Football is certainly in the air with Dolphins and Cowboys getting their camp on. As we look at the 2013 Tampa Bay Buccaneers you certainly have to wonder how this roster meshes together for the season.
Finding the best 53 isn't always about the twenty two men on offense and defense. You have to consider special teams and roles, who can fill in if this guy goes down. Can a guy be a returner in addition to a defensive back?
Its a tough job and if you get it wrong you can lose not only talented players but your job.
Luckily, I have no such concerns as my job will not ride on these predictions. Keep in mind, I'm writing this before the Bucs fill Eric Wright's open roster spot. An addition of a veteran like RB Peyton Hillis or TE Visanthe Shiancoe could definitely change the dynamic.
Luckily, we're planning on doing these after every pre-season game. As we see the youngsters play themselves on (or off) the roster we'll get a better feel as we approach the kick-off in the fancy new digs of the New York Jets.
Okay, let's get started:
QB (3) Freeman, Orlovsky, Glennon
I think the Bucs keep Orlovsky, even if Glennon lights it up in pre-season. Orlovsky is a nice security blanket to have in case Freeman goes down. Would you want to rest your playoff fortunes on a rookie or a journeyman like Orlovsky? The rookie could be the better choice but it's nice to have the option of the veteran available.
RB (3) Martin, Mike James, Michael Smith
I'm jettisoning the vet Brian Leonard and assuming that Schiano won't put up with a part-timer in Jeff Demps. Demps could resurface on the practice squad.
FB (1) Lorig
The Bucs traditionally don't carry two fullbacks (most teams don't now-a-days). Lorig has been in the system and knows it well.
WR(6) Jackson, Mike Williams, Ogletree, Underwood, Hagan, Page
The front end of the receiving core is set with V-Jax and Big Mike, but the rest of the group is a grab bag of meh. I think Ogletree will emerge as the 3rd wideout simply because receivers coach John Garrett seems to have a belief in the kid. Underwood is an inconsistent player but has that speed everyone craves. Derek Hagan is a vet and Eric Page can contribute on special teams and has shown flashes during OTAs of having some talent.
TE (3) Crabtree, Stocker, Noble
I think Crabtree may win the starting job over Stocker, who reportedly disappointed in OTA's. Noble is a talented receiver who could sneak up and win a job.
T (4) Penn, Dotson, Carimi, Meridith
Carimi will push Dotson to become a better right tackle while Meridith has value because he can slip inside to guard if needed.
G(3) Nicks, Joseph, Wallace
Cody Wallace is listed as a G/C and that's why he makes the team, applying to the old adage, "the more things you can do for a team, the harder it is to cut you."
C (2) Zuttah, Larsen
Same goes for both Zuttah and Larsen, who offer the Bucs experience and versatility on the line.
DE (4) Bowers, Clayborn, Te'o-Nesheim, Gholston
According to published reports, rookie Steven Means got pushed around a bit at OTA's. While he's a good prospect, he may begin his NFL career on the practice squad. That's why Te'o-Nesheim lives to fight another day. The whispers are Gholston could be a fantastic find for the Bucs if he applies himself. We'll see, it's a bit different when you're hitting in pads.
DT(4) McCoy, Spence, Gibson, Landri
While Gibson is scheduled to begin training camp as the starter opposite Pro Bowler Gerald McCoy, it appears that rookie Akeem Spence may take this job before they reach New York to face Gang Green. Landri is a bubble player, if he can hold his own and fight off Means and some of the other youngsters for a roster spot he might be a surprise.
OLB(4) Watson, David, Casillas, Cutera
While Casillas came to Tampa Bay for the opportunity to start, it appears that special teams demon Dekota Watson may finally get his chance to show us what he can do on the starting 11. Cutera is a solid special teamer who will be a bubble player. He'll definitely be challenged for his spot.
MLB (2) Foster, Hayward
Hayward is reliable and is solid on special teams.
CB (7) Revis, Banks, Adams, Leonard Johnson, Branden Smith, Rashaan Melvin, Gaitor
Obviously Revis and Banks are locks, I'd also say Michael Adams and Leonard Johnson are on pretty solid footing. After that - it's really who will perform the best during practice and the pre-season games. My best guess at this point is Myron Lewis' dirty pictures of Joel and Bryan will be lost and he will finally be put out to pasture. Which leaves opportunity for Anthony Gaitor, Braden Smith, Deveron Carr, Rashaan Melvin, and Danny Gorrer to compete for three spots. I'm going with Branden Smith for his contributions on special teams and his lightning fast 4.38 speed. He was a solid but not spectacular corner for a good Georgia defense. Pewter Report highlighted Rashaan Melvin as a sleeper and someone the coaches like a lot. Gaitor is a guy I've liked and believe he has an untapped skillset (and no it's not because his name is similar to the mascot of a certain Florida university I root for). He a solid special teamer and I think can do a decent job if pressed into action.
S (4) Barron, Goldson, Black, Tandy
I was surprised to find Cody Grimm still on the roster after his run in with the law. Buccaneer Men do not embarrassthe football team by getting arrested for public intoxication. I think it will cost him.
Economs could be fighting for his roster spot as he will be challenged by Andrew DePaola, a Rutgers player Coach Schiano is very familiar with. I give the nod to the vet but it wouldn't surprise me a bit if DePaola wins the job.
I'll be honest. I've never seen Derek Dimke kick a football. He may be the next Connor Barth for all I know. At this point, I'm going with the vet in Tynes. While he doesn't have a booming leg, Tynes is at least pretty consistent and has made some huge kicks in his NFL career.
If it wasn't for his kickoff abilities, i'd be going with Chas Henry, the former Gator punter, in an upset. Let's face it, the Bucs are paying Koenen money to be a Pro Bowl punter. Being ranked 22nd and 30th among NFL punters in punting average and net average respectively is not justifying the contract he has been given.
Henry has a big, young leg and made a lot of clutch punts in the SEC. With the Bucs facing the possibility of having to make some tough decisions with next year's cap - it wouldn't surprise me if they helped out their cause a year early by jettisoning Koenen.
Okay folks, if my math is right then that should be 53. We'll see how the guys do, who the Bucs sign late and make some predictions again after the first pre-season game!