Bucs unveil first depth chart in advance of Eagles game
With the Bucs' preseason opener at Philadelphia now just five days and two practice days away, the Bucs have released their first unofficial depth chart -- yes, it's from the team, but labeled as unofficial -- that shows the high level of competition for jobs on both sides of the ball.
You can check out the depth chart -- here's the offense, defense and special teams -- and keep in mind it's only a snapshot and intended for public perusal, so they're telling us what they want us to know. But a few observations:
-- Only two jobs are so close that they have "or" status, with no player listed above the other -- center is listed as "Joe Hawley or Evan Smith" and punter is listed as "Jacob Schum or Bryan Anger." Both jobs are up for grabs, though Hawley has more regularly worked with the first team, and the Bucs paid Anger considerably more as a free agent despite having Schum back from last season.
-- As expected, Cameron Brate is ahead of Austin Seferian-Jenkins at tight end. The depth chart is authentic -- 11 slots on offense and defense -- and shows two tight ends, with Luke Stocker and Danny Vitale in the other slot. That could speak to a ton of 2-WR, 2-TE looks, though usually a 3-WR, 1-TE look is more common as a base formation.
-- Newcomer Jonathan Krause is listed among the top eight receivers, and Russell Shepard (who's earned his keep on special teams) is not, so again, it's a wide-open competition for five or six WR jobs on the final roster, and this is before Louis Murphy comes back from injury.
-- The Bucs still lack depth at DT -- the fourth DT is Cliff Matthews, ahead of A.J. Francis and rookies Travis Britz and Davonte Lambert. DE Robert Ayers consistently lines up as a first-string DT in the nickel package, and he and Will Gholston are listed as the top DEs, with Noah Spence and Jacquies Smith.
-- Backup linebacker will be a heated competition -- draft pick Devante Bond, rookie Luke Rhodes and veteran Adarius Glanton are the current second-string three, ahead of returning linebackers Josh Keyes and Jeremiah George and rookie Micah Awe, who got a shoutout from Mike Smith on Saturday.
-- As expected, Jude Adjei-Barimah is among the top four corners, ahead of veterans Johnthan Banks and Josh Robinson. At safety, veteran Major Wright is still listed ahead of rookie Ryan Smith -- those two should have a strong competition for the fourth and potentially final safety job.
-- There's news at kickoff return, where the Bucs list Kenny Bell first, ahead of Ryan Smith and receiver Bernard Reedy. Grabbing a return job would seal Bell's spot on the final roster -- there are so many backup receivers playing well that any way to get on the roster is important right now. Adam Humphries, as Dirk Koetter mentioned, will have the first look on punt returns.