Here are my thoughts on this team / the roster after the completion of game two. These are in no specific order, and these thoughts aren’t entirely dependent/reflective of the game against the Chiefs.
Yeah, still. The pass he dropped tonight wasn’t the easiest thing in the world to catch, but he did absolutely nothing in this game to earn a spot on the roster. If the Bucs do indeed choose to go with 6 receivers, that last spot would have to go to Micheal Spurlock or even Preston Parker or Terrence Nunn before Clayton. I’m hesitant to say he’s absolutely out of here because the Bucs have surprised me before, but I just can’t see how you’d sell that one. In my opinion he’s our 9th option at the position.
2) Kareem Huggins absolutely must make this team
He’s again the most dynamic runner on the field tonight; 8 carries for 44 yards compared to Derrick Ward’s 5 carry 11 yard performance. I don’t care what defensive unit he’s playing against, the way he runs the ball and adjusts in traffic shows me that the only question surrounding him should be how often you get him the football. Now I’m not saying he’s the best back on the roster and needs to be running with the ones, but he should certainly be part of the game plan.
2b) Derrick Ward’s roster spot tentative
I’m not sure if the Bucs are ready to admit they made another free agent mistake with Ward and cut him too, but he shouldn’t be taking Huggins’ snaps. I’d try to see if you can get something for Ward, and seriously think about cutting him if a better option presented itself on the waiver wire. Ward would fit well in Houston if they want someone to go with Arian Foster and Steve Slaton. Reports are that Ward suffered a concussion on the play where he was a bit wobbly, and while you hope he’s healthy, this can’t help his chances of making the team. I think the Bucs’ interest in find another RB is about to heat up.
3) Josh Johnson and Rudy Carpenter looked better this week
Johnson got into the game a little earlier than planned and led the Bucs to their first TD on his second drive. He completed passes to four different receivers, was more decisive and accurate than last week, and threw the ball with some decent zip. To me he looked noticeably more comfortably/confident as well. I still don’t have high hopes for Carpenter, but he did a nice job of leading the offense against the Chiefs. He held up really well in the pocket, let plays develop, and allowed his receivers to get open. The only negative play I can recall off the top of my head is when he overthrew Ryan Purvis in the endzone. I’m still not sold on him as a #3 on a competitive football team, but tonight was a nice second impression.
4) Corey Lynch should make the team
The second year reserve safety and special teams contributor splashed a couple of times against the Chiefs. I saw him make a nice tackle covering a kickoff, and he also did a really good job defending a pass on defense; diving to punch and knock the ball down. If it were me, I’d go into the season with Tanard Jackson, Sean Jones, Sabby Piscitelli, and Corey Lynch as my safeties. Try to get Cody Grimm on the practice squad, and if someone else picks him up, oh well. Does he really have to be kept/protected?
5) Should the Bucs search for a QB?
With Josh Freeman fracturing the tip of his throwing thumb on Tamba Hali’s helmet, the Bucs are looking at riding out the rest of the preseason with Josh Johnson and Rudy Carpenter as the only QBs on the roster. Should the Bucs try to find a veteran to bring in just in case Freeman’s recovery takes a bit longer? Should they be looking to bring one in even if Freeman was able to suit up tomorrow? I don’t mean this in a pessimistic way, but I think the state of this team is that, if Freeman misses time, they’ll just ride it out. I don’t think they believe they’ll be competitive without Freeman and won’t make a strong push to acquire an experienced clipboard holder. If they were, Sage Rosenfels would be at the top of my list. With Brett Favre coming back, Rosenfels is Minnesota’s #3 and might be available, but I believe the Bucs will ultimately ride it out with the 3 QBs they have.
6) Biggers looks like a lock
I’m sure this is one of the more obvious ones at this point, but the guy was all over the field tonight. Yes, he did have the one defensive holding penalty (that’s all I think), but I liked the way he seemed to consistently be in position to make plays and negate yards after catch/contact. I’m anxious to see how he develops behind the starters. Elbert Mack’s job might be in a little more jeopardy than most think. Derrick Roberson has made some plays, including an INT tonight where he did a nice job of holding onto the ball as he got hit while making the turnover. I still think Roberson’s on the outside looking in, but the preseason isn’t over just yet.
7) Mike Williams is for real
The Bucs #1 WR is clearly the rookie from Syracuse. The Bucs ran the offense through him while he was on the field, targeting him on various patterns both inside and out. He continues to impress with the way he fights for the football and never gives up on a play. The #2 receiver spot is a bit of a question, as Arrelious Benn is slow to step up, and Maurice Stovall is dealing with an injury. I still think Sammie Stroughter is better off inside, but they may be forced to start him out wide early on. Regardless of who lines up opposite him, Williams seems poised to hit the ground running and be Freeman’s #1 target. I really like how quickly their chemistry is developing. It’s still really early, but Williams looks like a steal.
8 ) Heads up Donald Penn
Don’t hit the panic button just yet, but Donald Penn didn’t exactly earn his check against the Chiefs. Tamba Hali beat Penn to get in on the play where Freeman hurt his thumb, and a little later on, Penn was beaten to the outside as Hali hit Josh Johnson just as he released the ball, causing an incomplete pass on 3rd down. I didn’t watch him enough to really break down his performance, but Penn was on the wrong side of at least a couple of highlights. I’m not sure if it’s conditioning or just the ho-hums, but nothing about Penn was impressive in this game.
9) First string defense was unimpressive
They were slow to react and didn’t show a lot of aggression last night. I saw too much reacting and not enough initiating contact. Sure it’s the preseason, but to watch Matt Cassel march the Kansas City offense down the field rather easily isn’t encouraging. I want to see a little more attitude from this defense; get aggressive and really hit somebody in the mouth.
10) My revised 53
This is how I’d fill the 53 spots:
If I was competing for the playoffs this year, I’d really look for a Rosenfels-like upgrade over Carpenter, but I don’t see it coming. The Bucs like what they’re seeing from the 3rd stringer
FB (1) – Earnest Graham
RB (3) – Cadillac Williams, Kareem Huggins, Derrick Ward
Yes, Huggins is second intentionally. I don’t feel I’m jumping the gun in placing him ahead of the uninspired and uninspiring Ward on the depth chart. Again, I’d see what I could get for Ward and look for an upgrade in free agency. For now, he’s on my 53.
WR (6) – Mike Williams, Maurice Stovall, Sammie Stroughter, Arrelious Benn, Reggie Brown, Micheal Spurlock
I’m now keeping 6 here, and Spurlock easily gets the last spot. Two other guys are practice squad candidates, and another dude will hopefully never suit up as a Buc in the regular season ever again.
TE (3) – Kellen Winslow, Jerramy Stevens, John Gilmore
I’d be surprised to see anything other than these three. Ryan Purvis is practice squad bound in my opinion.
OL (9) – Donald Penn, Jeremy Zuttah, Keydrick Vincent, Jeff Faine, Davin Joseph, Jeremy Trueblood, James Lee, Jonathan Compas, Demar Dotson
No change here. I still have Lee getting a roster spot over Xavier Fulton, and I’m guessing they keep Compas instead of Dile.
DL (9) – Stylez White, Kyle Moore, Tim Crowder, Michael Bennett, Erik Lorig, Gerald McCoy, Brian Price, Roy Miller, Ryan Sims
No change here either, but Lorig is the guy I’m least confident in.
LB (6) – Geno Hayes, Barrett Ruud, Quincy Black, Adam Hayward, Jon Alston, Dekoda Watson
Same guys here too. I’m guessing that if Niko Koutouvides makes the roster, Lorig won’t. No, they don’t play the same position, but I believe their fates are going to be somewhat intertwined.
CB (5) – Aqib Talib, Ronde Barber, EJ Biggers, Elbert Mack, Myron Lewis
These guys are still my five, but like I said above, Roberson is making some noise.
S (4) – Tanard Jackson, Sean Jones, Sabby Piscitelli, Corey Lynch
Again, I’d be disappointed if they cut Lynch for Grimm.
ST (4) – Andrew Economos, Connor Barth, Brent Bowden, Clifton Smith
Yes, I’m keeping Smith.
On the outside: Chris Pressley, Rendrick Taylor, Marc Dile, Derrick Roberson, Lee Robinson, Cody Grimm, Ryan Purvis, Preston Parker, Terrence Nunn
The following guys interest me as candidates for our 8 practice squad spots. They aren’t my final 8, but they’re players from our roster I’d consider keeping after final cuts:
Derrick Roberson, CB
Preston Parker, WR/returner
James Ruffin, DE
Lee Robinson, LB
Cody Grimm, S
Ryan Purvis, TE
Chris Pressley, FB (I believe he’s still eligible; only 7 games in his only accrued season)
Rendrick Taylor, FB
The biggest thing coming out of this game is obviously Josh Freeman’s fractured thumb. Hopefully it’s not too serious, and the young Bucs’ signal caller doesn’t lose any of the positive momentum he’s established. This is a fine opportunity for Josh Johnson and Rudy Carpenter to both gain experience and impress some folks, but surely the Bucs will be anxiously awaiting the return of their franchise passer.