Head coach Bruce Arians recently said there are about six to eight spots left to decide on before rosters are cut to 53 on Saturday. With the starting positions locked up, most of these players best chance to make the club is by way of special teams. With roster cuts now only a few days away, let’s look at some of the biggest battles left in camp.
Tanner Hudson vs Antony Auclair
The battle between the tight ends won’t come down to who has performed better, instead it will be purely a schematic decision. Hudson is a gifted receiver and Auclair is more of a traditional blocker. Special teams could also factor in the decision working in Auclair’s favor.
Quinton Bell vs Cam Gill
The winner of this battle would be the fourth outside linebacker. The key for both of these players making the final roster is special teams. Fortunately for the players and unfortunately for the decision makers, both have had a really solid camp both on special teams and defense. Bell, going into has second full season, has the slight edge with experience and the understanding of the playbook. But Gill has been turning heads and has drawn the eye of special teams coach Keith Armstrong. This will be a battle to keep a close eye on.
Jack Cichy vs Chapelle Russell
As with the outside linebackers, the fourth inside apot is still up for grabs. At first glance it would appear that Cichy has this spot wrapped up. He has experience in the system, has worked well on special teams, and with Kevin Minter. He has had a very solid camp and looks like the safe choice. However, Russell has been turning heads and drawing praise from coaches and players for his strong camp performance and quick assimilation into the system. Seventh-round picks aren’t usually locks to make the team, but this rookie is putting up one heck of a fight. Another spot where special teams play will most likely be the deciding factor.
Mazzi Wilkins vs Parnell Motley
Motley has had an amazing camp and it seems like we’ve heard his name almost everyday. He’s had multiple picks and has just shown up on defense. Unfortunately, he recently got injured and hasn’t practiced in nearly a week. Another thing hindering him is that he missed live special teams work during the scrimmage last Friday. Mazzi Wilkins on the other hand has been making plays in practice and has performed well on special teams. The Tampa Bay native is going into his second season with the team and like Quinton Bell, has a better understanding and grasp of the defense. Will Motley’s impressive camp be enough to hold off an incumbent Wilkins?
Andrew Adams vs D’Cota Dixon vs Javon Hagan
Safety is an area where Arians recently said has the most competition left on the roster. All three players offer different things to the roster. They also play roles on special teams. Adams is the savy veteran. Dixon, a second year player, had a really impressive camp In 2019 before an injury. Hagan, an undrafted rookie, is a jack of all trades that can line up at both safety spots and nickel with a knack for big plays. Coach Arians has mentioned Hagan a lot in the past few press conferences when asked about special teams.
Matt Gay vs Ryan Succop
Perhaps the most intriguing battle of all is between the kickers. The Buccaneers have had quite the struggle with consistent kickers in the past few years. As a former fifth-round pick, Gay will be given every chance to keep the job. After competing most of camp with Elliot Fry, the Buccaneers recently brought in 11 year veteran Ryan Succop. Succop has been remarkably consistent inside the 39 yard line making 65-66 and hitting 94% of his PAT’s while only missing 10 in the last six years. However, he doesn’t have the leg strength of Gay. Arians wants a guy who’s going to make those chip shot kicks. If Gay can’t show that he can be consistent with them over the next two days, Succop could be the new kicker for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
With a scrimmage on Thursday inside Raymond James, the players have a full two days to either confirm or change a coaches mind or opinion. With the practice squad expanding to 16 players this year, I would expect to see most of the guys who don’t win their battles brought back. One thing is for sure, special teams play will be a huge part of the decision making process.