The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have many different position battles going on, but none as intriguing as those at the bottom of the roster. Which players are fighting for their spot on the team and need a quality performance on Friday to stick? Find out here.
RBs Michael Smith and Mossis Madu
These two players appear to be fighting for one roster spot: that of third running back. It's possible that both stick if the Bucs feel they need the depth at running back, but they're more likely to stash a player on their practice squad. Smith has the advantage of being a draft pick and that of being a returner and having great speed, but he didn't look good as a runner in the first preseason game. But neither did Madu, and he does very little on special teams to helps his case.
WRs Sammie Stroughter and Ed Gant
Ed Gant was a preseason favorite last year, but hasn't done much this offseason to deserve sticking around this time. Meanwhile, Sammie Stroughter hasn't done much as a receiver, but he is at least useful on special teams, which should help him stick around. Still, the Bucs have five roster spots more or less locked up in receivers: Vincent Jackson, Mike Williams, Arrelious Benn (despite his injury), Tiquan Underwood and Preston Parker are all exceedingly likely to stick around. Who will get the sixth spot - if there will even be a sixth spot?
TEs Zack Pianalto vs Drake Dunsmore
The Buccaneers drafted Dunsmore in the seventh round which may give him a leg up, but the receiving tight end/fullback/h-back hasn't done much in training camp and is not an accomplished blocker. Pianalto has the advantage as a blocker, although he can't do much as a receiver either. Much will depend on both Luke Stocker's health and the emphasis the team wants to place on blocking at the tight end position - but it seems unlikely both players stick on the roster.
G/Ts Jamon Meredith vs Derek Hardman vs Jermarcus Hardrick
The backup spots along the offensive line aren't filled with quality players, but the team can only take so many players on their roster. With the five starters, Demar Dotson and Ted Larsen all but guaranteed roster spots, the team has two or three extra spots for backups. Will the experienced Meredith, the holdover from last year Hardman or the new rookie Hardrick step up - or will one of the other backups quickly take over?
DEs Wallace Gilberry vs Geroge Johnson vs Daniel Te'o-Nesheim vs E.J. Wilson
Yes, a four-way position battle at defensive end. Gilberry was the most impressive backup defensive end in the first preseason game, as the backup left defensive end was disruptive and especially active on stunts. George Johnson is a Rutgers guy and appears to be the primary backup at right defensive end, but he'll be feeling the heat from Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, a former third-round pick for the Philadelphia Eagles who looked good as a speed rusher last season as well as this offseason. Meanwhile, the team appears to be high on third-year defensive end E.J. Wilson, a former fifth-round pick for the Seattle Seahawks who should mostly be competing at left DE, but whose ability to play defensive tackle may help him stick around.
DTs Frank Okam vs Gary Gibson
Roy Miller, Gerald McCoy and Amobi Okoye will all have a spot on the regular season roster, but it's not clear who the fourth defensive tackle will be. Frank Okam and Gary Gibson both have a shot at the roster, but neither has done much this offseason. Okam was a star in last year's preseason, but then proceeded to look horrid during the regular season. Gibson, meanwhile, is a try-hard guy who is mostly a run-stopper and won't do much against the pass. Will one of them stick - or will they both be gone? If so, the Bucs could use versatile players like Wallace Gilberry, E.J. Wilson and Michael Bennett to play both end and tackle.
LBs Najee Goode vs Jacob Cutrera vs Rennie Curran
Five linebackers will almost certainly make the team: Quincy Black, Lavonte David, Mason Foster, Adam Hayward and Dekoda Watson. After that, it's anyone's guess. None of the players mentioned above have done much to separate themselves, although I did at least notice Cutrera a few times during the first preseason game. Goode will have a leg up as a draft pick, but hasn't done much to deserve a roster spot so far. Meanwhile, Curran got some hype earlier this offseason, but appears to have fallen off since then.
SS Larry Asante vs Cody Grimm
Both players are playing the strong safety position, which is no longer interchangeable with the free safety position. Grimm didn't look good during the first preseason game, but Asante didn't do much to usurp Grimm's spot as the main backup at the position. Grimm at least has some good regular season tape dating back to 2010, which could help him take this spot. And, of course, they could both end up on the roster in the end.
CBs Myron Lewis vs Leonard Johnson vs Keith Tandy
The Buccaneers have some serious depth issues at cornerback, and these three players will probably have to fight over two spots on the roster. Lewis looked horrendous during the first preseason game, but has had a good training camp and Johnson and Tandy haven't been serious threats to unseat him. Johnson has been hyped a lot this offseason, but is still just an undrafted rookie. Keith Tandy has the advantage of being a draft pick, and he has the versatility to play free safety which may help him to stick on the roster. Then again, the team could decide to convert Lewis to safety as well.