With just over a week until the Tampa Bay Buccaneers take the field at training camp, the conversation about who will make this team becomes ever so important. Unlike 2021, the Bucs experienced some turnover at some crucial positions this offseason, leaving some room for interpretation about how the team will look to fill the voids.
Jason Licht and co. have, seemingly, done a great job again filling this team with the best talent it can find given the cap situation and surprise retirements the team faced. With key additions in free agency and the draft, the team will have a slightly different look this year than in the last two seasons.
The same cast of characters that it has been, so there should be no shockers here. The only thing that should concern Bucs’ fans is that Kyle Trask has yet to lock up the backup job. Todd Bowles has said that he will have the chance to compete for it in training camp. Hopefully, he can make some strides and solidify his role as the backup quarterback of this team.
Last year, the Buccaneers had six running backs on the roster during the season. The only differences this year being Ronald Jones and Le’Veon Bell leaving, and Rachaad White coming in. Expect five running backs to make the team, and for White to step into the backup role behind Leonard Fournette. Taking over the spot Ronald Jones left behind when he was not re-signed. White, the team’s third-round pick out of Arizona State, should be in line for a good amount of touches as a rookie and will be someone that a lot of fans will be watching closely.
The wide receiver room is very crowded. There are thirteen receivers currently on the roster, meaning there will be, probably, five fewer receivers by the time the season rolls around. The team ran between eight and ten receivers last year and will likely enter the season with similar numbers. Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Russell Gage, Breshad Perriman, Scotty Miller, Jaelon Darden, Cyril Grayson and Tyler Johnson are the most likely candidates to make the 53-man roster. However, Tyler Johnson is most likely to be on the bubble as he ended last season on a disappointing note. The camp battle for the eighth receiver spot will be one to keep an eye on.
The retirement of Rob Gronkowski was a big blow for this team. Gronkowski did it all for this team and filling the void he left is not going to happen. The team can try to simulate all he did with multiple tight ends, but it will not be the same. Cameron Brate will be a reliable receiver, but it might take some time for the rookies to adjust. Cade Otton, the team’s fourth-round pick this year, will have a big role this year as he will be asked to both block and catch. Coming off a big injury, Otton might have a slow start, but should be able to grow into a reliable player on this team. The Bucs’ seventh-round pick, Ko Kieft, might have been the best blocking tight end in the draft and should provide consistent blocking performances. Howland and McElroy are purely for depth.
The depth at offensive tackle was the big issue with this unit last year. When Tristan Wirfs got hurt in the playoff game against the Eagles, the problems reared their ugly heads. So, the team went out and signed Fred Johnson and brought in four tryout players. Wirfs, Donovan Smith, Josh Wells and Johnson are locks for the roster, so the real battle will be for other depth spots.
Interior Offensive Line
The Buccaneers’ interior line lost the most talent this offseason, as Ali Marpet retired and Alex Cappa signed with the Bengals in free agency. However, Licht went out and acquired Shaq Mason from the New England Patriots for a fifth-round pick, and drafted Luke Goedeke in the second round in this year’s draft. Mason and Ryan Jensen are seasoned veterans who both have built a rapport with Tom Brady; all eyes will be on Luke Goedeke, the self-proclaimed “glass eater.” As depth stands, Aaron Stinnie and Robert Hainsey are roster locks. Nick Leverett and John Molchon were on the team last year and know the system, but Sadarius Hutcherson has a chance to break into the 53-man roster this year.
Interior Defensive Line
The interior defensive line is mostly the same, just substitute Ndamukong with Akiem Hicks and add Logan Hall. Expect the team to keep it roughly the same as well. Vita Vea, Will Gholston and Hicks will be the starters, with Logan Hall getting plenty of snaps. Patrick O’Connor and Rakeem Nunez-Roches will get backup snaps and camp performances will determine depth. Benning Potoa’e was on the roster last season, so he might have a leg up on the competition.
The Buccaneers did not re-sign Jason Pierre-Paul this offseason, which means Joe Tryon-Shoyinka will step into a full-time role and we will be able to see what he is really capable of. Shaq Barrett retains his role and will most likely be this team’s most productive edge rusher, once again. Anthony Nelson and Cam Gill have the backup positions locked up. Anything else is purely for depth at this point.
The Buccaneers’ linebacker room has been set ever since the team drafted Devin White. White and Lavonte David are your starters, K.J. Britt is the backup, Grant Stuard is probably the team’s best punt gunner and JoJo Ozougwu and young provide depth. The only turnover that happened in this room was the departure of backup Kevin Minter, which is not a very big blow and was not the hardest role to fill for this team.
The starting outside cornerbacks will remain constant, as Carlton Davis and Jamel Dean will play those positions. Slot corner will be a battle between Sean Murphy-Bunting and Logan Ryan, the safety. Ross Cockrell, Dee Delaney and rookie Zyon McCollum will be the backups, with the rest battling in camp for depth spots on the roster.
Antoine Winfield Jr. will be on the field for every play. Mike Edwards and Keanu Neal will be substituting all game depending on the defense the team will be running. Edwards and Neal will be on and off for each other, and then Ryan will be on and off with Sean Murphy-Bunting as the nickel corners. The loss of Jordan Whitehead was tough, but Keanu Neal is an experienced strong safety. Logan Ryan is a key addition to hopefully add some more consistency to the secondary, particularly the nickel position.
For the most part, the Buccaneers roster is the same as last year. However, turnover at some positions leads to camp battles and new additions that make this an interesting training camp. When the final 53-man roster is revealed, we will compare this article with what the team actually does.
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