Todd Bowles is holding his first offseason program as the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This is a chance for the players to get a feel for the new leadership style and any changes that are being made. For Bowles, it’s a chance to evaluate his players through this new lens.
These organized team activities are more important for some players than others. Young players who need to establish themselves. Veterans players trying to show what they have left. And the always popular fringe roster players who are fighting for a job. This year there are a few big names (in terms of fringe roster players) who are trying to cling to their job. Here are three who should be feeling the heat.
3) Tyler Johnson
We will always remember Tyler Johnson’s big third down fingertip catch against the Saints in the playoffs as well as the defensive pass interference he drew in the NFC championship game vs the Packers. However, beyond that he has had a fairly forgettable career. Johnson has failed to establish himself in Tampa Bay, despite getting ample opportunity last season.
It’s no secret that the Buccaneers are looking to improve their receiver depth after their top three. This puts Johnson in a competition with guys like Scotty Miller, Breshad Perriman, Jealon Darden and many more. With Johnson lacking the speed of guys like Miller and Perriman or the return ability (allegedly) of Darden, it’s really easy to see him on the outside looking in.
If I had to guess today, Johnson will be cut before the season starts. If he has any intention of changing that perception then it needs to start in OTA’s.
2) Ke’Shawn Vaughn
When the team has already drafted your replacement, it’s no surprise that you are on the hot seat. The Buccaneers drafted running back Rachaad White in the third round of last month’s draft. This looks like an open competition behind starter Leonard Fournette. With Giovani Bernard as the established pass catcher of the group, it looks like Vaughn and White will compete for playing time.
Vaughn hasn’t really shown any particular skill set that leads me to believe he can beat out White. He hasn’t been particularly impressive as a ball carrier and even less so as a pass catcher. White still has a lot to prove, but he hung his hat on catching the ball in college. This is why the Bucs invested an early pick in White and why Vaughn can start dusting off his resume.
1) Sean Murphy-Bunting
While Sean Murphy-Bunting isn’t in danger of being cut like the first two names on this list, he is in danger of losing his job. He has been the starting nickel corner for the last few seasons with mixed results. His highs have been great, but his lows have made him a liability at times.
As a result, the Bucs brought in veteran defensive back Logan Ryan this offseason. Ryan has experience at corner and safety, but more than anything he plays the nickel position. This will be an interesting battle to watch and Murphy-Bunting could realistically win this job. However, the fact that a veteran has been brought in to challenge him for this spot doesn’t look good for his long term future. Murphy-Bunting’s seat might not be scolding hot yet, but it’s got to be feeling pretty warm.
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