We've tackled the question of roster depth over and over and over again over the past few weeks. So why not do it all over again? This time, with the help of some 13 questions posed by Pat Kirwan to every team to determine wether they actually have enough depth,
The first question, which is not separated from the rest, is whether or not a team has a quality backup quarterback. That is: someone who can come in and "go at least 2-2 in a four-game stretch". Mike Glennon is the backup in Tampa right now and while there are questions about Josh McCown's abilities as a starter, there's very little doubt that the Bucs will have a solid backup at the quarterback position. So that's a positive.
The answers to the other questions aren't quite as clear, however.
1. Does your team have a real swing offensive tackle, a guy that can play left or right tackle and has experience?
Not as a backup, no. Right tackle Demar Dotson can probably play both positions, which would mean a backup tackle doesn't really need to be a swing guy. But beyond that, the Bucs do not have an experienced swing tackle. They do have some young players who might be able to step in and play.
2. Does your team have a solid inside offensive lineman that can play guard or center?
No. The Bucs barely have three starting inside offensive linemen, so a solid backup is completely out of the question at this point.
3. Is there a quality second running back that can deliver a 100-yard rushing day if he had to start?
Absolutely. Both Mike James and Bobby Rainey have done so in the NFL, while Charles Sims' draft position suggests there's a chance he could be that guy, too.
4. Is there a good second tight end on the roster?
Kind of? Tight end is a curious position. Brandon Myers is likely to be the starter given his experience, but he's far from a centerpiece on offense. Tim Wright was a quality receiving tight end last year, but is largely useless as a blocker. Austin Seferian-Jenkins will be a very good player down the line, but may require some time to adjust to the NFL.
5. Can the third wide receiver step up and start in the two-WR packages if a starter went down?
No. Louis Murphy is the third receiver and while he can technically start, he hasn't really been productive in that role, ever. He hasn't topped 400 receiving yards in a season since 2010.
6. Does your team have a designated pass-rush specialist who could play the early downs if need be?
No, but then Lovie Smith's defense doesn't look for pass-rush specialists, but rather every-down pass-rushers. There's a slew of young talent at the position, but none of those players have proven to be effective pass-rush specialists. One of them may develop, but as of now, there's no one you could trust in that role.
7. Is there a third defensive tackle that not only plays in a rotation but could play the whole game if need be?
Yes. Whether Clinton McDonald or Akeem Spence starts, either player could play the entire game. Spence would not provide much in terms of pass rush, though, which is certainly a problem.
8. Is there a quality nickel corner on the roster, since most teams are at least 50 percent sub defenses?
Yes, in multiple ways. D.J. Moore is winning the battle for slot cornerback, and has a lot of experience in that role in Lovie Smith's system. Mike Jenkins looks set to be the third outside cornerback behind Johnthan Banks and Alterraun Verner, and has extensive NFL experience. Not quite a quality starter, he should do well as a third or fourth cornerback.
9. Is there a fourth corner for dime packages?
Yes. Whether that will be Mike Jenkins or D.J. Moore or Leonard Johnson, the Bucs actually have a lot of depth at cornerback.
10. Is there a third safety for big nickel defenses?
Yes. Major Wright played very well two seasons ago under Lovie Smith, but was horrible last year. It remains to be seen whether he can return to his previous form, but there's a decent chance he'll be solid if asked to take the field as a big nickel player. Keith Tandy is the other backup safety and while the coaches seem to like him, he was pretty bad when he got onto the field last year, even though he did have a knack for getting his hands on some balls.
11. Is there a return specialist that can either handle both punt and kick returns or contribute as a real position player?
No. The Bucs are holding competitions in training camp for the kick and punt returner jobs, and there's no clear favorite for either position.
12. Does your team have a special-teams linebacker that leads the specials and can play inside linebacker in a pinch?
Yes. That's exactly what Dane Fletcher was brought in to do. He has experience as an inside linebacker in New England, and is a quality special teams player.
That's six "yes" answers and one "kind of" out of twelve questions. That's barely a passing grade, though the Bucs can probably answer "maybe" to most of the negatives instead. Or at least they could answer "if these players develop".
But this is true of most NFL teams, really. It's tough to have quality depth at multiple positions. The salary cap and NFL draft are in fact set up so that teams cannot create adequate depth consistently. The NFL is a league that promotes parity, after all.
Overall, I think the Bucs have more depth at a lot of positions than they've had in years, and at those positions where they don't have depth they can at least be hopeful that a young player develops quickly. The only position of real concern, outside of the eternal quarterback conundrum, is the interior offensive line. That's a disaster waiting to happen, but we've been beating that drum for months at a time. At this point, there's not much the Bucs can do about it.