The fourth preseason game is like the NFL’s version of the Hunger Games. It’s a fight for survival for some guys. It’s typically the last chance for those “bubble guys” to show the coaching staff what they have to offer the team and give them a reason to keep them around. At this point in the preseason, nearly all of the decisions have been made in regards to the 53-man roster with the exception of a few spots. However, what happens in this game CAN still have some influence on who might get those last few spots or who might be considered for the Bucs practice squad. Even though I’ve already made my final 53-man active roster and 11-man practice squad roster predictions, I wanted to see if any of those “bubble guys” did anything in that game to change my mind. So after watching the Bucs vs Jags game for a second time, I’ve come up with a list of players who may have helped themselves out or hurt themselves against the Jaguars.
WHO HELPED THEMSELVES?
RB Shaun Wilson #38
I had Shaun Wilson as the fourth RB on my 53-man roster and he definitely helped himself out in the final preseason game. He finished with 7 carries for 44 yards and a 6.3 ypc average. He also added 2 catches for 24 yards. If he hadn’t sewn up that final RB spot already, I think he did it last night against the Jags. He may have some competition from recently signed RB Dare Ogunbowale, but I’d give the edge to Wilson after last night’s performance. Although Ogunbowale didn’t play poorly himself with 5 carries for 29 yards and a 5.8 ypc average. He most likely earned himself a spot on the practice squad, which is where I had him in my predictions.
WR Bobo Wilson #85
I had Bobo Wilson penciled in on my 11-man practice squad roster. Jason Licht and Dirk Koetter are really going to earn their money making this decision on the sixth WR spot. I had a tough time deciding between Bobo and Freddie Martino in my roster prediction. I went with Martino for the simple reason that he’s not eligible for the practice squad and Wilson is only being in his second year. I still think the Bucs are leaning towards Freddie here, but Bobo really made a strong push against the Jags posting 5 catches for 51 yards and returning 5 kickoffs for 120 yards and a 24 yard average per return. It makes more sense to me to try and keep both of those guys, but Bobo may have earned himself a roster spot in that game. At the very least, he’ll return back to the practice squad for one more season until injuries start happening and he gets promoted to the active roster like last year.
WR Justin Watson #17
I already had rookie WR Justin Watson penciled in as the fifth receiver on my 53-man roster. Even though he started training camp injured, he’s really come on strong over the last few weeks and last night against the Jags he caught his second touchdown of the preseason. He’s big. He’s fast. He’s got great hands. He runs good routes. He blocks well on the outside. And the Bucs have a mid-round draft pick invested in him. I don’t think they’ll be willing to expose him to the waiver wire on his way to the practice squad, so I think he solidified his spot on the final roster last night.
G Adam Gettis #72 & G Alex Cappa #65
I grouped these two guys together for the same reason…versatility. Adam Gettis started at left guard last week against the Lions and last night against the Jags he played left guard and center. I didn’t have him making my 53-man roster and he’s not eligible for the practice squad. However since teams typically only dress eight offensive linemen for a regular season game, versatility is a reserves best way to get a job. I don’t think he did enough to knock Evan Smith out of his spot, but he has definitely helped himself out this preseason.
On the other hand, rookie guard Alex Cappa was on my final roster and he showed why he belongs there in this final game. He started the game at right guard playing the entire first half there. Then he switched over to play center in the second half and did well. This coming from a guy that started every game of his four-year college career at left tackle and was drafted to eventually play right tackle for the Bucs. He has proven his worth as one of the more versatile offensive lineman on the team in this preseason.
DT Jerel Worthy #56
DT Jerel Worthy was just added to the team within the last couple of weeks due to the number of injuries amongst the defensive tackles. Tampa is his fourth team in seven seasons and it’s highly unlikely that he makes this roster. However, I was really impressed with his get off at the snap. He might have the second fastest launch on the d-line behind Gerald McCoy who’s get off is absurdly quick for his size. He finished the game tied for the team lead with 5 tackles from the defensive tackle position. He appeared to start and finish the game, playing most of it, and he performed well. With the depth on this d-line I doubt that he ends up as one of the fifty-three, but he definitely made a case for himself last night.
LB Jack Cichy #48
I had rookie LB Jack Cichy on my 11-man practice squad and second-year LB Riley Bullough making my 53-man roster as the backup Mike linebacker. However, that was before Bullough got injured. Last night while Bullough was walking around in a boot, Cichy was playing the entire game as the Bucs MLB and doing a pretty decent job even though he only finished with 3 tackles and a sack. I haven’t seen or heard what the extent of Bullough’s injury is or how long he’ll be out, but if it’s more than a couple of weeks I’d be shocked if the Bucs keep him on the roster. He could end up on IR or the practice squad for his second season since he’s still eligible. If that happens, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Cichy take his place on the final roster. Remember that word versatility? Well, that’s exactly what Cichy offers this team. He can play all three LB positions and he’s been a very good player on special teams. If he makes the final roster, then that would mean that all eight of the Bucs 2018 draft picks would do so. That’s impressive!
S Isaiah Johnson #38
This team will likely only keep four safeties, which if that’s the case I doubt Isaiah Johnson has much of a shot to win one of those spots as Conte, Evans, Tandy and Whitehead will likely claim them. However, he does have a chance to end up on the practice squad again because he is still eligible. I released Johnson and penciled in undrafted rookie Godwin Igwebuike on my 11-man PS roster, but after last night I may have to change my mind. The Bucs are already paying Igwebuike $100k guaranteed for this season, but they could decide to keep Johnson instead and just write that money off as a poor investment.
WHO HURT THEMSELVES?
QB Austin Allen #8
This kid never really had a chance. Austin Allen wasn’t even getting many reps in practice let alone during the preseason games. Last night, he was 4 of 10 for 64 yards and an interception. In fact, he’s the only QB out of all four Bucs QB’s to throw a pick this preseason and he threw two of them. He finished the preseason 7 of 19 for 101 yards, 36.8% completions and 2 interceptions. I don’t know why but I was hoping that he would ball out in this game and at least make the Bucs have to consider him for a spot on the practice squad. That’s obviously not happening after last night. He’s most likely hitting the road.
RB Ronald Jones II #27
Not that he hurt himself so much that he won’t make the roster, but rookie RB Ronald Jones didn’t help himself out as much as I hoped he would. I expected him to get a lot of touches in the first half, which he did, but he didn’t do much with them. He finished the game with 10 carries for just 4 yards bringing his preseason average down from 1 ypc to an abysmal .65 yards per carry. Meanwhile, everyone else who ran the ball in that game averaged more than 2 ypc including Wilson who averaged 6.3 ypc and Ogunbowale who averaged 5.8 ypc. That’s unacceptable for an early second-round pick running back. He really needs to get his head out of his ass and step his game up!
WR Ervin Philips #89
I don’t think this undrafted rookie WR Ervin Philips had much of a chance at making this roster with the depth they had in this group, but whatever chance he did have probably slipped through his fingers last night…literally. He finished with one catch for 28 yards but also had two drops including one on a third and long that would’ve been good enough for a first down. I was considering him for the practice squad, but Bobo Wilson or Sergio Bailey (if he comes back from his injury) makes more sense to me there than he does.
DE Noah Spence #57
This game was an opportunity for the so-called “pass rush specialist” Noah Spence to showcase why he should be considered as such. He didn’t. He was going up against guys that will be stocking shelves at Publix next week and he still couldn’t find his way to the quarterback. I still think he’ll make this final roster, but he really needs to start playing like the player the Bucs expected him to be when they drafted him in the second round. It sounds like Jason Licht still has high hopes for him and believes that d-line coach Brentson Buckner can somehow work some magic on him.
CB Javien Elliott #35
I had Javien Elliott pounding pavement in my roster predictions. He’s heading into his third year with the team and while there’s an outside chance that he could end up on the practice squad yet again, I’m not sure that he does. He didn’t do much in this game to change my mind either. He had ample opportunity though as he got the start at cornerback and played most of the game. The rules do allow a few exceptions for third-year players on the practice squad so we’ll have to see if he falls into that category, but as of right now I surely don’t see him making the 53-man roster.
S Godwin Igwebuike #34
I’ve been excited about rookie safety Godwin Igwebuike since the Bucs signed him as an undrafted free agent. Apparently, the Bucs were too because they offered him a $20k signing bonus and an $80k guaranteed contract for this season which is big money for a UFA. Unfortunately for all of us, he hasn’t quite lived up to expectations so far. I was hoping that he’d step his game up against the Jags but he still didn’t show up. I believed in him so much that I had him on my 11-man practice squad roster, but after last night I’d probably insert Isaiah Johnson into that safety spot instead. It’s been a disappointing preseason for a kid that was considered one of the best undrafted free agents available after this year’s draft.
I’m sure that we’ll start hearing about some cuts today, if we haven’t already. However, the final rosters aren’t due until 4pm on Saturday. I’m anxious to see if there will be any surprises on there when it does come out. Keep in mind that there are also 31 other teams cutting nearly 40 players from their teams as well, so there’s always the possibility of the Bucs claiming some players off of waivers which will last until noon on Sunday. No matter what happens, this is always an exciting and busy weekend for football fanatics. This is when we get to find out what players our team will be going into battle with in Week 1 of the regular season. So which players will be invading New Orleans? We’ll find out this weekend!
Until then, as always…GO BUCS!!!