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Breaking down the Bucs 2019 roster

We analyze how each unit shapes up as Tampa Bay prepares for training camp.
We know Jameis Winston will be the leader of the offense, but how is the rest of the Bucs roster shaping up as training camp approaches? (Times, 2018)
Published Jul. 18
Updated Jul. 19

A lot of things can happen over the course of training camp and the preseason.

Rookies and new players emerge. Some veterans decline. Others no longer fit the scheme.

So count on change as the Bucs begin training next week — rookies report to the team’s Advent Health Training Center on Sunday, the full 90-man squad takes the field on June 26 — especially with a new coaching staff under Bruce Arians.

Nonetheless, the Bucs have a pretty solid core of starters on offense led by quarterback Jameis Winston, Mike Evans and O.J. Howard.

There are players who need to make an impact early (Ronald Jones) and some the Bucs will keep in bubble wrap a little bit in the preseason as they heal up from injuries (Cameron Brate, Justin Evans). There are comeback players (Vernon Hargreaves, Noah Spence) and some who may not make it back at all (Jason Pierre-Paul).

Remember this: no position is set in stone. Arians and GM Jason Licht want to keep the best 53 players. So if the sixth receiver is better than the fourth tight end, well, you carry three tight ends.

Here then is a breakdown of the Bucs training camp roster with projected starters, players who need a big year and others to keep a close eye on. The number of players the team expects to keep for each unit is in parentheses.

The Quarterbacks (2)

Quarterback Blaine Gabbert will have to fend off a challenge from Ryan Griffin to win the job backing up Jameis Winston. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Name Pos. Ht./Wt. Age Exp College
Nick Fitzgerald QB 6-5/226 23 R Mississippi State
Blaine Gabbert QB 6-4/235 29 9 Missouri
Ryan Griffin QB 6-5/210 29 6 Tulane
Jameis Winston QB 6-4/231 25 5 Florida State

PROJECTED STARTER: Jameis Winston. Playing under his fifth-year club option at $20.9-million, Winston will have no competition for the starting spot after the team failed to re-sign Ryan Fitzpatrick, replacing him with perennial No. 2 QB Blaine Gabbert.

BIG YEAR FOR: Winston has his last best chance to prove he is the Bucs quarterback beyond 2019. Arians is a self-proclaimed quarterback whisperer who will try to cut down on Winston’s turnovers. If he stays healthy and makes good decisions with the football, an enormous extension or franchise tag may be warranted. If not, he’ll be looking for a new team and following the path of former Bucs Doug Williams, Steve Young, Vinny Testaverde and Trent Dilfer.

KEEP AN EYE ON: Ryan Griffin. After six seasons he still is looking for his first regular-season snap. Arians’ guy is Gabbert, who has gone 4-4 over his past eight starts with the Cardinals and Titans. Griffin has to light it up in practice and preseason games.

The Running Backs (4)

The bruising style of Bucs running back Peyton Barber expects to be a key for the team in 2018. TIMES (2018)
Name Pos. Ht./Wt. Age Exp College
Bruce Anderson RB 5-11/210 22 R North Dakota State
Peyton Barber RB 5-11/225 25 4 Auburn
Andre Ellington RB 5-9/200 30 6 Clemson
Ronald Jones RB 5-11/208 21 2 USC
Dare Ogunbowale RB 5-10/205 25 1 Wisconsin

PROJECTED STARTER: Peyton Barber. The third-year pro from Auburn led the Bucs in rushing last year and was 19th in the NFL with 871 yards and five touchdowns. He does a decent job as a receiving and had 20 catches for 92 yards. But Barber is mostly an inside runner with limited breakaway speed.

BIG YEAR FOR: Ronald Jones. The Bucs second-round pick in 2018 is trying to rebound from a miserable rookie year in which he rushed for only 44 yards. He’s up to 221 pounds from 208 and says he wants to lead the team in rushing. He’s improved as a receiver but another bad season and he could be considered one of the team’s biggest busts.

KEEP AN EYE ON: Bruce Anderson. The undrafted Newsome High and North Dakota State star could be the diamond in the rough Arians is looking for. He compiled nearly 1,400 yards as a junior and senior, has excellent hands and can help a kick returner or cover kicks. He likely will have to beat out veteran Andre Ellington.

The Receivers (5-6)

Bucs wide receiver Chris Godwin (12) expects to move into a starting role in 2019. DIRK SHADD | Times
Name Pos. Ht./Wt. Age Exp College
K.J. Brent WR 6-3/202 25 1 Wake Forest
Mike Evans WR 6-5/231 25 6 Texas A&M
Chris Godwin WR 6-1/209 23 3 Penn State
Anthony Johnson WR 6-2/209 23 R Buffalo
DeMarkus Lodge WR 6-2/202 22 R Mississippi
Scotty Miller WR 5-11/174 21 R Bowling Green
Bryant Mitchell WR 6-2/198 26 R Northwestern State
Breshad Perriman WR 6-2/215 25 5 UCF
Spencer Schnell WR 5-8/178 24 R Illinois State
Cortrelle Simpson WR 5-11/193 22 R Richmond
Xavier Ubosi WR 6-3/215 25 R UAB
Justin Watson WR 6-3/215 24 2 Penn
Bobo Wilson WR 5-9/186 24 1 FSU

PROJECTED STARTERS: Mike Evans and Chris Godwin should make a dynamic and versatile tandem. Evans is one of only three players to have five straight 1,000-yard receiving seasons to start a career. He will draw most of the attention from the defense, leaving Godwin to work outside and in the slot. Arians believes Godwin can produce 100 catches. He had a late-season slump with only three catches on 19 targets.

BIG YEAR FOR: Breshad Perriman. The oft-injured former Central Florida star has elite speed and will be needed to help stretch the field for Winston. He averaged 21.3 yards per catch in 10 games last season.

KEEP AN EYE ON: Scotty Miller wears No. 10, but the speedy sixth-round pick from Bowling Green is closer to DeSean Jackson than Adam Humphries. Arians’ offense requires a bigger body in the slot but Miller could make it on special teams.

The Tight Ends (3-4)

Bucs tight end Cameron Brate hopes to bounce back from an injury-plagued 2018 season. MONICA HERNDON | Times
Name Pos. Ht/Wt. Age Exp College
Antony Auclair TE 6-6/256 26 3 Laval
Cameron Brate TE 6-5/245 28 5 Harvard
Donnie Ernsberger TE 6-2/237 22 1 Western Michigan
O.J. Howard TE 6-6/251 24 3 Alabama
Tanner Hudson TE 6-5/239 24 1 Southern Arkansas
Jordan Leggett TE 6-5/258 24 3 Clemson

PROJECTED STARTER: O.J. Howard. Ankle injuries shortened each of his first two seasons but Howard is an enormous talent who can run, catch and block. Howard’s 11 TDs in 22 games and 16.6 average means he’s a Pro Bowl talent who could dominate his position.

BIG YEAR FOR: Cameron Brate. Played through a serious hip injury after signing a six-year, $40.8-million contract in 2019. Bucs can get out of the deal in 2020 by not paying a $4-million bonus. Saw his playing time reduced and saw only 49 targets, his fewest since 2015.

KEEP AN EYE ON: Antony Auclair. The Canadian native has improved each year but excels at blocking.

The Offensive Linemen (9-10)

Bucs offensive tackle Caleb Benenoch finds himself on the bubble as the team begins its 2019 training camp on July 26. TIMES (2017)
Name Pos. Ht./Wt. Age Exp College
Zack Bailey G 6-5/299 23 R South Carolina
Caleb Benenoch OL 6-5/305 24 4 UCLA
Cole Boozer OL 6-5/275 24 1 Temple
Alex Cappa G 6-6/305 24 2 Humboldt State
Demar Dotson T 6-9/315 33 11 Southern Mississippi
Ruben Holcomb G 6-4/309 24 1 Indianapolis
Ryan Jensen C 6-4/319 28 6 Colorado State-Pueblo
Josh LeRibeus C 6-2/315 30 7 Southern Methodist
Michael Liedtke OL 6-3/305 27 2 Illinois State
Ali Marpet G 6-4/307 26 5 Hobart
Riley Mayfield T 6-7/311 24 R North Texas
Brock Ruble T 6-8/325 23 R Toledo
Donovan Smith T 6-6/338 26 5 Penn State
Evan Smith OL 6-2/308 32 10 Idaho State
Nate Trewyn C 6-3/313 23 R Wisconsin-Whitewater
Earl Watford OL 6-3/300 29 7 James Madison

PROJECTED STARTERS: LT Donovan Smith, LG Ali Marpet, C Ryan Jensen, RG Alex Cappa, RT Demar Dotson.

BIG YEAR FOR: Donovan Smith. Much is expected from Smith after signing a three-year, $41.25-million contract. In Arians’ offense, he won’t get much help blocking from running backs or tight ends. Winston’s health depends on Smith.

KEEP AN EYE ON: Alex Cappa. A converted tackle, he’ll get the first bite of the apple to win the starting job at right guard.

The Defensive Linemen (6-7)

With the Bucs shifting to a 3-4 scheme, defensive tackle Beau Allen (91) will be called on to play a bigger role. MONICA HERNDON | Times
Name Pos. Ht./Wt. Age Exp College
Beau Allen DL 6-3/327 27 6 Wisconsin
Terry Beckner Jr. DL 6-4/295 22 R Missouri
William Gholston DL 6-6/281 27 7 Michigan State
Jeremiah Ledbetter DL 6-3/295 25 2 Arkansas
Rakeem Nunez-Roches DL 6-2/307 26 5 Southern Mississippi
Dare Odeyingbo DL 6-2/282 22 R Vanderbilt
Ndamukong Suh DL 6-4/313 32 10 Nebraska
Vita Vea DL 6-4/347 24 2 Washington

PROJECTED STARTERS: Ndamukong Suh, Beau Allen, Vita Vea

BIG YEAR FOR: Vita Vea. Sure, Suh has a bigger name and better resume. But he may be here for one season. The release of Gerald McCoy confirmed the Bucs’ believe in Vea, who had a forgettable rookie season but rallied for 3.0 sacks in his final eight games.

KEEP AN EYE ON: Terry Beckner, Jr. Arguably the best high school player in the country in 2015, he battled knee injuries at Missouri. Huge upside and a space eater.

The Linebackers (7-8)

Bucs defensive end Carl Nassib (94) will transition to an edge rusher position in the team's new 3-4 scheme. MONICA HERNDON | Times
Name Pos. Ht./Wt. Age Exp College
Shaquil Barrett OLB 6-2/250 26 6 Colorado State
Devante Bond ILB 6-1/236 26 4 Oklahoma
Deone Bucannon LB/S 6-1/211 26 6 Washington State
Jack Cichy ILB 6-2/238 23 2 Wisconsin
Kahzin Daniels OLB 6-4/240 23 R Charleston
Lavonte David ILB 6-1/233 29 8 Nebraska
Demone Harris OLB 6-4/272 23 1 Buffalo
Farrington Huguenin OLB 6-4/268 27 1 Kentucky
David Kenney OLB 6-2/250 24 R Illinois State
Kevin Minter ILB 6-0/246 28 7 LSU
Carl Nassib OLB 6-7/275 26 4 Penn State
Anthony Nelson OLB 6-7/271 22 R Iowa
Corey Nelson ILB 6-1/226 27 5 Oklahoma
Patrick O'Connor OLB 6-4/270 25 1 Eastern Michigan
Jason Pierre-Paul OLB 6-5/275 30 10 USF
Emanuel Smith ILB 6-2/240 23 1 Vanderbilt
Noah Spence OLB 6-2/251 25 4 Eastern Kentucky
Devin White ILB 6-0/237 20 R LSU

PROJECTED STARTERS: Carl Nassib, Shaq Barrett, Devin White, Lavonte David.

BIG YEAR FOR: Devin White. The No. 5 overall pick has drawn comparisons for Ray Lewis. That’s unfair but not unexpected given the expectations on the LSU star. Can he be the vocal leader of the defense? He has to be. He will be the emotional leader and leading tackler as well.

KEEP AN EYE ON: Lavonte David. He saw how the Bucs treated Gerald McCoy and David has no guaranteed money for 2020 and set to earn $10.75 million. Could set a career sack year in the blitzing scheme of Todd Bowles.

The Secondary (9-10)

The Bucs' Carlton Davis (33) projects as one of the teams starters at cornerback. TIMES STAFF
Name Pos. Ht./Wt. Age Exp College
Jalen Allison CB 6-0/184 23 R North Dakota State
Kentrell Brice S 5-11/200 22 R La. Tech
Carlton Davis CB 6-1/206 22 2 Auburn
Jamel Dean CB 6-1/206 22 R Auburn
Lukas Denis S 5-11/190 22 R Boston College
D'Cota Dixon S 5-10/204 23 R Wisconsin
Mike Edwards S 5-10/205 23 R Kentucky
Justin Evans S 6-0/199 23 3 Texas A&M
Vernon Hargreaves CB 5-10/204 24 4 Florida
De'Vante Harris CB 5-11/190 25 4 Texas A&M
Isaiah Johnson S 6-0/209 26 2 South Carolina
Ryan Smith CB 5-11/189 25 4 North Carolina Central
M.J. Stewart DB 5-11/200 23 2 North Carolina
Orion Stewart S 6-1/205 25 1 Baylor
Jordan Whitehead S 5-10/198 22 2 Pittsburgh

PROJECTED STARTERS: CB Vernon Hargreaves, CB Carlton Davis, S Justin Evans, S Mike Edwards

BIG YEAR FOR: Vernon Hargreaves. Former first-round pick has missed most of two seasons with injuries and the team picked up his fifth-year option of nearly $9.6-million for 2020. But it’s guaranteed only for injury. Needs to add to one career INT.

KEEP AN EYE ON: Sean Murphy-Bunting. The second-round pick from Central Michigan could earn a starting job as the slot corner in nickel situations. Big, physical and versatile.

The Specialists

Bucs kicker Cairo Santos will have to beat out rookie Matt Gay to earn a spot on the team's 2019 roster. MONICA HERNDON | Times
Name Pos. Ht./Wt. Age Exp College
Matt Gay K 6-0/232 25 R Utah
Bradley Pinion P 6-5/240 25 5 Clemson
Cairo Santos K 5-8/160 27 6 Tulane
Zach Triner LS 6-2/247 28 1 Assumption

PROJECTED STARTERS: PK Matt Gay, P Bradley Pinnion, KOR Dare Ogunbowale, PR Scotty Miller.

BIG YEAR FOR: Matt Gay. When you use another draft pick on a place-kicker – this time a fifth-rounder – he needs to win the job. Not only that, he needs to have a good year to get Jason Licht off the hook. Gay wins it with a stronger leg.

KEEP AN EYE ON: Scotty Miller. Something tells me he might find his way on the field as a punt returner before the year is over.

Contact Rick Stroud at rstroud@tampabay.com. Follow @NFLStroud.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians walks on the field before Sunday's game against the Carolina Panthers in London. ALASTAIR GRANT  |  AP
    And that’s especially true for turnover-prone Jameis Winston, who will remain the starter when Tampa Bay next takes the field Oct. 27 vs. the Titans.
  2. Since he entered the NFL in 2015, Jameis Winston has been responsible for a league-high 87 giveaways, including six Sunday. JEFF HAYNES  |  Associated Press
    Sunday was a tough day for the players taken at the top of the 2015 NFL draft. The Titans at least are realizing what the Bucs are denying: They have a quarterback problem.
  3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Cameron Brate (84) makes a touchdown catch against the Carolina Panthers during the fourth quarter Sunday at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London. ALASTAIR GRANT  |  AP
    An ugly loss leaves a sour taste, and several players would like to get back on the field immediately to right the ship.
  4. Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) celebrates his touchdown against the Chiefs during the second half of the game in Kansas City. ED ZURGA  |  AP
    Road To Miami: Quarterback play continues to soar, for some teams - allowing us to realize who’s coming
  5. Pat and Richard McBride of Leicester have been Bucs fans for 34 years. They've suffered through some bad Tampa Bay seasons but remain loyalty, unlike fans of the other team owned by the Glazer Family, Manchester United. Eduardo A. Encina/Tampa Bay Times
    #GlazersOut has become a popular slogan and hashtag as the team battles on-field woes and reported financial issues. But “Manchester U. fans are good at one thing and that’s complaining,” said one...
  6. Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota looks on from the sideline during the second half of a loss to the Broncos, during which he is benched in favor of Ryan Tannehill. DAVID ZALUBOWSKI  |  AP
    His status for an Oct. 27 game against the Bucs isn’t clear after he is benched against the Broncos.
  7. Former Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (93) gestures toward the Tampa Bay bench during the second quarter of Carolina's 37-26 victory over the Buccaneers Sunday at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London. TIM IRELAND  |  AP
    Tampa Bay was without two starters on the right side of its offensive line. Did McCoy and Co. exploit that weakness or simply win one-on-one battles?
  8. Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey (22) scores on a second quarter touchdown pass, leaving Devin White and a host of other Bucs in his wake. TIM IRELAND  |  AP
    Bucs journal: In his first game since Week 2, White gets a reminder about the mental aspects of the game
  9. The Bucs' Jameis Winston threw five interceptions and lost a fumble against the Panthers on Sunday. It's never good when a quarterback's turnover total is twice his jersey number. TIM IRELAND  |  Associated Press
    After suffering a 37-26 beatdown, the team should extend its stay in London, maybe indefinitely. | Thomas Bassinger
  10. Carolina Panthers quarterback Kyle Allen (7) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) meet at midfield after playing in an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London. (AP Photo/Tim Ireland) TIM IRELAND  |  AP
    That’s how Bruce Arians tried to explain Winston’s six-turnover performance in London Sunday.
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