Unit numbers are in line with last year’s team. Notable excursions, by position, a minus one for Safeties and RBs; plus ones for LB and TE.
DB: 11 (7 CB, 4 S)
DL: 9 (5 DE, 4 DT)
OL: 9 (1 C, 1 C/G, 2 G, 3 T, 2 G/T)
RB: 4 (3 RB, 1 FB)
PK, P, LS: 3
DB (11) Revis, Goldson, Barron, Banks, Johnson, Black, Gorrer, Tandy, Gaitor, Melvin, Carr
No brainers: Revis, Goldson, Barron start uncontested.
”Open” competition: Banks lands the off-island spot opposite Revis.
Regular rotators: Leonard Johnson is your nickelback. Ahmad Black starts the season as the 3-safety. Danny Gorrer is your Dime corner.
Upwardly mobile: Kieth Tandy is your regular special teamer and pushes Black for playing time.
Suits: Danny Gorrer suits up weekly, at the start, and is a regular on STs. He’s the first guy in at corner just ahead of Anthony Gaitor who really needs six consecutive games of availability to move up.
Civvies: Rashan Melvin and Deveron Carr both make the team. Melvin is ahead in this race, but it’s as water-tight as a frog’s bottom. Either could see regular reps on STs depending on the team and the desire for extra corner rotators.
Last men out: Michael Adams is a strong bubble candidate should Melvin or Carr fumble. Cody Grimm’s STs lifelines run out and the Bucs depart from their “keep the safeties” model to keep the more athletic Melvin & Carr. Nick Saenz goes to the practice squad and makes the team over Grimm, if we go with 5 safeties.
LB (6) David, Foster, Casillas, Watson, Hayward, Goode
No brainers: David, Foster start uncontested. Foster gets the nickel reps. David never leaves the field and keeps the green dot.
Open competition: Casillas wins the starter's job at SAM. Watson contends, but comes up short, remains an important rotator in 3-3-5.
Handy Manny: Hayward remains the everyman backup, STs phenom, and package player if Foster pukes in pass coverage. Don’t expect that to happen, and don’t expect Hayward to remain past next season.
Upwardly mobile: Najee Goode unseats Hayward in his role by mid to late season.
Last men out: Joe Holland will be hard to cut, but the six men above him make it unavoidable. He’ll stick around, regardless, on the PS and be a factor next season when either Watson or Casillas are no longer necessary for competition’s sake.
DL (9) McCoy, Clayborn, Bowers, Spence, Gibson, Landri, Te’o-Nesheim, Morgan, Gholston
No brainers: McCoy, Clayborn, Bowers start uncontested.
Open competition: Gary Gibson starts at NT if the season starts today. The season doesn’t start today, so that gives Akeem Spence a chance (somewhat less of a chance than you are hearing in the fish wraps) at upward mobility before the season gets going. Gibson is a technician and wins the starting role, but Spence is the fan favorite and may be the staff favorite. Spence has a lot to prove before opening day and if he’s even 80% of the way to playing assignment sound football, he’s your starter.
Regular rotators: Derek Landri rolls at both positions (DT & NT) and Te’o-Nesheim is the first guy off the bench for the ends.
Situational rotators: Aaron Morgan is your situational pass rusher. He’ll push DTN for the spot duty, but DTN is the first guy off the bench until Morgan learns contain and proves that he’s got something more than a wide-angle lens in his bag.
Civvies: Gholston provides an inside/out option, but that won’t be enough to land him a suit on an every week basis. Until he proves to have a pass rush move that can beat a 2nd tier OT, he rolls inactive from week to week.
Bubbles: These cuts won’t be hard when the time comes, but Neblett and Means provide a dilemma because there are so few folks to cut on this unit. Neblett doesn’t have the quicks or the strength to unseat Landri and Gibson, respectively. Means is uncooked meat. He can be Aaron Morgan in a year or so, but he’s a long way off and in danger of not even making the PS if he doesn’t adapt quickly.
OL (9) Zuttah, Joseph, Penn, Nicks, Dotson, Meredith, Carimi, Daniels, Wallace
No brainers: Zuttah, Joseph, Penn start uncontested. Zuttah is listed first for a reason. He’s the best guy at his position in that group. Joseph is a mauler, but you have to be on the field on a regular basis to qualify as best at your position. Penn is within two years of being a liability. I hope you read that, Donald. We like you better when you’re angry.
Infirmary: Let’s hope that Carl Nicks’ toe doesn’t lead to that. This is the injury I’m most concerned about.
”Open” competition: Dotson made his way into the starting lineup last season vanquishing Stone Shoes Trueblood. This season, he faces nearly the same guy in Gabe Carimi. Carimi makes this squad because, in a pinch, he can play guard. Dotson starts because the "pinch" for Chicago was that Carimi wasn’t a very good tackle.
Suits: Jamon Meredith wears a suit every week because he can play both OG and OT. He’s only a liability after a couple weeks of tape, so keep your fingers crossed.
Civvies: Cody Wallace makes it under the wire as the interior backup, Jace Daniels as the exterior. Both are multi-purpose guys, but both have a fairly limited upside.
Last men out: Ted Larsen goes away courtesy of Wallace and his inability to outmuscle the opposition. Adam Smith lands on the PS hoping to prove that he’s an adequate G/T guy. He lacks some athleticism and that keeps Jason Weaver in the wings as an OT candidate for the PS. Until the other teams make their cuts, of course, when all three of these guys are lucky to have a landing.
QB (2) Freeman, Glennon
No brainers: Freeman starts and Glennon is the backup.
Speed dial: Orlovsky will be a phone call away should Freeman go down. In the first half of the season, they won’t be ready to toss Glennon out there, but Glennon’s good enough (and Orlovsky expendable enough) to preclude an attempt to sneak Glennon out of camp.
RB (4) Martin, Lorig, Smith, James
No brainers: Martin and Lorig start uncontested.
Situational rotators: Michael Smith gets most of the work in TC as the backup. They aren’t settled at this position and if Smith falters, they’ll shop around. Smith has the ability to be effective, but he won’t be a regular rotator until Martin slows down or…
Civvies: Normally, guys like Mike James, don’t wind up in civvies. You only have a couple of RBs on your roster and normally they have other skills. Unless he proves he can mash, ala Earnest Graham on special teams, however, there’s just no room for wearing a suit on a regular basis. James sticks on the roster because there is zero behind him.
Bubbles: I can think of few other situations that would afford Brian Leonard a shot at the bubble. I can think of no situations that land him on this team, barring James being a complete boob and not being able to grasp an NFL offense. Demps and Matt Brown both wind up on the bubble because of their speed. If Demps gets in before mid-August he has a chance, otherwise, someone else will have stapled their names to the KR/PR duties. Brown is interesting, not only for his size, but also because he’s a firecracker. This guy is tough enough to make a stink. I personally hope he does because Eric Page could use some push and Demps isn’t a realistic alternative, at this point.
WR (5) Jackson, Williams, Ogletree, Underwood, Douglas
No brainers: Jackson and Williams start uncontested. The problems begin if we have to replace one of those two.
Open competition: Best battle in camp is Ogletree v. Underwood. Expect both guys to get reps depending on situation, personnel and color of opposing uniform. Ogletree wins the job because Underwood has a long history of fleeing reliability. Neither will be a true slot receiver (in the small, quick guy sense) because that isn’t what the Bucs are looking for. They are looking for guys who create matchup issues.
Last man on: Chris Owusu wins this spot, if he can go six weeks without injuring himself. The potential and physical ability is just too high. If he falters, even a little bit, or the Bucs decide they like the idea of reliable pass-catchers in the slot, David Douglas wins this thing going away. My money is on Douglas.
TE (3) Crabtree, Stocker, Byham
Situational rotators: That’s all there is at this position. Fishwraps (and national media) tell you not to be surprised if the Bucs make a move. Correct answer is, don’t be surprised if this unit is a platoon game. Crabtree, Stocker and Byham all make this team easily. None of those would be the first choice on any team in the NFL. That includes the Bucs and that’s why the guy who gets the most reps will be the guy who makes the most sense based on the situation.
Last man out: Danny Noble caused a stir last year in camp. He’s got rare pass catching ability and the speed to stretch the middle of the field. For a Buccaneer TE. Tim Wright is a very likely PS candidate having switched from WR to TE and Noble is a very likely high-hype candidate because he’s the only pass-catching threat at this position. Noble’s also available for the PS.
ST (4) Tynes, Koenen, Economos, Page
No brainers: Tynes and Economos start uncontested.
Looming drama: Michael Koenen has been content in his perch as the undisputed kickoff champion of the NFL. He signed a fat contract as the Bucs only meaningful FA acquisition of 2011. His 37.4 yard net punting average (26th in the league) isn’t all his fault, but if it doesn’t turn around, another number beginning with three will haunt him. That one is $3.5M/season. Chas Henry is in camp and he may be an option as early as this season.
Team focal point: I’m still in the camp that thinks Dave Wannstedt actually is here to coach the Special Teams. The unit was a disgrace last season and for a team with an 85% kicker (6 of 9 from 50+ and on par with Sebastian Janislobski) and the highest paid punter in the game, that’s decidedly NOT good. Enter a fleet of kick return candidates and Eric Page. He (and the others) are here to turn the corner on 20.3 Y/KR (30th in the league) and 9.0 Y/PR (19th). Page’s accolades include staying on the field (Owusu), showing up for camp (Demps), being a shade over 5’5” (Brown) and having been the most productive receiver in Toledo Rocket history.
The other end: The other end of special teams is being able to cover kicks. The Bucs couldn’t do that either last season (25.2 Y/KR-25th and 11.0 Y/PR-24th). That’s where meat in the middle of the roster comes in and that will decide more than one roster spot and account for strange numbers like 17 players being retained at DB and LB alone.
Source: Pre-camp roster breakdown