Ten battles to watch as Bucs finalize cut to 53
TAMPA -- In the next week, the Bucs will play their final two preseason games and cut their roster from 90 players to 75 on Tuesday and the final 53 on Aug. 30.
For conversation's sake, we'll say that 41 of those 53 jobs are spoken for -- play along with us -- and that leaves 10 position battles for the final 12 spots. Pick one from each, plus two wild cards, and you should be close to the Bucs' opening roster, though you could see a waiver pickup or two from other teams' final cuts.
1. KICKER: Connor Barth vs. Patrick Murray. Barth was superb in 2012 but missed last year with injury. Murray, an unheralded rookie who could pinch-hit as punter in case of injury, has impressed coaches since signing in January.
2. FIFTH RUNNING BACK: Jeff Demps vs. Jorvorskie Lane. It's speed vs. power -- Demps' sprinter skills are coveted, but Lane gives the Bucs a short-yardage back with good pass-catching ability as well. With Charles Sims' injury, both could make the cut.
3. SIXTH RECEIVER: Louis Murphy vs. Tommy Streeter vs. Russell Shepard. Losers here could easily land elsewhere in NFL -- Murphy gives you downfield speed, Streeter would be a third 6-5 receiver, and Shepard is a special-teams standout. This presumes rookie Solomon Patton keeps the return jobs.
4. BACKUP TACKLE: Kevin Pamphile vs. Jamon Meredith. The Bucs will dress a third tackle each week to backup both tackle spots -- is Pamphile safe as a fifth-round draft pick? Meredith, once a starting guard, is battling to stay on the 53.
5. BACKUP GUARD/CENTER: Jace Daniels vs. Jason Foster vs. Andrew Miller vs. Rishaw Johnson. We're presuming Patrick Omameh, Oniel Cousins and rookie Kadeem Edwards make the roster -- the arrival of Johnson via trade could complicate that. A team's seventh offensive linemen typically is the backup at center and guard, and all have shown that positional flexibility.
6. FIFTH DEFENSIVE END: Da'Quan Bowers vs. Larry English vs. Scott Solomon. If Steven Means is healthy, he should be the fourth end. Who's next? Bowers and English are former high-round draft picks, while Solomon would be the under-the-radar choice.
7. FOURTH DEFENSIVE TACKLE: Ronald Talley vs. Matt Masifilo vs. Euclid Cummings. Talley has gotten lots of second-team work, but there's no clear-cut leader here, so it's a spot where the Bucs could add a player off waivers from another team at the deadline.
8. SIXTH LINEBACKER: Ka'Lial Glaud vs. Damaso Munoz vs. Brandon Magee. Danny Lansanah should be the fifth LB, and Glaud has consistently worked as a second-team outside linebacker as well. Magee was making a push, but injured his foot in the last preseason game, which could take him out of the hunt. Another spot where Bucs might look for a waiver claim.
9. NINTH DEFENSIVE BACK: Danny Gorrer vs. Rashaan Melvin vs. Deveron Carr vs. Keith Lewis. Gorrer has the most experience and has stepped up during injuries at the position. Melvin's been slowed by an ankle but has the size Bucs coaches want in the secondary.
10. TENTH DEFENSIVE BACK: Bradley McDougald vs. Quinton Pointer. Both are heavily involved on special teams -- Pointer is the only backup at nickel, which could help him, while McDougald would be the fifth safety if he made it.
(Here are the 41 players we're speculating are in above these battles: QBs McCown, Glennon; RBs Martin, Rainey, James, Sims (whose injury may open a spot after final cuts); WRs Jackson, Evans, Owusu, Herron; TEs Seferian-Jenkins, Myers, Wright, Stocker; Ts Collins, Dotson; Gs Omameh, Edwards, Cousins; C Dietrich-Smith; DEs Johnson, Clayborn, Gholston, Means; DTs McCoy, McDonald, Spence; LBs David, Foster, Casillas, Fletcher; CBs Verner, Banks, Jenkins; S Barron, Goldson, Wright, Tandy; NB Johnson; P Koenen, LS Cain.)
Disagree with our thoughts? Tell us who you'd keep and who you'd let go ...