Four practices into Bucs training camp, position battles are emerging all over the field, both for starting jobs and roster spots, and one of the most wide-open is the battle for Tampa Bay's last linebacker jobs.
Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander are every-down players, and Kendell Beckwith and Adarius Taylor have established themselves as the top options for the strongside job, as well as backing up the other two.
In writing on Taylor last week, we talked to linebackers coach Mark Duffner, and he talked about the strong group of candidates behind those four competing for the last spot or two on the 53-man roster.
"So far, we've been pleased with Devante Bond," Duffner said of the third-year pro who led the Bucs with 10 special-teams tackles last year. "He's a guy right now that's really working hard and trying to stay healthy, and that's going to be one of his main objectives.
The next two names he mentioned are both young players — Riley Bullough ( a fan favorite from 'Hard Knocks')spent most of last year on the practice squad, playing in the final three games, and also right in the mix is sixth-round rookie Jack Cichy from Wisconsin.
"Riley Bullough's come on and continues to have a get-better attitude every single day," Duffner said. "Jack Cichy I've been impressed with. He's playing two spots right now training for us, so he's also a guy that brings versatility and production to the position. I'm pleased with the group overall. I think everyone is anxious to take a step forward but those guys kind of stick out right now."
The group also includes Cameron Lynch, who had five tackles last year and another three with the Rams before re-signing with the Bucs, as well as former Hillsborough and USF linebacker Nigel Harris, who joined the Bucs for last year's season finale after getting 12 tackles with the Chargers and Giants as a rookie. Rounding out the group is Eric Nzeocha, who spent last season on the practice squad on an international exemption, and undrafted rookie Shaheed Salmon, a Land O'Lakes High graduate.
Those last linebacker spots provide depth on defense, but more immediately, they line up with the top tacklers on coverage units on special teams.