TAMPA ― The Bucs released their first depth chart of the season on Monday. Here’s what we noticed:
Winfield listed as a starting safety
Rookie Antoine Winfield Jr. is listed as a starter at one of the two safety positions over second-year player Mike Edwards. We knew Winfield, the team’s second-round pick in April, was pushing Edwards for the starting job, but listing him as a starter early on says something. It’s not to say Edwards won’t still see significant time as a back-end safety, because the Bucs plan to use Winfield a lot of ways. Expect to see him play close to the line of scrimmage and in slot coverage to take advantage of his play-making skills.
Base offense features two tight ends
According to the offensive depth chart, the team’s base formation has two tight ends and two wide receivers, listing both Rob Gronkowski and O.J. Howard as starters in lieu of a slot receiver. Scotty Miller is listed below Chris Godwin at one receiver spot, Justin Watson behind Mike Evans at another, but we know both Miller and Watson will see time at the No. 3 receiver spot.
Jaydon Mickens is primary return man
Jaydon Mickens is listed as the team’s primary punt returner and kickoff returner. Mickens had a really strong camp, showing what he could do as a receiver to complement the niche he carved for himself in the return game. Also, the Bucs wanted experience. Mickens averaged 10.6 yards per punt return as a rookie with the Jaguars in 2017 and returned six kickoffs for a 24.6-yard average the following season, so he’s more seasoned to do the jobs than anyone else.
Ronald Jones is the starting running back
As expected, Ronald Jones is listed as the starting running back. LeSean McCoy, Leonard Fournette and Ke’Shawn Vaughn round out the depth chart, in that order. While coach Bruce Arians has emphatically said that Jones is the man at running back, one of the most interesting facets of this offense will be how McCoy and Fournette carve out their roles. Fournette will not see No. 3 running back snaps, especially as the season progresses.
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Quinton Bell ahead of Cam Gill
Quinton Bell, one of the defensive stars of training camp, is listed as the backup to Shaquil Barrett at one outside linebacker spot, ahead of rookie Cam Gill. That order is expected, since Bell has more experience with the defense after joining the Bucs practice squad in November. Bell’s story is an interesting one, because he had transitioned from being a wide receiver in college. During training camp, he was around the ball a lot.
The full depth chart can be found here.
Contact Eduardo A. Encina at email@example.com. Follow @EddieInTheYard.