The Bucs officially trimmed their roster down to 53 players on Saturday in order to get things rolling for the season opener in New Orleans.
As with all cuts, there were a few surprises. Two players to take note of are John Hurst and John Molchon. Per Greg Auman of the Athletic, both players will be placed on IR, which will free up two roster spots. One of those will be taken by Leonard Fournette once he officially signs with the Bucs and the other will be taken by whomever the Bucs deem fit to get the job done. Safety Justin Evans was placed on the Reserve/PUP list, so he won’t count toward the 53 until after Week 6.
Things can obviously change too due to waivers and what not. But for now, let’s take a look at the Bucs’ initial 53-man roster.
Quaterback: Tom Brady, Blaine Gabbert, Ryan Griffin
What? Brady made the team?
Just kidding. This is exactly what everyone expected. No surprises, here.
Running Back: Ronald Jones II, LeSean McCoy, Ke’Shawn Vaughn
Dare Ogunbowale’s release caught people’s attention because he played the second-most snaps among the Bucs’ running backs and was a special teams captain in 2019. When you add that to Vaughn’s lackluster camp, then it makes sense as to why some would question the move with Ogunbowale. Removing Raymond Calais was a bit of a surprise too, but the Bucs brought in McCoy and will bring in Fournette to offset his departure.
Wide Receiver: Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Scotty Miller, Justin Watson, Tyler Johnson, John Hurst*, Jaydon Mickens
It was a somewhat-surprise that Johnson made the 53. He hasn’t practiced much due to a soft-tissue injury, but this staff was thrilled when they grabbed him in the fifth round of the draft, so it makes sense why he stuck. Mickens showed enough —especially in the return game— to make the team and should be the team’s primary kick returner.
Miller and Watson will provide decent options as WR3 and WR4 this year, with potential for a higher ceiling. Hopefully the Bucs can retain Josh Pearson for the practice squad because that kid has major talent.
Tight End: Rob Gronkowski, O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate, Antony Auclair
Just like quarterback, this was expected. The Bucs arguably have the strongest tight end room in the league.
Offensive Line: Donovan Smith, Ali Marpet, Ryan Jensen, Alex Cappa, Tristan Wirfs, Joe Haeg, Aaron Stinnie, John Molchon*, Josh Wells
The release of A.Q. Shipley was a bit of a surprise even if he just came on board a week ago. But he’ll probably be the other guy the Bucs add in place of Hurst or Molchon. Regardless, Shipley’s release signifies the Bucs are invested in their younger guys. That’s a good sign, hopefully it plays out on the field if needed.
Haeg’s versatility probably had something to do with the offensive line decisions. He has nine career starts at right guard and two at left guard. That experience can help in case the Bucs are hit hard at the position. Wells has experience in the system and played halfway decent in his start against Detroit last year. Watching Zack Bailey go was a bit of a surprise as well, but I think it speaks more to the play/development of Stinnie.
As long as Wirfs plays as expected, the Bucs appear to have a solid offensive line with decent depth. That’s a rarity in Tampa Bay.
Defensive Line: Ndamukong Suh, Vita Vea, William Gholston, Rakeem Nunez-Roches, Khalil Davis, Patrick O’Connor
Arians said a few days ago that O’Connor had “separated” himself from the pack. Nunez-Roches has been excellent and Davis has been good enough, so this list isn’t a surprise.
The Bucs’ depth along the defensive front looks better after the rise of Nunez-Roches. It would be nice to see Davis and O’Connor continue to come along, too.
Inside Linebacker: Lavonte David, Devin White, Jack Cichy, Kevin Minter
It was a surprise to see Chapelle Russell go. Reports were that he was having a good camp and was running with the twos during practices. When you figure in Cichy’s injury history, it adds another layer to the decision.
Minter is a solid backup, but the second level of this defense isn’t the same if David or White go down. Four linebackers is scary, but Todd Bowles is creative enough that he will find a way to help curb any potential injury issue through scheme, disguise, and play calling.
Oustide Linebacker: Shaquil Barrett, Jason Pierre-Paul, Anthony Nelson, Cam Gill, Quinton Bell
The Bucs needed someone, anyone to step up and win the backups spots behind Nelson. It looks like the two best guys were Bell and Gill. Both players are unknowns —and so is Nelson, for the most part— so it’s really anybody’s guess as to how they will perform in 2020.
My analysis: Keep your fingers crossed and hope for the best. And when I say “the best”, I mean that Barrett or JPP don’t suffer any major injuries. That’s no disrespect to Nelson, Gill, or Bell. We just don’t know what they can do yet.
Cornerback: Carlton Davis III, Jamel Dean, Sean Murphy-Bunting, Ryan Smith, Parnell Motley
It looks Motley was good enough on special teams to make the 53. He balled during camp, so it was almost expected for him to make the team. This unit all depends on the development of the top three guys. They should take the next step in 2020, but if they don’t then the Bucs could be in trouble. But if they do take the next step, then this defense will be one to watch out for.
Safety: Jordan Whitehead, Mike Edwards, Andrew Adams, Antoine Winfield Jr.
Another position with no surprises. It was pretty clear who the Bucs were going to keep, here.
Winfield Jr. is obviously the wild card. He couldn’t beat out Edwards for the starting gig in camp, but he made enough plays to show that he will contribute in 2020. Whitehead is the sure-fire starter out of all four and the hope is that he has improved enough in coverage to make him more of an all-around player.
Like the corners, it’s about taking the next step. The depth here is solid, especially if Evans is ever able to get back on the field.
Specialists: Ryan Succop, Bradley Pinion, Zach Triner
Succop is the obvious surprise. I mean, Matt Gay certainly struggled last year and was inconsistent during camp, but it’s still surprising to see the Bucs ditch him for a kicker who clearly wasn’t himself after offseason knee surgery.
The hope is that all of the surgery issues are behind Succop and he can return to form. The one-day workout was enough for the Bucs to choose him over Gay, so that appears to be the case. Will Succop fix the Bucs’ kicking woes? Or will he just be another cog in the tragedy machine that is the Bucs’ kicking game?
Pinion needs to improve upon a disappointing 2019 season. Triner is usually money at long-snapper.
* Denotes player moving to IR
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