TAMPA — After six weeks of training camp and four preseason games, Bucs coach Dirk Koetter still doesn't know what to expect.
"None of us really know how this group of 53 guys is going to come together and how we're going to play this season," Koetter said. "There's been a lot of talk. A ton of talk. But the talking is done, and it's time for us to earn it."
Koetter said the preseason is tough to navigate because of trying to balance the No. 1 goal of keeping players healthy for the Sept. 10 regular-season opener against the Dolphins with evaluating talent and not wanting to reveal too much.
"It's just counterintuitive because you want to put on a good show, you want to put a good product out there, but at the same time, you're fighting back playing your best players, you're fighting back showing schemes you don't want to show," he said. "I don't enjoy that part of it. I love practice. … I love having 90 guys. I love seeing new guys, and there's new players every year that show up and surprise you.
"We just don't know what this team will do. You're adding pieces and drafting guys and you think you're putting guys in the right spots, but there's inner workings in that locker room that you're not sure of."
Here come the cuts
Beginning the process of trimming their roster to 53 players, the Bucs announced four moves Friday, with an additional eight confirmed by the Tampa Bay Times.
Backup defensive linemen DaVonte Lambert and Stevie Tu'ikolovatu (near right) will go on season-ending injured reserve. Lambert, in his second year, dislocated a wrist last Saturday against the Browns. Tu'ikolovatu, a seventh-round draft pick in April, injured the MCL and meniscus in his right knee. Both will remain under contract with a chance to compete for roster spots next year. The Bucs also announced they were releasing DE George Johnson, due to make $2.25 million this season as a backup, and Andrew DePaola, the long snapper for the past three seasons. Veteran Garrison Sanborn was signed to handle snaps.
The Bucs will announce another 33 moves today, but the Times confirmed eight who will be waived: WR Shaq Hill, DL Mehdi Abdesmad, OL Josh Allen, TE Tevin Westbrook, LB Richie Browns, CB Mariel Cooper and K Zach Hocker. QB Sefo Liufau is being waived with a minor knee injury and will negotiate a settlement.
The injuries to Lambert and Tu'ikolovatu affect the defensive-line depth. Sealver Siliga (near left) is most likely to be the No. 4 defensive tackle. Lambert's injury and Johnson's release could put a newcomer such as Tavaris Barnes or Sterling Bailey on the roster as a final defensive end.
Coach Dirk Koetter said DE Jacquies Smith, who aggravated a knee injury before training camp, is a candidate for the physically unable to perform list, which means he couldn't return until after Week 6. The Bucs are weighing their options.
About the competition for the fifth receiver: Donteea Dye missed 21/2 weeks and had fresh legs. Bernard Reedy was consistent but is a situational player as a kick returner who has to play in the slot. Freddie Martino was a jack of all trades, playing on nearly every special teams unit. He also has a fan in Koetter after playing for him in Atlanta for two seasons.