It’s hard to believe the 2020 NFL season is now exactly only one month from kicking off. With training camps beginning around the league, we take a look at some of the most intriguing positional battles we will see and ultimately make our prediction for the Buc’s final 53-man roster.
Tom Brady, Blaine Gabbert & Ryan Griffin
While the majority of NFL teams typically do not roster three quarterbacks, I expect the Bucs to do so this season. With Tom Brady now in Tampa Bay, he is obviously the guy but behind him, either of these two guys could ultimately serve as his backup. Gabbert is the more experienced of the two and was set to be Jameis Winston’s backup a season ago prior to losing his season to injury. Griffin on the other hand took full advantage of his opportunity in leading the NFL in yards and touchdowns over the course of the preseason.
Ronald Jones II, Ke’Shawn Vaughn, LeSean McCoy, Dare Ogunbowale & Raymond Calais
The Bucs have already come out and announced Jones will be the featured back and everybody else will be competing for playing time. After spending a third-round pick on Vaughn, I expect him to see some work. The addition of LeSean McCoy really shook up this group and it will be interesting to see how the six-time Pro Bowler is used. Ogunbowale will likely spend most of his snaps on special teams but could see some work on passing downs. The final spot will likely come down to a return-man competition between Calais and T.J. Logan.
Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Tyler Johnson, Scotty Miller, Justin Watson & Bryant Mitchell
The tandem of Evans and Godwin is as good as any in the league and will more than likely spend almost every snap on the field. The third receiving spot is still up for grabs but I give a slight edge to the rookie Johnson. My high expectations for him have been well documented, but with Godwin spending a lot of time in the slot he gives them another outside receiving threat. That is nothing against Miller who I could very well see having a breakout year with Brady under center. Watson should play primarily on special teams and despite an injury last year, the Bucs resigned Mitchell so they must have hopes for him.
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Rob Gronkowski, OJ Howard, Cam Brate & Anthony Auclair
Whoever would’ve thought Gronk would be back playing football this season, let alone in a Buc jersey. Tampa Bay now possesses as good and as deep of a tight end group as any team in the league. Hopefully, this is the year Howard finally lives up to his first-round draft pick. Brate should his consistent production, particularly in the red zone. The final spot between Auclair and Tanner Hudson will be close but Auclair is the better blocker of the two.
Donovan Smith, Ali Marpet, Ryan Jensen, Alex Cappa, Tristan Wirfs, Joe Haeg, Josh Wells, Zack Bailey & John Molchon
There is not much discrepancy as to who the starting offensive line will be, aside from the chance that Smith holds out this season. If that is the case that would obviously shake things up. Haeg was an offseason addition who provides depth and has the versatility to play all across the line. Wells provides depth at tackle while Bailey does the same on the interior. Molchon was an undrafted free agent but could steal the last spot at this position.
Vita Vea, Ndamukong Suh, William Gholston, Rakeem Nunez-Roches & Khalil Davis
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Vea seems to get better every season in the NFL and will anchor this defense again. Suh signed a one year contract to return to Tampa despite some expecting otherwise. Gholston should once again provide a strong presence, particularly against the run. Nunez-Roches gives this unit some great depth as should Davis, the Nebraska rookie who idolizes Suh.
Shaq Barrett, Jason Pierre-Paul, Anthony Nelson & Michael Divinity Jr.
This group is lead by the returning NFL sack leader in Barrett whom the Bucs franchise tagged. Pierre-Paul, fresh off a new deal, should once again provide the pass rush opposite of him. Anthony Nelson is the guy that is expected to replace the production lost with the departure of Carl Nassib. Divinity is another undrafted free agent who should make the cut.
Lavonte David, Devin White, Anthony Minter, Jack Cichy & Chapelle Russell
The tandem of David and White is as good as any tandem of inside linebackers this league has to offer. David has been one of the more underrated players in football for years but should now finally garner the attention he deserves. Minter is a terrific special teams player and a healthy Cichy should serve a similar role. Russell is a risky player due to his injury history but if he can remain healthy the upside is there for him to easily make the team.
Carlton Davis, Jamel Dean, Sean Murphy-Bunting, Ryan Smith & Mazzi Wilkins
The Bucs possess one of the youngest secondaries in the NFL but one that continues to improve every season. Davis, Dean and Murphy-Bunting form a promising young trio and will likely get the majority of snaps. Smith who was once a guy who it seemed was getting torched on a weekly basis, has found a great niche on special teams. After cutting former second-round pick M.J. Stewart, Wilkins should be the guy to fill that final positional spot.
Jordan Whitehead, Mike Edwards, Andrew Adams & Antoine Winfield Jr.
The health of Justin Evans remains a major question mark and the question, if he’ll ever return to the field for the Bucs, looks uncertain. Whitehead and Edwards both showed some encouraging signs and Adams provides a veteran presence to the group. Winfield, who they selected in the second round, should see a lot of playing time right away in this defense.
Bradley Pinion, Matt Gay & Zach Triner
The only real discussion to be had here is over the kicking competition between Gay and Elliott Fry. We have seen this over the last couple of seasons and I still expect Gay to end up being the guy and it would be a surprise to me if the Bucs ultimately kept two kickers.