but poor blocking has hindered his production. Rookie Rannell Hall is a practice squad candidate.
TIGHT ENDS – 3 TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins TE Luke Stocker TE Brandon Myers
PR ANALYSIS: Seferian-Jenkins is a young, emerging playmaker at the tight end position, while Stocker is the team’s premier blocking tight end on the edge and also as a reserve fullback. Myers is a veteran jack-of-all-trades and has more experience than either Cameron Brate or Tim Wright. If the Bucs keep four tight ends it could be Brate, who plays special teams and has been more consistent than Wright. Brate also has practice squad eligibility.
OFFENSIVE LINE – 10 LT Donovan Smith LG Logan Mankins C Evan Smith RG Ali Marpet RT Gosder Cherlius C-G Jeremiah Warren OT Kevin Pamphile G-C Garrett Gilkey OT Reid Fragel OT Demar Dotson
PR ANALYSIS: Rookies Smith and Marpet will get the start at left tackle and right guard, and newcomer Cherlius starts at right tackle. Tampa Bay will keep 10 offensive linemen on the roster including the injured Dotson. Dotson should be back after missing the first 2-4 games of the regular season. Warren is the backup center and Gilkey can play center guard. Pamphile is the swing tackle, and the Bucs will keep Fragel as Cherilus’ backup until Dotson returns.
DEFENSIVE LINE – 9 RE Jacquies Smith DT Gerald McCoy NT Clinton McDonald LE George Johnson DT Henry Melton DE Larry English DE Will Gholston DT Tony McDaniel DE Lawrence Sidbury
PR ANALYSIS: The starting front four remains unchanged with Smith, McCoy, McDonald and Johnson. Reserve nose tackle Akeem Spence is suspended for Week 1, so he won’t count towards the 53-man roster, and he may wind up on the PUP list as he continues to recover from offseason back surgery. The Bucs will keep McDaniel as a result, and have some extra depth as Gholston can play inside or at defensive end, too. The final defensive line roster spot will either go to Sidbury or T.J. Fatinikun, who missed the first two preseason games. Fatinikun needs to play in the final two games to have a chance to beat out Sidbury. Defensive tackle Caushaud Lyons and defensive ends Ryan Delaire and Jamal Young are practice squad candidates.
LINEBACKERS – 6 WLB Lavonte David MLB Kwon Alexander SLB Danny Lansanah LB Bruce Carter LB Jason Williams LB Khaseem Greene
PR ANALYSIS:The Bucs have one of the fastest linebacking corps with David, Alexander and Lansanah as the starters. With Alexander, a rookie, claiming the starting middle linebacker position – and rightfully so – Carter is now a backup middle linebacker and strongside linebacker. Williams and Greene are special teams aces and are progressing as defenders, too, as they edge out Josh Keyes and Larry Dean. Keyes is a practice squad candidate.
CORNERBACKS – 5 CB Alterraun Verner CB Johnthan Banks CB Mike Jenkins CB Sterling Moore CB Leonard Johnson
PR ANALYSIS: Jenkins and Moore have had good preseasons, and both Moore and Johnson can play nickel cornerback. Moore may get the start until Johnson recovers from a sprained ankle he suffered against Cincinnati. Johnson’s injury could prompt the Bucs to keep six cornerbacks and keep one less offensive or defensive lineman. If that’s the case, Brandon Dixon or nickel cornerback Isaiah Frey would make it.
SAFETIES – 4 FS Bradley McDougald SS Major Wright SS D.J. Swearinger FS Chris Conte
PR ANALYSIS: Tampa Bay will keep four safeties on its roster with McDougald and Wright as the starters, and Swearinger as the backup strong safety. The final spot, the backup free safety role, will either go to Conte, who missed the first two preseason games and most of training camp with a hamstring injury, or Keith Tandy. Tandy is a better special teams player, but Conte has more starting experience. This will be a close call.
SPECIAL TEAMS – 3 LS Andrew DePaola P Karl Schmitz K Patrick Murray
PR ANALYSIS: The Bucs’ long snapper will be DePaola, but with two weeks left, it’s undetermined who will be the team’s punter and kicker. Michael Koenen is overpaid and was ineffective last year and Tampa Bay has brought in several punters to compete for his job. Our guess is that Schmitz steals it. As for the kicking duties, Murray’s two missed field goals and a missed extra point in two preseason games was cause for alarm, and that prompted the Bucs to bring back veteran Connor Barth.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org