Tampa Bay’s 2018 training camp is officially over and only two preseason games remain before the Bucs take the field in New Orleans to battle the Saints on September 9. Here is our final 53-man roster prediction ahead of Tampa Bay’s preseason game against Detroit.
QUARTERBACKS – 2 QB Ryan Fitzpatrick QB Ryan Griffin QB Jameis Winston* Analysis: All three quarterbacks have shined in the preseason, and that’s good because Winston will miss some time as the result of his three-game suspension as result of an NFL investigation into alleged inappropriate sexual conduct that occurred two years ago. Winston won’t count against the roster for those first three games, so the Bucs will start the year with two QBs on the active roster. Fitzpatrick has been sharp in practice, and Griffin has made great strides in both practice and in the preseason games, which is good as he will be the only backup quarterback on the roster until Winston returns.
RUNNING BACKS – 4 RB Peyton Barber RB Jacquizz Rodgers RB Ronald Jones RB Shaun Wilson Analysis: Barber is the clear-cut starting running back right now due to his power and decisiveness as a runner. The plan was for Jones to emerge in training camp and the preseason and receive about half the snaps. That has yet to happen, and Jones hasn’t shown trustworthy hands in the passing game. That solidifies Rodgers’ place on the roster because he’s a much better runner and a better special teams player than Charles Sims, who got hurt in the Tennessee game and was placed on IR. The Bucs are high on Wilson, an undrafted free agent, and view him as a kick returner and an eventual third down running back.
Bucs WR DeSean Jackson – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
WIDE RECEIVERS – 6 WR Mike Evans WR DeSean Jackson WR Chris Godwin WR Adam Humphries
WR Justin Watson WR Sergio Bailey Analysis: The first four receivers on the depth chart – Evans, Jackson, Godwin and Humphries – are absolute locks to make the roster. Evans seems poised for a monster year, while the quarterbacks have been connecting with Jackson on deep throws this summer. Look for Jackson to play some inside at the slot to make way for Godwin to get more reps on the outside. Godwin has star potential and has had a great camp and preseason. Humphries is a “steady Eddie” in the slot, especially on third downs, while Watson and Bailey have separated themselves from Freddie Martino, Bobo Wilson and others at the wide receiver position and earn a spot. With Jackson and Humphries likely moving on in 2019, the Bucs want to keep the pipeline going with young receivers.
TIGHT ENDS – 4 TE Cameron Brate TE O.J. Howard TE Antony Auclair TE Alan Cross Analysis: The Bucs brought in several young tight ends to compete with the team’s established stars, but no one came close to unseating Auclair or Cross, aka “Honcho.” Howard is super confident, has had a great training camp and seems poised for a breakout year, while Brate looks as steady as ever and ready to prove he is worth the big contract extension the team bestowed upon him in the offseason. With left tackle Donovan Smith’s status for the season opener in jeopardy, look for a heavy dose of two tight end sets in New Orleans.
Bucs G Caleb Benenoch – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
OFFENSIVE LINE – 10 LT Donovan Smith LG Ali Marpet C Ryan Jensen RG Caleb Benenoch RT Demar Dotson C Evan Smith G Alex Cappa OT Mike Liedtke OT Cole Gardner OT Brad Seaton Analysis: Smith’s knee injury and the injuries at offensive tackle during training camp will likely force the Bucs to keep an extra tackle on the roster to start the season. The Bucs are hopeful he will be able to return by Week 1. Marpet and Jensen have been Tampa Bay’s best linemen in camp and offer a big push in the ground game and sound pass protection. Dotson is close to 100 percent from offseason knee surgery. Benenoch has the edge at right guard over Cappa, who has struggled in pass protection. Smith has been a rock steady reserve at center and guard. The Bucs like Gardner’s potential, but he’s missed some training camp with injuries and Liedtke and Seaton are healthier and available.
DEFENSIVE LINE – 9 DE Jason Pierre-Paul DT Gerald McCoy DT Beau Allen DE Vinny Curry DT Vita Vea DE Noah Spence DT Mitch Unrein DE Will Gholston DL DaVonte Lambert Analysis: Tampa Bay’s defensive tackle position has been rocked with injuries with Vea (calf) and Unrein (concussion) missing the preseason. Both reserves are expected back by Week 1, which should help. Thankfully, McCoy has been dominant in camp and seems ready for a big year playing next to Allen, the team’s new nose tackle. Pierre-Paul adds athletic playmaking ability, while Curry forms a bookend and plays with toughness and determination. A bigger and healthier Spence will play the role of designated pass rusher this year, while Gholston and Lambert have proven their worth by being versatile enough to play both defensive end and defensive tackle. Both barely edge out Patrick O’Connor and Will Clarke.
LINEBACKERS – 5 WLB Lavonte David MLB Kwon Alexander OLB Adarius Taylor MLB Riley Bullough OLB Jack Cichy *SLB Kendell Beckwith Analysis: David and Alexander are two of the best linebackers in the NFL and both have had a great camp. Taylor has rebounded from his broken leg last December and has been the current starting SAM linebacker and backup WILL linebacker behind David. Beckwith, who has missed all of the preseason and camp, will likely start the season on the PUP list, so he’ll miss the first six weeks. Bullough has made huge strides since his rookie season and has a good command of the defense as the backup MIKE. Cichy has impressed for a rookie and has played well in both outside linebacker roles. The Bucs keep five linebackers to start the season because the defense will be playing a lot of nickel defense.
CORNERBACKS – 5 CB Brent Grimes CB Carlton Davis NCB Vernon Hargreaves NCB M.J. Stewart CB Ryan Smith Analysis: The Bucs hope Grimes has one more good year left in the tank, while rookies Davis and Stewart have made a great first impression as rookies. Davis will likely start at outside cornerback on the right side with Hargreaves in the slot in nickel defense. Hargreaves will be competing with Stewart, who has a knack for forcing turnovers. Smith has struggled mightily in coverage, but has value as a special teams ace as the team’s fifth cornerback.
SAFETIES – 5 FS Justin Evans SS Chris Conte FS Keith Tandy SS Jordan Whitehead FS Josh Robinson Analysis: Evans has flashed Pro Bowl ability this offseason and really seems to have a good grasp of the defense as the Bucs’ centerfielder. Whitehead made an impact in the first preseason game and has starter potential if he can stay healthy. He’s competing with Conte, who will likely be the starter at strong safety due to his experience. Tandy and Robinson are valuable special teamers with Tandy having a better aptitude to play defense if called upon.
Bucs K Chandler Catanzaro – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
SPECIAL TEAMS – 3 P Bryan Anger K Chandler Catanzaro LS Drew Ferris Analysis: Anger will be the team’s punter again this year and is hoping for a bounce-back year. The Bucs are happy with Ferris, as he has been the lone long snapper on the team right now. Catanzaro has been very good in practice and in the preseason games and the team hopes he is the long-term answer at the kicker position.
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
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