Tough decisions looms before Saturday's cuts
Bucs coach Greg Schiano said it'll be a long next couple days as they try to make their final cuts to put together their 53-man roster by Saturday night.
What players become available from other teams could play into that, but Schiano said he likes the players he has to pick from. It's just a matter of getting it done.
Here are some interesting - and tough - decisions the Bucs will have to make in the next 24 hours.
*Who's the kicker?
K Derek Dimke had impressed earlier in camp, taking over the position by default as veteran Lawrence Tynes was sidelined with an ingrown toenail (and then MRSA). He hit his first five field goals in the preseason, taking the advantage of his opportunities. But with Dimke still unproven, going undrafted in 2012 out of Illinois and having never kicked in a regular season game, the Bucs signed veteran Rian Lindell last week to provide another look.
Lindell, the most accurate kicker in Bills history, boasts plenty of experience. And Lindell looked good Thursday night, including making a 50-yard field goal. Dimke missed an extra point Thursday, but also hit a 30-yarder.
The question remains whether the Bucs want to go for experience in Lindell, or the young Dimke, who they can grow and develop (while Connor Barth recovers from season-ending surgery).
*Who backs up Martin?
Everyone knows RB Doug Martin is the Bucs lead back, the Pro Bowler likely to carry a large load again. But one of the more intriguing competitions in camp has been for the backup spot, with veterans like Brian Leonard and Peyton Hillis battling the likes of rookie Mike James.
Looks like Leonard has the edge so far for the spot, having shown versatility - blocking, running, receiving - plus the ability to play some fullback. Both Hillis (ankle) and James (eye) were injured Thursday night, though neither seems to be serious. The Bucs will probably decide to keep several backs, especially if they could be used on special teams, too, but Leonard seems like the only sure bet right now.
*How many receivers stick?
WRs Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams will be the Bucs primary threats. There was a battle in camp over the third receiver spot, with Kevin Ogletree and Tiquan Underwood the primary candidates. Would seem as though Ogletree has the edge, but it'll be interesting to see how many receivers are kept on the roster.
One roster spot will likely go to WR Eric Page, who continued to solidify his spot as kick/punt returner with another strong performance Thursday night. WR Chris Owusu made a lot of plays in practices, but didn't have a ton in the exhibition games.
*On the corner
The secondary depth took a decent hit with Anthony Gaitor having to go on injured reserve, and Danny Gorrer undergoing groin surgery. The Bucs expect Darrelle Revis will be able to start Week 1, and rookie Johnthan Banks has looked like he belongs - he might even start opposite of Revis.
The injuries to Gaitor and Gorrer were likely to open doors for Rashaan Melvin, an undrafted rookie who got his hands on a lot of balls in camp. But Melvin suffered a hamstring injury Thursday and those are always nagging. CB Mason Robinson, whom Schiano knows from Rutgers, got some action Thursday, even at running back. The Bucs could also take a look at who gets lost in the roster shuffle on other teams this weekend, too.
*On the line
With Pro Bowl guard Carl Nicks still dealing with MRSA, it calls into question whether he'll be ready for Week 1. The Bucs do have a lot of depth on the line, and they needed it last season, when both Nicks and Davin Joseph got hurt. Gabe Carimi started again at left guard Thursday and is an option to replace Nicks. But the Bucs will have to choose from which of their backup linemen to keep on their 53-man roster, with Ted Larsen, Cody Wallace, Jamon Meredith, Mike Remmers, etc.