The PewterReport.com Roundtable features the opinions of the PR staff as it tackles a Tampa Bay Buccaneers-related topic each week.

This week’s topic: What Depth Chart Move Do The Bucs Need To Make?

Scott Reynolds: Elliott Over Stewart
In my latest SR’s Fab 5 column I recommended three depth chart changes to Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter during the bye week – Ryan Smith over Brent Grimes at cornerback, Javien Elliott over rookie M.J. Stewart at nickel cornerback and Evan Smith over Caleb Benenoch at right guard. If I have to pick one to expand on here I would go with Elliott over Stewart because I think out all three of the positions I mentioned, Stewart has been the weakest link thus far to start the season. Yes, Grimes got exposed against Pittsburgh and Chicago, and Benenoch has been shaky in pass protection in the last three games in which he has given up a total of four sacks, but Stewart has been targeted because he’s a rookie and sticks out like a sore thumb because of his inexperience.

I like Stewart’s toughness and intelligence. I remember him forcing a couple of fumbles in Tampa Bay’s win at Tennessee in the preseason. I think he can be a good, Brian Kelly-type cornerback for the Bucs in time if he works on his weaknesses. I’m also aware that Stewart probably wouldn’t be playing – or playing nearly as much – if cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III weren’t on injured reserve. He’s been pressed into duty much to his detriment and to the detriment of the Bucs’ pass defense. Whether it is slight hesitation because he’s an inexperienced rookie, bad technique or a lack of elite athleticism as I’ve wondered aloud, Stewart is too often in the immediate trail position when covering faster, quicker receivers in the slot. We saw this with Nelson Agholar against Pittsburgh, JuJu Smith-Schuster against Pittsburgh and again with Doug Gabriel and Allen Robinson at Chicago.

Bucs CBs Vernon Hargreaves and Javien Elliott – Photo by: Mark Lomgolio/PR
Bucs CBs Vernon Hargreaves and Javien Elliott – Photo by: Mark Lomgolio/PR

Elliott is quicker and faster, running a 4.41 40-yard dash at Florida State’s pro day, while Stewart was clocked at 4.54 at the NFL Scouting Combine. He’s a better match-up against some of the league’s more athletic slot receivers. Elliott also has three years worth of experience playing nickel defense in Mike Smith’s defense, playing in six games as a rookie with one start. I would give Elliott the start at nickel cornerback at Atlanta where the Falcons are likely to try to create mismatches by using first-round pick Calvin Ridley, who has six touchdowns as a rookie, and Pro Bowler Julio Jones in the slot.

At this point of the season, Stewart has already taken his lumps. He doesn’t need to 65 snaps of trying to slow down Ridley and Jones on Sunday. That has Ryan Smith vs. Jones from 2017 written all over it. Start Elliott and play him two-thirds of the snaps and let Stewart play one-third of the snaps and get some valuable experience watching from the sidelines without the pressure of having to face a stud receiver for the entire game.

Mark Cook: Ryan Smith over Brent Grimes
When you have the worst secondary in the NFL, teams need to make changes. No matter how much fans clamor for the Dirk Koetter to replace coordinator Mike Smith, that doesn’t appear to be on the horizon. So what do you do next? You try and find the right mix of players on the field.

The Bucs have lost two straight games after a hot 2-0 start. Guess who didn’t play in the first two games but has started the last two? Brent Grimes. Before you get all of of sorts, in no way am I pinning the losing streak on Grimes. There is plenty of blame to go around. However, when your top returning cornerback signs a one-year, $7 million deal (with incentives to make it even more) you expect more from them.

Bucs CB Brent Grimes

Let’s face it, at times this season Grimes has looked completely disinterested at even be on the football field. Teams look like they have targeted Grimes nearly as much as they have  rookie in Carlton Davis on the other side. And I don’t blame them. Grimes was never one who was known as a tackler, but this year is even worse. In this Smith scheme, like it or not, it is required that the cornerbacks be willing to come up and play physical in the run game at times.

It is time to let third-year player Ryan Smith take over that role and see what he brings to the table. Smith, or someone else, is the future. Everyone knows Grimes won’t be back next season and most likely had to be talked out of retirement this offseason. And he was give seven million reasons to come back. It is hard to blame him. I don’t think a single one of us would have turned down that money. But if your heart isn’t 100 percent in it, you are hurting your teammates. Give the young guns a shot and assess them moving forward. Let Ryan Smith shine or fail, but at least put in the guy who you know is fighting for his NFL career, not the one with one foot out the door, already dreaming of Caribbean beaches and fruity drinks with umbrellas in it.

Trevor Sikkema: Evan Smith over Caleb Benenoch
Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter always talks about putting the team’s “best five out there” when it comes to offensive line play, but so far five weeks in it seems they have yet to really find out just who those specific five are. Almost all of the positions have been spoken for, but the one position that remains a mystery in terms of consistency is right guard.

Bucs G Caleb Benenoch - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs G Caleb Benenoch – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Caleb Benenoch got the first crack at the starting gig. The 24-year-old, fifth round pick out of UCLA is in his third season in the league now, and after being a backup swing man along the offensive line for the past two years, he was the expected starter. Even though the team assumed he would take his lumps as a first-time starter, those lumps haven’t turned into progress, as you often want to see. Instead it just appears that Benenoch looks out-matched, as he’s given up four sacks in three games.

As much as it doesn’t hold much long-term potential, I say it’s time for this team to go to veteran guard Evan Smith as their starter. Smith has played guard and center for the Buccaneers for the past few seasons, and has been in this starting/backup limbo for most of it. Since consistency is so important to offensive line play, rotating guys in and out just doesn’t seem like something that can have sustained success.

If Benenoch can’t do it, as it appears he can’t, get someone new in there and try it out. Don’t just dip one toe in the water. Make a call and stick with it.

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17 COMMENTS

  1. I really like your guys positions. But you really need to proof read these things before you put them out

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  2. What is going on with Alex Cappa?

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    • He was a reach! Bucs thinking they did something smart by drafting a 5th rounder (Cappa) in the 3rd round…he’s no where near ready. Just like the reach of mj Stewart.

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  3. Brent Grimes looked bad in the preseason and has looked bad in the regular season.
    Bucs QB’s looked great in preseason and have looked great in the regular season.

    I’m starting to think the preseason means a lot more than I previously thought.

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    • When he is healthy, I love watching Brent Grimes play. So far this season, we have seen a Brent Grimes coming back from injury. With that recovery two weeks further along, let’s hope that we see more of the old Brent Grimes against Atlanta. Remember that Chris Conte tried to tough out his injury until it just was no longer possible. We do not know what kind of difficulty Grimes has been playing through.

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  4. So if UDFA Elliott is a better more athletic option then 2nd round pick Steward, Smith is a better option at guard then 5th rounder Benenoch, and 3rd rounder Cappa, R.Smith is better then 7 million dollar Grimes, what does that say about our meathead G.M.? Might as well try somebody besides Dotson at right tackle also. I was shocked we didn’t draft Dotson’s replacement, and more shocked Licht thought Grimes still had anything left. Throw in Quizz playing ahead of second rounder Jones, and second rounder Spence not even seeing the field it’s no wonder we’re searching for answers.

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    • Hard to argue with so much evidence piling up. How long can a GM hold on with such little success in the draft and FA?

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      • I like a lot of the moves Jason Licht has made in the draft, but the two I question most involve Florida State players:

        Drafting Roberto Aguayo and not drafting Derwin James.

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        • I think Vea’s going to make believers out of most fans before the end of the year. James might be making a splash here or there by now, but he’s a rookie and would be struggling as much as Carlton has.

          I hate to say it,, but I think the loss of VHIII has hurt this secondary more than anything else. I’ve not been a big fan, but he was playing very well right up until he got injured, and he would have brought another veteran presence in that secondary which was badly needed against Chicago.

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    • Well we actually drafted Benocach and Cappa as potential replacements for Dotson

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  5. It is funny how you commenters are so sure what you say is correct. Please stop assuming you know what is going on with Brent. Please back off my son unless you have talked to him and have facts🤷‍♀️

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    • Well facts are facts, and he has not played well at all this year

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      • Andy Ely, just like you corrected someone about proofreading, you are entitled to your opinion and I have the right to disagree. When you say we, does that mean you work for the Team and had a part in picking players? How much do you know about positions and coaches 🤷‍♀️

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  6. Scott, agree with all of these and your rationale. I would make two additional changes.
    1. Add making Ronald Jones the #2 RB behind Barber. Need to get him more than 4 or 5 carries a game. And on third downs I’d go with Barber instead of Rodgers – he can catch, block and run better than Rodgers and it keeps him in the game.
    2. Add starting Vita Vea alongside McCoy. It’s time. He’s a top 10, 1st round pick. He’s healthy.

    And we NEED both of these guys to produce. This season.

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  7. Scott, I would let Stewart play.
    Mark, spot on.
    Trevor, I would let Benenoch play.

    As to Licht, Koetter, Smith, where are your management skills?

    Glazer’s, Might want to think about where this team is heading if we lose to the Falcons.

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  8. Can’t disagree with any of your suggestions but I would like to make one more and I rarely make suggestions like this
    Make Noah Spnece active on game day and put him in a stand up LB position. Use him to blitz or to cover the TE since he should be able to keep up with him. Hell, I have seen the idiot Mike Smith use Habib and back him out into zone coverage.
    The one time we showed a different defensive look against the Bears it resulted in a sack. Habib playing in a stand up position in the middle of the line and rushing the QB.

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  9. I agree with every one of these depth chart moves. However, we all know the moves won’t make a difference on defense as long as Smitty is in the press box…but I digress.

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