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Bruce Arians talks roster battles ahead of Bucs preseason finale

These guys may only have one quarter left to prove their value

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers OTA Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers enter their final preseason contest against the Houston Texans with a distinct advantage, not all NFL teams can enjoy. That is, they have almost their entire starting twenty-two locked in.

With just the right guard spot to be determined only Alex Cappa and Aaron Stinnie appear to be awaiting the decision on who will be the season starter. Everyone else is looking at this last game as a true warm-up for the real thing coming in two week’s time.

Beyond the starters, there are some depth players with jobs secured. Guys like Antonio Brown, Mike Edwards, Cam Brate, and so on. Not likely they’re sweating the results of this weekend’s contest from a job security standpoint.

Other players aren’t so lucky, and there are three major position groups featuring high-stakes position battles. The guys playing for those final roster spots may only get one or two quarters on Saturday to secure their spots, so they’ll be looking to take advantage of every snap.

Bruce Arians answered questions regarding those battles, on Wednesday.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown, Scotty Miller, and Tyler Johnson. Five jobs accounted for, leaving one or two at the most up for grabs potentially.

From where things stand today, it seems to be a race between rookie Jaelon Darden and veteran Jaydon Mickens. Or perhaps both can prove worthy of spots on the team’s first active roster of the year.

“...It’s his job to win,” Arians said of Darden and the return job. “I know what [Jaydon Mickens] can do. I’ve seen ‘Mick’ for a while now. I want to see a little bit more out of Scotty [Miller] having a chance. It’s probably his to win rather than his to lose.”

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Las Vegas Raiders Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Sounds like Darden at least has the inside track and a foot in the door to his active roster spot if he can prove capable in the last preseason game of the year.

DEFENSIVE BACKS

Carlton Davis III, Sean Murphy-Bunting, Jamel Dean, Antoine Winfield Jr., Jordan Whitehead, and Mike Edwards were presumed locks coming into the preseason, and Ross Cockrell has certainly appeared to have cemented his spot as well.

In fact, Cockrell’s performance this preseason as a cornerback and safety may even help the team carry one fewer defensive back altogether, according to Arians.

“Potentially – that’s position flexibility, especially on game day, to be able to play three positions. If there is another special teams player either on offense or in another position that’s really contributing then you can go with lesser DBs in a game.”

Bad news for the likes of Javon Hagan, Antonio Hamilton, and Dee Delaney. There’s no guarantee the Bucs want to carry more than four cornerbacks, and with Cockrell playing safety he could account for the fourth there, and at safety.

LINEBACKERS

This might be the most entertaining competition to watch on Saturday, even if we already know who the winner is going to be. We’re not talking outside linebackers here, we’re talking about the guys playing behind Devin White and Lavonte David.

Kevin Minter hasn’t done anything to shake confidence he’ll be back in 2021, and Auburn rookie K.J. Britt has been a rookie standout in the group.

If Britt has his spot all but secured, then it comes down to Grant Stuard and Joe Jones, a duo Arians was asked about specifically.

“...you’ve got to play defense – and then special teams,” Arians said. “Joe has a résumé, Grant doesn’t. But Grant has one from college, so that’s a huge battle.”

Is it really a battle though? Arians went on to specify Britt has really established himself, and then was also quoted as saying,

“All of those guys (Britt, Stuard, and Jones) are fighting for the same – three dogs, one bone.”

If there’s only one ‘bone’ (read: job) to be had, then perhaps it’s already been decided. Perhaps not. As we’ve heard from this staff before, it’s up to these guys to show them why they can’t be cut.

Good luck to all of the competitors, as we wait to find out who will shape the first active Tampa Bay Buccaneers roster of the 2021 NFL Season.

For more on this story and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, check out the Locked On Bucs Podcast!