You should know by now that Bruce Arians doesn’t mince words. The guy is a straight shooter and doesn’t beat around the bush. It’s always nice to hear coaches go outside of the coach-speak circle and it’s what makes Tuesday’s comment about the Bucs’ open roster spots so intriguing.
“About 10 more players. These guys out here are working their asses off, but I’d like to see about 10 more of them out there fighting for jobs that they don’t know they’re fighting for,” Arians told reporters Tuesday when asked about what he’d like to see more of during OTAs.
It’s the NFL. Roster turnover and roster competition are the norm. So players should expect to have to fight for their jobs, even if it’s a roster where every starter returns from the year before. There is always a position -or positions- up for grabs.
Like Arians, I won’t beat around the bush anymore. Let’s take a look at the potential openings and the best candidates to win said openings.
Open position: QB3
The candidates: Blaine Gabbert/Ryan Griffin
The skinny: I mean, I don’t need to even mention Tom Brady, here. Kyle Trask is safe, too, much to the chagrin of many. The battle comes down to Blaine Gabbert and Ryan Griffin for the QB3 role.
You don’t have to read between the lines to see who has the edge. Gabbert is set to make twice as much as Griffin and Arians even called him “the most underrated player in the league” a little while ago. Arians shot down the notion of Griffin being the odd man out of the race on Tuesday, but what else was he expected to say? He’s honest, but you can’t just tell reporters a dude has no shot at winning a job. There’s always a chance, but it certainly seems like Griffin is the odd man out.
The winner: Gabbert beats out Griff for the QB3 job and sends Griff to the practice squad.
Open position: RB4
The candidates: Ke’Shawn Vaughn, C.J. Prosise, Troymaine Pope
The skinny: Arians hasn’t carried more than four backs heading into a season since arriving in Tampa Bay. Don’t expect that to change this year. Vaughn should be able to win the job, but he has a long way to go. Arians has talked him up during the offseason, but Vaughn needs a strong preseason and will need to show up on special teams during the summer. Prosise and Pope are camp bodies, but don’t be surprised if Vaughn gets passed up due to a lackluster camp.
The winner: The coaching staff and Jason Licht love Vaughn and he has the skills to be a decent back. He should show enough to win the job.
Open position: WR5/WR6
The candidates: Jaelon Darden, Tyler Johnson, Jaydon Mickens, Justin Watson, Cyril Grayson, Josh Pearson, Travis Jonsen, T.J. Simmons, John Franklin
The skinny: The Bucs carried seven receivers on their roster in 2020, but Brown’s presence will prevent that from happening this year. Pewter Report’s Jon Ledyard recently wrote an interesting column on Johnson’s uphill battle for playing time. It makes a lot of sense, but at the end of the day I think he’s safe. On the other hand, I’m not so sure about Watson and Mickens. Unfortunately for them, I think Darden’s ability as a returner cancels both out and prevents them from making the Bucs roster.
The winners: Johnson and Darden round out the receiving room.
Open position: TE4
The candidates: Tanner Hudson, Codey McElroy, Jerell Adams
The skinny: Hudson should win outright, but McElroy could definitely make a push. You never want to completely count someone out, so there’s a chance Adams could get the job, but the odds are against him.
The winner: Hudson’s ability as a receiver should win him the job.
Open position: OT3/OT4
The candidates: Josh Wells, Brad Seaton
The skinny: Robert Hainsey’s presence throws a good bit of confusion into how this plays out. Arians has been adamant on the idea that Hainsey can play all five positions, but most signs point to him being a versatile backup on the interior. Regardless, Hainsey could convince the Bucs to take eight offensive linemen into 2021; but that seems counterintuitive because the NFL requires a team to carry at least eight linemen. If someone gets hurt, the Bucs will have to cut someone to bring on the needed lineman. This should give both Wells and Seaton the nod. And honestly, there’s not
The winners: Wells and Seaton, based off the NFL’s rule to carry at least eight offensive linemen.
Open position: None
The candidates: None
The skinny: I think this is the one position that is set at all levels. Ndamukong Suh, Vita Vea, and William Gholston are your starters while Rakeem Nunez-Roches, Steve McClendon, and Patrick O’Connor are your backups.
Open position: None
The candidates: None
The skinny: Like defensive line, this position is set. Cam Gil flashed enough in 2020 to carry over into 2021. Don’t get me wrong, the trio of Quinton Bell, Leighton McCarthy, and Ladarius Hamilton could make noise, but Gil will be able to hold them off and make the Bucs roster.
Open position: ILB4/possibly ILB5
The candidates: K.J. Britt, Grant Stuard, Joe Jones
The skinny: Here’s where things get a bit interesting. Stuard’s special teams prowess should get him a job. The same goes for Britt, even though he’s a bit more rounded out than Stuard is at the moment. Jones is the wily vet, so don’t count him out, but I think the two rookies make this team. Stuard also is part of the reason why Watson doesn’t finish out his rookie deal with the Bucs.
The winners: Britt and Stuard show enough to get it done.
Open position: CB5
The candidates: Herb Miller, Chris Wilcox, Nate Brooks, Cameron Kinely, Antonio Hamilton
The skinny: This is easily one of the biggest areas of competition when it comes to competing for a job. Any one of these guys could win. Miller recorded an interception in 2020 and knows the defense, but the other corners are nearly perfect fits for this defense. It’s pretty much a toss-up as to who makes the Bucs roster as CB5.
The winner: Wilcox’s raw athleticism gives him the edge at the end of the day.
Open position: S4
The candidates: Javon Hagan, Raven Greene, Augie Contressa, Lawrence Wright
The skinny: Like cornerback, the S4 position is pretty much a toss-up. Hagan knows the defense, but Greene is a special teams vet and whomever wins the job will be primarily a special teams player. Contressa has so much versatility but is raw. Wright is a big unknown, but he’s got the versatility and the athleticism to make the team if things break his way.
The winner: I really like Hagan, but I think Greene’s experience gets him into One Buc.
Who do you think will win the open spots on the Bucs roster? Let us know in the comment section below!