Cut down day is just a few days away. On September 5th at 4pm all NFL teams must be down to the 53 man roster. 27 players will released from the current 80 man roster with 16 hoping to get a second chance to make the team on the practice squad. This doesn’t include the inevitable waiver claims that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers may put in. This is my crack at predicting the roster.
The first two spots are pretty cut and dry here. Tom Brady is your starter and Blaine Gabbert is you backup. The third spot is where things get interesting. Head coach Bruce Arians recently said that the team will go into the season with three quarterbacks. It then comes down to Reid Sinnett and Ryan Griffin. In this scenario, Griffin, although he knows the offense, hasn’t shown he can be anything more than a third string back up in the NFL. So they go with a quarterback hand picked by the coaching staff to develop going forward. Griffin lands on the practice squad as a quarantined quarterback. It also free up about 1.6 million dollars.
Ronald Jones II
Another pretty straight forward position. Ronald Jones II was expected to get the bulk of the carries. With the signing of Leonard Fournette it appears he’ll go into more of a time share situation with the work load. Fournette comes in and gives you a proven bell cow back. He is a capable runner and receiver and will most likely split carries with jones II. LeSean McCoy is the expected third down back sharing some work with Dare Ogunbowale. While Rookie Ke’Shawn Vaughn got a late start to camp after being placed on the reserve/Covid-19 list, it will be hard for him to make an immediate impact other than special teams. Raymond Calais heads to the practice squad for now.
Arguably the deepest unit on the team, the first three spots are locked up. Rob Gronkowski, O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate make up a formidable group for opposing defenses to scheme against all offering different things. The main battle comes down to Antony Auclair and Tanner Hudson. Codey McElroy has shown flashes but isn’t ahead of either players on the depth chart. In the end Hudson is cut due to Auclair’s blocking prowess and ability to line up at fullback and H-back. Coach Arians has also mentioned Auclair’s key work on special teams. Hudson’s skill set is similar to Brate’s, so he’s cut, but lands on the practice squad.
Another surprisingly deep room. Mike Evans and Chris Godwin are two of the top receivers in the NFL. Scotty Miller and Justin Watson have made huge strides this year and their chemistry with Brady has shown in practice. Miller is the most likely candidate for the third wide receiver spot. Tyler Johnson has been injured most of camp but he makes the club as the team has high hopes for him and he continues to learn the offense. Jaydon Mickens locks up the final spot with his special teams ability on core units and as a returner.
With the new rule stating that teams must have eight offensive lineman active on game day and the close proximity they are in, I believe that the Buccaneers will go heavy on offensive lineman this season. Past the starting group, Joe Haeg is a lock and A.Q.Shipley adds a much needed veteran presence behind Ryan Jensen with prior experience in the system. Josh Wells stays on as a developmental swing tackle with Aaron Stinnie who can play all three interior spots as well and has had a good camp.
Like the offensive line, The Buccaneers most likely go heavy on the defensive line as well. Ndamukong Suh, Vita Vita and Will Gholston return as the starters to anchor what was the best line against the run in the NFL in 2019. Rakeem Nunez-Roaches has shown a vast improvement from last year and has heard praises from both players and coaches throughout camp. Khalil Davis has shown the ability to get after the quarterback and with his quick twitch speed should carve a role into the rotation quickly, especially on third downs. Arians has said that Patrick O”Connor has separated himself from the rest of the group.
With the Franchise tag on Barrett and Pierre-Paul resigning the Buccaneers bring back both starting outside linebackers from last year. After an injury plagued rookie season, Nelson has been having a nice camp and is entrenched as the 3rd guy. One of the Biggest battles come down to that fourth spot. With his speed, special teams ability and knowledge of the system, I have bell getting the last spot.
Inside linebackers is another spot where the top three spots are primarily locked up. David is one of the most underrated players in the league and White is a promising player with sky is the limit potential. Minter offers a capable back up with core special teams play. Again the last spot is a battle, while 7th round pick Chapelle Russell has impressed, in a year with so many uncertainties, the Buccaneers go with the veteran in Cichy. Noah Dawkins and Michael Divinity Jr were also in the mix.
Dean, Davis and Murphy-Bunting look to improve in their second season in defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles System and build off the latter half of last years campaign. Smith is a core special teams player and most likely this years captain. Motley had a very impressive camp but injuries here hurt his chance of making the roster and the Buccaneers go with local kid Wilkins for the fifth and final cornerback spot.
Antoine Winfield Jr
Whitehead, Edwards and Winfield Jr are all locks to make the team. Beyond that it’s anyone’s game. Adams offers veteran leadership but has been out of practice for the past few days. Dixon is a guy they are high on but has a limited ceiling. Hagan has an extremely impressive resume and has shined on special teams but has also been out the last few days as well. In the end I think the Buccaneers go with Hagan for his special teams play and his potential upside as he can play both safety spots and nickel cornerback. with the other two players landing on the practice squad. Evans who just cant stay healthy is released which frees up about 1.1 million in cap space.
The big surprise here is Succop winning the starting job. Arians has preached consistency inside the 35 yard line and Succop is the model of that. Over the last six years he has made 65-66 field goals 39 yards or shorter while making 178-188 extra point attempts. While he doesnt have the leg Gay does he has the accuracy. Pinion looks to improve on a season that didn’t see him punt as much but still landing near the bottom in yards. Triner is a dependable long snapper.
QB Ryan Griffin (Quarantine QB- Protected)
RB Raymond Calais
TE Tanner Hudson (protected)
WR Bryant Mitchell
WR Josh Pearson
OG John Molchon
OG Zack Bailey
DL Jeremiah Ledbetter
ILB Chapelle Russell (protected)
OLB Cam Gill
ILB Noah Dawkins
ILB/OLB Michael Divinity Jr
CB Parnell Motley (protected)
S Andrew Adams
S D’Cota Dixon
K Matt Gay
A new rules in 2020, practice squad personnel goes from 12 players to 16. Additionally, up to six veterans, regardless of accrued seasons, may be added to the squad. Teams can also protect four players a week and call up two players up to 90 mins before kickoff. They will then return to the practice squad the following day. With the new changes this season, there should be a good mix of veterans and younger players on this years squad.