Three down and one to go. The starters are done until New Orleans, but there’s still a few positions that will be under the microscope in this final preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
With most of the final 53-man roster pretty much set, I figured I would go ahead and take a stab at who I think will make it and who won’t. I also wanted to get really bold and see if I could predict the 11-man practice squad as well. So let’s see what I figured out.
Since Jameis Winston will be serving his suspension to begin the season, he does not count against the 53-man roster. Which means that the Bucs only have to keep two QB’s for those first three weeks. Obviously, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Ryan Griffin will be those quarterbacks and Austin Allen will be sent packing.
The question is, what will the Bucs do when Jameis returns? Do they keep all three QB’s? Griffin is not practice squad eligible at this point in his career and the team doesn’t want to flat out release him I’m sure. They may stash him away on some list like the IR or PUP somehow in order to keep him in Tampa.
IN: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Griffin
OUT: (R) Austin Allen, Jameis Winston (suspended)
Practice Squad: None
RUNNING BACKS (4)
I’m not sure if the recent knee injury to Charles Sims made this decision easier or harder. He was obviously in the mix to be one of the four, but now that he’s out on IR what will the team do? Peyton Barber has clearly won the starting RB job with his performance in the preseason. Ronald Jones II still hasn’t gotten things going in the run game, but he did have a nice reception for an explosive play against the Lions.
The Bucs have a second round pick invested in this kid, so they’ll keep him around in hopes that he becomes the player they expected him to be when they selected him. Jacquizz Rodgers might have been on the bubble had Sims stayed healthy, but now he’s back in his role as the main reserve back. The only uncertainty is with that fourth spot. The two most logical choices are either rookie Shaun Wilson or free agent acquisition Dare Ogunbowale.
I’m going to roll with Wilson here. He’s shown that he can catch the ball out of the backfield, he’s quick and has third down back potential. He also proved his value on special teams returning punts and kicks against Detroit and doing it really well. Ogunbowale has played decent since his arrival and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him sent to the practice squad.
IN: Peyton Barber, (R) Ronald Jones, Jacquizz Rodgers, (R) Shaun Wilson
OUT: Charles Sims (IR), Austin Johnson, Devine Redding
Practice Squad: Dare Ogunbowale
WIDE RECEIVERS (6)
This might be the deepest position on the team, along with linebacker. So where most years they might only keep five WR’s, I think they have to keep six this year. The first four are no brainers in Evans, Jackson, Godwin and Humphries.
After them, I think that rookie fifth round pick Justin Watson has made his case to be considered the fifth receiver and I don’t see the Bucs risking him being exposed to the waiver wire on his way to the practice squad.
And I see Freddie Martino in that sixth and final spot. He knows how to play all three WR positions and he’s been the most consistent of the bunch throughout all of camp and preseason. Throw in that he’s not eligible for the practice squad and I think they keep him around. Jake Lampman was just released and unfortunately rookie Sergio Bailey was just put on IR with a broken ankle so that narrows the rest of the group down to second year player Bobo Wilson, veteran Bernard Reedy and rookie Ervin Phillips.
The team likes Bobo’s potential so I think he sticks around on the practice squad. They did just re-sign Donteea Dye for the final preseason game, but that had more to do with having enough players to field against the Jaguars while resting their starters.
IN: Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Chris Godwin, Adam Humphries, (R) Justin Watson, Freddie Martino
OUT: Bernard Reedy, (R) Ervin Phillips, Donteea Dye, (R) Sergio Bailey (IR)
Practice Squad: Bobo Wilson
TIGHT ENDS (4)
The Bucs will start the 2018 season off with the same group that they ended the 2017 season with, which is a good thing. They have one of the best TE duos in the NFL in OJ Howard and Cam Brate. They have a solid blocking TE in second year player Antony Auclair from Canada. And they have their do-it-all TE/FB Alan Cross.
They’re pretty happy with their depth and talent at that position with those four guys. Rookie Tanner Hudson outlasted the other two undrafted rookie tight ends Donnie Ernsberger and Jake Reese who were already waived so I think he could end up on the practice squad. Then there’s recently signed free agent Matt Weiser who hasn’t had much time to get with the team so he seems like a longshot to stick around in any capacity.
IN: Cam Brate, OJ Howard, Antony Auclair, Alan Cross
OUT: Matt Weiser
Practice Squad: (R) Tanner Hudson
OFFENSIVE LINE (9)
The offensive line has been wrecked by injuries throughout this preseason. The starting five has been banged up all of training camp with right tackle Demar Dotson being injured from the start, right guard Caleb Benenoch being injured in the middle of camp and left tackle Donovan Smith getting injured towards the end of camp. And there’s been a ton of injuries among the group of reserves including key guys like Leonard Wester and Mike Liedtke.
However, there may have been some silver lining to it all since the Bucs have been able to take a much better look at some of the other guys that might not have gotten so much playing time had it not been for these injuries. Rookie guard Alex Cappa has seen en extended period of time working with the first and second string in practice and in games. Guys like tackle Cole Gardner, guard/tackle Cole Boozer and tackle Brad Seaton have seen extra time and it may pay off for them in the form of an invite to the practice squad.
IN: Donovan Smith, Ali Marpet, Ryan Jensen, Caleb Benenoch, Demar Dotson, Evan Smith, (R) Alex Cappa, Leonard Wester, Mike Liedtke
OUT: Givens Price, Rueben Holcolm, Adam Gettis, Jerry Ugokwe, Brad Seaton
Practice Squad: Cole Gardner, (R) Cole Boozer
DEFENSIVE LINE (9)
This new defensive line has looked pretty good so far, both in training camp practice and the preseason games. The run defense has been stout and there’s been pressure on opposing QB’s even though they only have 6 sacks in three games to show for it. I think that will change once the regular season starts and these guys get into a regular rotation.
The starting front four seems to be set, especially since rookie Vita Vea has been injured since the beginning of camp. For now, we’ll say it’s going to be Beau Allen starting inside next to McCoy with Pierre-Paul and Curry on the outside. Even though they have yet to see Vea in action, he’s not going anywhere and hopefully should be ready to go once the regular season starts. I think the rest of the group is decided at this point. The only thing that could happen during this last preseason game is for someone to perform well enough for practice squad consideration, but that may be decided at this point as well.
IN: Gerald McCoy, Jason Pierre-Paul, Vinny Curry, Beau Allen, (R) Vita Vea, Will Gholston, Noah Spence, Mitch Unrein, Will Clarke III
OUT: Adam Reth, Nathan Bazata, (R) Evan Perrizo, Demone Harris, Jerel Worthy, Jarron Jones
Practice Squad: (R) Pat O’Connor, Da’Vonte Lambert
Everyone knows that the starting LB’s will be David, Alexander and Beckwith. We also know that Adarius Taylor, who’s been filling in at SAM linebacker for the injured Beckwith has played well in his absence and he adds the versatility of being able to play all three LB positions so he’s the fourth.
The real camp competition has been for the fifth and possibly sixth LB spots. Cameron Lynch has made a good case for himself with his solid play. Riley Bullough has shown how much he’s improved in the last year. The rookie Jack Cichy’s talent has flashed at times, but I don’t think it was enough to push one of the other guys out of a spot.
However, the practice squad is still a very real option for him. Nigel Harris has thrown his hat into the ring for practice squad consideration as well, even though second year player Eric Nzeocha from Europe will be on there for another season. I doubt the Bucs carry three LB’s on the PS so one of these guys probably won’t make it. A guy that I haven’t heard or seen much of at all throughout camp is Devante Bond. I believe he’s still eligible for the PS since he was injured during his rookie season, but if not then he may be the odd man out come cut downs.
IN: Lavonte David, Kwon Alexander, Kendell Beckwith, Adarius Glanton, Cameron Lynch, Riley Bullough
OUT: (R) Nigel Harris, Devante Bond (IR)
Practice Squad: (R) Jack Cichy, Eric Nzeocha
This position has vastly improved since last season. So much so that Ryan Smith, who was a starter last year, might be in danger of not even making the team this season. I think they’ll keep six CB’s this year and five of the spots are taken by Brent Grimes, Vernon Hargreaves, rookies Carlton Davis and MJ Stewart and Josh Robinson. The sixth spot may still be up for grabs between Smith and Javien Elliott, neither of whom are eligible for the practice squad.
Even though I don’t like him much as a starter, Smith does add more experience and he’s a special teams stud, so I’ll give him the edge here.
IN: Brent Grimes, Vernon Hargreaves, (R) Carlton Davis, (R) MJ Stewart, Ryan Smith, Josh Robinson
OUT: Javien Elliott, (R) Amari Coleman, De’Vante Harris
Practice Squad: (R) Mark Myers
Oh boy, here we go. Quite possibly the most criticized and scrutinized position on the entire team, with the most controversial player on the team. Much to the disappointment of all the haters and “experts” out there, Chris Conte will be a starting strong safety for his eighth season in a row and fourth here in Tampa. Justin Evans should be the starting free safety.
Rookie Jordan Whitehead has proven that he was more than worthy of the fourth round pick the Bucs used on him and could be the strong safety of the future for this franchise. And veteran Keith Tandy should round off the group, even though he’s been fairly quiet throughout the preseason. Other than those four, nobody else has made much noise in camp or really made the move to knock one of those guys out of their spot.
Although I could make a case for second year Isaiah Johnson being put back on the practice squad, he may have some competition for that spot from undrafted rookie free agent Godwin Igwebuike who the Bucs have already invested $100k into for the season.
IN: Chris Conte, Justin Evans, Keith Tandy, (R) Jordan Whitehead
OUT: (R) Josh Liddell, Isaiah Johnson
Practice Squad: (R) Godwin Igwebuike
SPECIAL TEAMS (3)
There has been a new development as of late amongst this group. There hasn’t been much of a competition here for most of camp since rookie kicker Trevor Moore was waived.
However after a bad snap by rookie Drew Ferris that led to a missed extra point on Friday night against the Lions, the Bucs have brought back veteran longsnapper Garrison Sanborn. Dirk Koetter was asked if this meant there was a “competition” at that position now and he took the politically correct way out by saying “Yes, there’s a 4-day competition for longsnapper” with a big smile on his face. Translation…unless something unusual happens, Sanborn will get his old job back. As far as the kicking positions go, there’s no changes and no surprises.
IN: Bryan Anger, Chandler Catanzaro, Garrison Sanborn
OUT: (R) Drew Ferris
Practice Squad: None
So with all of that said, here’s my final 53-man roster prediction:
QB- Fitzpatrick, Griffin
RB- Barber, (R) Jones, Rodgers, (R) Wilson
WR- Evans, Jackson, Godwin, Humphries, (R) Watson, Martino
TE- Brate, Howard, Auclair, Cross
OL- D. Smith, Marpet, Jensen, Benenoch, Dotson, (R) Cappa, E. Smith, Wester, Liedtke
DL- McCoy, Pierre-Paul, Curry, (R) Vea, Allen, Unrein, Gholston, Spence, Clarke
LB- David, Alexander, Beckwith, Taylor, Lynch, Bullough
CB- Grimes, Hargreaves, (R) Davis, (R) Stewart, Smith, Robinson
S- Conte, Evans, Tandy, (R) Whitehead
ST- Anger, Catanzaro, Sanborn
And my 11-man Practice Squad prediction:
RB- Dare Ogunbawale
WR- Bobo Wilson
TE- (R) Tanner Hudson
OL- (R) Cole Gardner, (R) Cole Boozer
DL- (R) Pat O’Connor, Da’Vonte Lambert
LB- Eric Nzeocha, (R) Jack Cichy
CB- (R) Mark Myers
S- (R) Godwin Igwebuike
Well, there you have it, my predictions for who’s in and who’s out for the Bucs final 2018 roster. We should know by next Monday if I was right about any of them, or all of them, or even none of them. You never know what can happen in this last preseason game, but I feel pretty comfortable with this list the way it sits.
Until then, as always…GO BUCS!!!