LANDOVER, Md. — The past two years, the Bucs have kept practically their full draft classes on the final roster. But with final cuts looming at 4 p.m. Saturday, the Bucs appear a lot less likely to do so this year.
With S Ahmad Black, a fifth-round pick, missing Thursday's preseason finale at Washington, it seems his odds of remaining on the active roster are slim, at best. Coach Raheem Morris suggested this week "it would be tough" for Black to stick around without playing during the preseason.
Black suffered a high ankle sprain in the opener and hasn't played since. He did not return to practice until this week. The former Florida standout is a candidate for the practice squad if he doesn't make the final roster. He would have to clear waivers.
Another rookie in jeopardy is RB Allen Bradford, who entered the game late in the first quarter but did not distinguish himself. The sixth-round pick finished with six carries for 8 yards. He finds himself in a logjam at running back, where the Bucs have LeGarrette Blount, Kregg Lumpkin and Earnest Graham. Erik Lorig is expected to take on the fullback duties for Graham, who will move to tailback.
Another rookie on the bubble is Daniel Hardy, though his odds appear better than Black's and Bradford's. The seventh-round pick from Idaho is fighting for the final tight end spot as the Bucs are expected to keep three.
The first two spots will be occupied by Kellen Winslow and fourth-round pick Luke Stocker.
In 2009 and 2010, the Bucs' rookie classes had great fortune. Outside of OL Xavier Fulton (placed on injured reserve in 2009) and P Brent Bowden (released a few days after final cuts in 2010), the Bucs have gone out of their way to keep their rookies.
LORIG LIGHT ON FEET: Lorig, who a year ago was converted from defensive end, added another layer to his game Thursday, catching two passes for 16 yards apiece on consecutive drives in the third quarter.
The Bucs are unlikely to run the ball using the fullback, but they have plays that call for the fullback to be a receiver out of the backfield.
If Lorig can prove capable of being a weapon in that respect — he showed athleticism and speed against the Redskins — it gives opponents something that must be considered.
Last season, when he was a part-time fullback, Lorig caught one pass for 10 yards.
REMEMBER THIS NAME: The Bucs don't have a place for two kickers on their roster, but keep an eye on Jacob Rogers.
The undrafted free agent out of Cincinnati has impressed coaches. Thursday, he nailed a 49-yard field goal in the third quarter and a 21-yarder in the fourth, this while handling punting duties.
Rogers almost certainly won't take Connor Barth's place on the roster, but it's possible the Bucs could invite him to join the practice squad. If so, Rogers would be capable of filling in for Barth and P Michael Koenen.
GAITOR LOOKING GOOD: One of Morris' favorites this preseason has been rookie CB Anthony Gaitor, a seventh-round pick from Florida International who had another couple of big plays Thursday.
One highlighted the reason Morris has been so high on Gaitor. Lined up in the slot, Gaitor burst through a gap to take down RB Ryan Torain for a 2-yard loss in the sort of aggressive play he has made throughout the preseason.
Earlier this week, Gaitor said, "I feel like every time I went out there (in the preseason), I went out there playing fast and playing hard and making a statement."