The Bucs have released their first unofficial depth chart of the 2021 preseason just a little over 72 hours from their Saturday night matchup with the Bengals.
There are a few main takeaways that immediately stand out. Granted, this is still a fluid situation, so it’s important to not get overworked over the result(s). Even if we know the starting lineup is mostly set already. But still, it does give a little insight into how the coaching staff possibly views the roster as it currently stands.
Let’s check out five takeaways from the Bucs’ first unofficial depth chart.
5. Kyle Trask is the fourth-string quarterback
This isn’t really a surprise, but it is worth talking about since the Bucs have confirmed Trask’s place on the roster via the unofficial depth chart.
It’s basically a guarantee that the Bucs won’t carry four quarterbacks into the season, so Trask will get a “promotion” when the season starts. And will likely be deemed as one of the Bucs inactives throughout the year.
The Bucs can also protect Ryan Griffin’s practice squad status if they’re worried about a team poaching him. This will likely help in the decision to carry three quarterbacks. There is still room for Griffin to sign elsewhere, but it will make obtaining his services harder than your usual practice squad pickup.
4. Antonio Hamilton appears to have the CB5 position for now
Hamilton has flashed throughout the preseason, certainly more than the other reserves around him. So it makes sense for him to currently have what looks like the CB5 position on the Bucs’ unofficial depth chart.
“He looks really good as a nickel – he’s got to get better outside. When he’s inside, he’s a heck of a fighter,” Bruce Arians recently told reporters. “He’s got to be able to play both and he’s got to be a great special teams player.”
He’s been solid on special teams, which is where he’ll fit in unless one of the top guys go down. Herb Miller is listed on the same plateau as Hamilton, which it makes hard to actually tell if Hamilton is actually CB5, but based off what I saw in camp and the reports I’ve read since, it’s gotta be Hamilton right now.
A subjective side note: I find it a bit odd the Bucs don’t list their nickel position, but hey, secrecy equals advantage in the NFL, right?
3. Nick Leverett at second-string guard
Arians recently said -and I’m paraphrasing here- Leverett is a guard in a tackle’s body. The Bucs have even been working him at tackle in recent practices, yet he’s listed at guard on the first unofficial depth chart.
I’m not here to debate whether he should be playing one position or the other. But I do wonder if Brad Seaton’s potential spot as a backup is in trouble. Because Leverett’s versatility may be too good to pass up. Keeping Leverett would give the Bucs excellent depth on the interior offensive line with him, Aaron Stinnie, and Robert Hainsey. And then Leverett provides another option outside Josh Wells to play backup tackle. Plus, when you add in the unknown with Hainsey’s current injury, it would make more sense to beef up the interior.
2. Jaydon Mickens is ahead of Jaelon Darden at receiver and at kick returner
Mickens’ strong camp has paid off in the form of the Bucs first unofficial depth chart. Not only has he retained his kick returner duties (both kickoffs and punts, by the way), but he’s actually ahead of Darden in terms of the receivers’ pecking order.
Now it’s time to see if Mickens’ camp can bleed over into a live-action game. This could easily change after Saturday night.
1. Ronald Jones II is the starting running back
Jones has been steady throughout camp. Leonard Fournette hasn’t been bad, but he also hasn’t really done anything to win the starting job. And at the same time, we know these two are going to have a close snap share, so the term “starter” will likely be moot, anyway.
But this is still a starting position, so it’s important. Jones is still the better overall player and therefore, should get the first crack at a chance to produce. Fournette was great in the playoffs, but his regular season was not impressive outside of a couple of plays. It makes total sense for the Bucs to go with Jones based off the sample size he’s provided over the years.
Honorable Mention: Codey McElroy as TE4