Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs opening lineup includes much competition

TAMPA — Though the depth chart the Bucs released this week is subject to change, coach Greg Schiano acknowledged Wednesday that it's a pretty good indication of what they're thinking for Sunday's season opener at the Jets.

That means DE Daniel Te'o-Nesheim is likely to start over Da'Quan Bowers, CB Leonard Johnson ahead of rookie Johnthan Banks, SLB Dekoda Watson instead of Jonathan Casillas and rookie DT Akeem Spence at tilted nose tackle. But as Schiano said, all will play.

And all of the positions aren't set in stone.

"My ultimate goal is not to be the second-team end. It's to be the starting end," Bowers said. "So every way that's possible, (Schiano) is pushing me. It's my job to take it in stride and get better. So if that's his way of pushing me, I acknowledge that and I'm trying to do something about it."

Schiano has challenged Bowers, both publicly and privately, to become an every-down defensive end since the Bucs let veteran DE Michael Bennett depart in the offseason. Bowers said it hasn't been easy, and still isn't, but he has made strides in his first full training camp. Schiano believes Bowers can be an impact player on every down, including Sunday.

"I owe it to this organization to be that guy that can play at any down and play anywhere," Bowers said. "And not just play, but be dominant."

Bowers believes the defensive line can be dominant this season. That group includes Te'o-Nesheim, who believes he still has a lot to prove.

"I haven't done enough to think of myself as a guy that deserves a spot and not to work for it," said Te'o-Nesheim who had four sacks in 2012.

Johnson and Banks are expected to get a lot of action at the corner opposite Darrelle Revis as the Jets likely will pick on them as opposed to the All-Pro.

"This is a huge opportunity," said Johnson, a Clearwater native. "We just have to capitalize on those plays when they come."

NICK OF TIME? While it seems unlikely that LG Carl Nicks will play Sunday, Schiano insisted he has not been ruled out. Nicks hasn't practiced since Aug. 15, just before he was diagnosed with MRSA, a serious staph infection, on his left foot. He wasn't out there Wednesday. Gabe Carimi took reps with the first team. But Schiano said Nicks has enough experience not to need a lot of practice time to play. "Certainly he'd be better if he had a lot of practice," Schiano said. "But he doesn't need to do that much."

More injuries: FB Erik Lorig (calf) was limited in practice along with RB Mike James (eye). CB Rashaan Melvin (hamstring) and TE Tom Crabtree (ankle) did not practice.

HIGH PRAISE: Jets coach Rex Ryan on Bucs RB Doug Martin: "Big, strong. He's not the tallest, but he's 220 pounds, 225 pounds, runs hard, complete back. So obviously there's no picnic right there going against that young man."

Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected]

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