The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have to cut down to 53 players by tomorrow 4 p.m. ET, as does every other team in the NFL. Who will stay and who will go? Let's quickly go through the roster and figure that out.
Offense: 25 players
QB(2): Josh Freeman, Dan Orlovsky.
Not much to comment on here. Freeman is the obvious starter, while Orlovsky isn't horrible as a backup. Brett Ratliff is absolutely horrible and doesn't deserve to be on any NFL team. That leaves just two quarterbacks, but that really shouldn't be a problem. And if it is, well, the Bucs are done for anyway if they lose both quarterbacks.
RB (4): Doug Martin, Legarrette Blount, Michael Smith, Mossis Madu.
The question here isn't whether these players should be on the team, it's whether the team wants to keep three or four running backs. Martin and Blount are obviously locks, while Michael Smith makes the team based on his speed and ability as a kick returner. Madu hasn't looked great at any point, but he's a serviceable running back at least.
FB (1): Erik Lorig.
Lorig shows flashes of being a powerful blocker, but he's too inconsistent and doesn't get his man often enough. Still, he's the best option on the team.
WR (6): Vincent Jackson, Mike Williams, Arrelious Benn, Preston Parker, Sammie Stroughter, Tiquan Underwood.
The Bucs should go with a lot of three-wide sets on offense, which is what the Giants did when Mike Sullivan was the quarterbacks coach and receivers coach there. That means they need a lot of receivers - and that means six receivers make the team. Jackson and Williams will be the starters, while Benn should get some playing time as well: he practiced for the first time in weeks today. Parker and Stroughter are slot guys only - Parker is the better receiver, but Stroughter can also return punts. Shipley didn't do enough to stick on the team. Parker also is a useful special teams player as a gunner. Underwood is the deep threat who can also return kicks, if needed.
TE(4): Luke Stocker, Dallas Clark, Zack Pianalto, Danny Noble
Greg Schiano has said that the team will go with a tight end-by-committee approach, which means each of these players should get some playing time. Stocker will be the main tight end, mostly because of his blocking prowess. Clark should be mostly a receiver and pass-blocker, while Pianalto and Noble are serviceable run blockers who add some depth. Pianalto also served as a longsnapper last night and did okay, which should help his cause. This is probably the weakest group on the team.
T(3): Donald Penn, Jeremy Trueblood, Demar Dotson
Three tackles should be enough with swing players like Jamon Meredith and Derek Hardman having the ability (in theory) to play both tackle and guard. Penn is the undisputed starter at left tackle, while Trueblood and Dotson are fighting for the right to start at right tackle. Trueblood is the better run blocker, while Dotson is better as a pass protector.
G(4): Carl Nicks, Jamon Meredith, Derek Hardman, Ted Larsen
Nicks is the obvious starter at left guard, but right guard is a total question mark right now. Ted Larsen could be the starter at right guard, but Meredith and Hardman are both fighting for that spot as well. Except for Nicks, each of these players has the ability to play multiple positions on the line.
C(1): Jeremy Zuttah
The starter at center, and both Larsen and Hardman can play center, so no need for a direct backup.
Defense: 25 players
DT(5): Gerald McCoy, Roy Miller, Amobi Okoye, E.J. Wilson, Frank Okam
McCoy and Miller will start, while Amobi Okoye will be the backup three-technique, although it remains to be seen how much he can play with his knee acting up. E.J. Wilson is a swing lineman who can play both tackle and end and has looked good in the preseason. Okam is on the roster mostly because the team needs a backup nose tackle, but neither he nor Gary Gibson has shown much of anything this preseason. I wouldn't be surprised if the Bucs try to find another nose tackle.
DE(4): Adrian Clayborn, Michael Bennett, George Johnson, Daniel Te'o-Nesheim
Clayborn and Bennett start, while George Johnson can play on both sides of the line. Te'o-Nesheim is mostly a pass-rush specialist, but he has flashed repeatedly. With Wilson's ability to play both end and tackle, this group should be deep enough. The Bucs have repeatedly gone to a three-man line in the preseason, while Dekoda Watson has shown the ability to be useful as a pass rusher too.
LB(6): Lavonte David, Quincy Black, Mason Foster, Adam Hayward, Dekoda Watson, Jacob Cutrera
The first three are all starters, but the backups are close on their heels. Hayward looked good in preseason, though he lacks the speed to be a good every-down backer. Watson will see some snaps in specific subpackages, while Cutrera is a valuable special teams player who hasn't looked bad. Najee Goode doesn't make the team because he hasn't shown enough this preseason, either on regular downs or on special teams.
CB(6): Aqib Talib, Eric Wright, E.J. Biggers, Anthony Gaitor, Myron Lewis, Keith Tandy.
The Bucs will use a lot of defensive back-heavy packages this season, and they need a lot of depth. That's even more so the case because Biggers is injured and likely to miss the first few weeks of the season. Talib and Wright are the starters, with Biggers being the nickel back when he's healthy. Gaitor should be limited to a slot cornerback role, while Lewis is mostly on the team because, well, everyone else is worse - and at least he shows flashes of quality and physicality. Tandy makes the team because he's a draft pick, and has the ability to function as a zone cornerback and as a safety. Versatility is important.
S(4): Ronde Barber, Mark Barron, Cody Grimm, Ahmad Black
With Tandy's ability to play both cornerback and safety, the team doesn't need five safeties. That leaves Larry Asante off the roster, who hasn't really ever shown me he's a good player - plus, Adam Caplan reports he's likely going to be cut. Grimm has had a pretty poor preseason, but at least he has his rookie tape to fall back on. Black has been the main backup at free safety and has gotten a lot of playing time in dime packages when Ronde Barber moves to slot cornerback.
Special Teams (3): Michael Koenen, Connor Barth, Andrew Economos
The Bucs have a lot of money caught up in these players, and they're all quality players as well. Not much to say here.
Other: Davin Joseph on injured reserve, Da'Quan Bowers on PUP. Neither count for a roster spot.