The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took the first step in their journey to finalizing the first 53-man roster under new head coach Lovie Smith on Sunday, releasing twelve players and nearing the 75-man roster limit enforced this week.
They also gave their starters one final moment on the field in the preseason before their debut in two weeks against the Panthers, leaving the backups to lead the way in a final preseason matchup that will decide the fate of quite a few fringe players.
So how will the final roster look? Here's my best guesses, along with some commentary on various key battles.
|QB||Josh McCown||Mike Glennon|
|RB||Doug Martin||Bobby Rainey||Charles Sims||Jeff Demps|
|FB||Jorvorskie Lane||(Mike James)|
|WR||Vincent Jackson||Chris Owusu||Robert Herron|
|WR||Mike Evans||Louis Murphy||Solomon Patton|
|TE||Austin Seferian-Jenkins||Tim Wright||Luke Stocker||Brandon Myers|
|OT||Anthony Collins||Demar Dotson||Kevin Pamphile||Jamon Meredith|
|OG||Oniel Cousins||Patrick Omameh||Rishaw Johnson||Kadeem Edwards|
|DE||Michael Johnson||Steven Means|
|DE||Adrian Clayborn||William Gholston|
|DT||Gerald McCoy||Da'Quan Bowers|
|DT||Clinton McDonald||Akeem Spence|
|LB||Lavonte David||Damaso Munoz|
|LB||Mason Foster||Dane Fletcher|
|LB||Jonathan Casillas||Danny Lansanah|
|CB||Alterraun Verner||Mike Jenkins||Danny Gorrer|
|CB||Johnthan Banks||Rashaan Melvin|
|S||Mark Barron||Bradley McDougald|
|S||Dashon Goldson||Major Wright|
Some things to note:
- The long-snapper battle was decided after the Buffalo game, as veteran Jeremy Cain was released in favor of DePaola.
- I don't anticipate any changes with the specialists, although I wouldn't be shocked to see Patrick Murray make the roster.
- Mike James presence on the roster depends on what the Bucs decide to do with Charles Sims, who will need to be on the 53-man roster to be placed on injured reserve, designated for return. Unless Sims is placed on injured reserve and not designated for return, I predict the Bucs will roll with just Martin, Rainey, Demps and Lane carrying the ball until Sims returns.
- Danny Gorrer's health will be a key factor in his ability to make the team, but if he's on track to play against Carolina, I believe his ability to play inside or outside will give him the nod at the last corner spot. If he's not healthy, Kip Edwards would be the pick.
- Bradley McDougald's health is a question, as well, but as long as his injury isn't long-term, I expect him to beat Keith Tandy for a roster spot.
- Rishaw Johnson's ability to play center gets him the nod as a backup at all three interior positions. Jamon Meredith's ability to play four spots along the line earns him a place on the final roster as well.
- It would be foolish for the Bucs to cut Da'Quan Bowers. He's done well in camp and played very well against Jacksonville, and is the best backup 3-tech on the team (outside of Clinton McDonald, who likely starts next to Gerald McCoy).
- Damaso Munoz makes the team as a linebacker because of his very strong special teams abilities. He shows up on nearly every kickoff coverage play I watch. (Edit: Munoz was released on Monday after the publishing of this article.)
- Solomon Patton seems to be safely on the roster, but if Bobby Rainey steals his role as the primary returner, it could open up a roster spot for Russell Shepard, who remains in the competition for a wide receiver/special teams job.