The Tampa Bay Buccaneers just published their first depth chart of 2017, and it’s mostly unremarkable. The players we thought were starting, are starting. No one’s down the depth chart at a position where we thought they were competing, and none of the undrafted free agents are very high up either.
That’s natural: the published depth chart never actually reflect the depth charts coaches are working on a day-to-day basis, if only because those charts are based more around specific packages and roles than around simple priority lists. This chart doesn’t have slot receivers or slot cornerbacks, for instance, but the coaches do. Plus, coaches don’t like to publish all their innermost feelings about players.
In addition, the earliest depth chart is also the most meaningless one. Most position battles have yet to play out fully, and coaches always keep a few young players down the depth chart early on only to see them rise later. As will likely happen with Chris Godwin, for instance.
Still, there’s a few key things we can take away from this depth chart.
O.J. Howard isn’t really competing with Cameron Brate
I’ve said this before, but while both Brate and Howard are tight ends, they’re not really competing with each other. That’s reinforced in this depth chart, which has two spots for tight ends: one with smaller move tight ends like Brate, and one with bigger tight ends like Howard who can be a force as blockers.
Mostly, this means that if Brate and Howard both do well, we’ll see both of them on the field at the same time a lot. If one of them falters, then they may be taken off the field to be replaced by someone at another position group—say, Adam Humphries coming in as a receiver to replace Brate, or a sixth lineman instead of Howard on running plays.
Nick Folk and Roberto Aguayo are still too close to call
The Bucs are listing Folk and Aguayo as co-starters at kicker, which indicates that there’s no clear front-runner right now. That fits with what we’ve seen of training camp. And all of that implies that Aguayo’s the most likely player to get that kicker roster spot: he’s the one the Bucs have invested in the most, after all.
Doug Martin is starting
Doug Martin has done everything the Bucs have asked him to do, and he’s listed as the starter at running back. While he’ll miss the first three games, and he’ll probably have to give up some playing time, he should still get the bulk of the carries once he’s back.
One interesting note here: Jacquizz Rodgers and Charles Sims are listed as sharing the backup spot. It’s unclear what that means exactly, though it may be an indication of what we’ll see the first three games of the regular season.
Noah Spence isn’t starting
This doesn’t mean Spence won’t be playing, as he’s the first pass-rush specialist off the bench. But it does mean that Spence likely won’t see the field as much as he did during most of last season, when he was forced to start for large periods of time due to a lack of depth.
Instead, the Bucs will go with Robert Ayers and William Gholston on early downs to defend against the run, while bringing in Spence (and probably Jacquies Smith once he’s healthy) on passing downs and against pass-heavy personnel.
Most newcomers haven’t won a starting job, yet
Aside from DeSean Jackson and O.J. Howard, who were shoe-ins for starting jobs, most newcomers haven’t managed to grab hold of a starting job. That’s kind of standard practice, at least until after the first preseason game, so don’t read too much into that.
Still, safeties Justin Evans and J.J. Wilcox, wide receiver Chris Godwin, running back Jeremy McNichols, defensive tackle Stevie Tu'ikolovatu, linebacker Kendell Beckwith and cornerback Robert McClain are all a little further down the depth chart than they’d presumably like. We’ll see if they can change their fortunes.
Full depth chart
Quarterback: Jameis Winston, Ryan Fitzpatrick or Ryan Griffin, Sefo Liufau
Wide receiver 1: DeSean Jackson, Adam Humphries, Donteea Dye, Josh Huff, Jesus Wilson, Shaq Hill
Wide receiver 2: Mike Evans, Freddie Martino, Chris Godwin, Bernard Reedy, Derel Walker
Tight end 1: Cameron Brate, Tevin Westbrook, Antony Auclair
Tight end 2: O.J. Howard, Luke Stocker, Alan Cross, Austin Johnson
Running back: Doug Martin, Jacquizz Rodgers or Charles Sims, Jeremy McNichols, Peyton Barber, Russell Hansbrough, Blake Sims, Quayvon Hicks
Left tackle: Donovan Smith, Leonard Wester, Cole Gardner
Left guard: Kevin Pamphile, Josh Allen, Jarvis Harrison
Center: Ali Marpet, Joe Hawley, James Stone
Right guard: J.R. Sweezy, Evan Smith, Michael Liedtke
Right tackle: Demar Dotson, Caleb Benenoch, Korren Kirven
Defensive end 1: Robert Ayers, Noah Spence, Ryan Russell, Justin Trattou, Tavaris Barnes
Defensive tackle 1: Gerald McCoy, Clinton McDonald, Channing Ward
Defensive tackle 2: Chris Baker, Sealver Siliga, Stevie Tu'ikolovatu
Defensive end 2: William Gholston, DaVonte Lambert, George Johnson, Jacquies Smith (injured), Sterling Bailey
Strongside linebacker: Devante Bond, Kendell Beckwith, Jeff Knox
Middle linebacker: Kwon Alexander, Adarius Glanton, Riley Bullough
Weakside linebacker: Lavonte David, Cameron Lynch, Richie Brown, Eric Nzeocha
Cornerback 1: Vernon Hargreaves, Jude Adjei-Barimah, Robert McClain, Jonathan Moxey
Cornerback 2: Brent Grimes, Ryan Smith, Javien Elliott, Maurice Fleming
Safety 1: Chris Conte, Justin Evans, Isaiah Johnson, Cody Riggs
Safety 2: Keith Tandy, J.J. Wilcox, Josh Robinson, Marqueston Huff
Punter: Bryan Anger
Placekicker: Roberto Aguayo or Nick Folk
Kickoffs: Roberto Aguayo, Nick Folk
Holder: Bryan Anger
Longsnapper: Garrison Sanborn, Adarius Glanton
Punt returner: Adam Humphries, Vernon Hargreaves III, Bernard Reedy, Bobo Wilson
Kick returner: Ryan Smith, Donteea Dye Jr., Josh Huff, Justin Evans