Advertisement

Todd Bowles says as many as 14 rookies could earn spots on Bucs’ roster

“They’re good players,” the head coach says, adding that many will wind up starting.
 
Bucs wide receiver Trey Palmer (10) celebrates after he catches a pass against the Baltimore Ravens during Saturday's exhibition game at Raymond James Stadium.
Bucs wide receiver Trey Palmer (10) celebrates after he catches a pass against the Baltimore Ravens during Saturday's exhibition game at Raymond James Stadium. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]
Published Aug. 28, 2023|Updated Aug. 29, 2023

TAMPA ― Todd Bowles knew the Bucs had to get younger. Calluses count more in the NFL than youthful exuberance, and the Bucs’ three-year playoff run with Tom Brady came with a price tag. First-year players earn a lot less than veterans.

That said, what Bowles didn’t expect was that the front office and scouting department would assemble the best collection of rookie talent the Bucs have had since he arrived five years ago.

Teams must reach the 53-man roster limit by Tuesday at 4 p.m. Bowles predicted last week as many as 14 rookies could earn jobs this season.

Not only that, most are good enough to make an impact immediately.

“We could have up to 13 or 14 rookies make this team, not even counting the first-year guys from last year,” Bowles said. “They’re good players. They really are. And there’s the new free-agent additions, so you’re at 20-plus guys. Typically, it’s around 12 to 14 on the good years.

“This year, you may say there’s 20-plus, and that’s like half of your roster. And they are good players, but you’ve got to give them experience and you’ve got to give them as many situations and as much teaching as possible. We feel great about them.”

Rookies stood out on both sides of the ball during the preseason, particularly in a deep receiving class. Nobody flashed brighter than Trey Palmer, the sixth-round pick from Nebraska.

Bucs wide receiver Trey Palmer (10) catches a pass and is tackled by Baltimore Ravens linebacker Del'Shawn Phillips (53) during Saturday's preseason game.
Bucs wide receiver Trey Palmer (10) catches a pass and is tackled by Baltimore Ravens linebacker Del'Shawn Phillips (53) during Saturday's preseason game. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]

Palmer made highlight-reel touchdown receptions in each of the first two preseason games. Then after routinely beating the Jets’ secondary during a joint workout, he added two receptions for 25 yards against the Ravens and returned a punt 29 yards.

“Trey is becoming more and more reliable back there as a second punt returner,” Bowles said. “We’ve seen him, and every time he gets a chance he takes advantage of the opportunity.”

He’s not alone. Receiver Rakim Jarrett, an undrafted free agent from Maryland, proved to be fast and sure-handed, and likely also carved out a spot on the roster. Combined with second-year pro Deven Thompkins, who won the kick return duties, the Bucs’ young core of receivers behind Mike Evans and Chris Godwin is deep and talented.

The Bucs waived Kaylon Geiger, along with rookies Kade Warner and Taye Barber, among others. The team will likely attempt to sign a couple of them to the practice squad. David Moore, who followed offensive coordinator Dave Canales to Tampa Bay from Seattle, also was released. His contract was guaranteed if he was on the final 53-man roster, so the Bucs could sign him to a new contract later this week.

Stay updated on Tampa Bay’s sports scene

Stay updated on Tampa Bay’s sports scene

Subscribe to our free Sports Today newsletter

We’ll send you news and analysis on the Bucs, Lightning, Rays and Florida’s college football teams every day.

You’re all signed up!

Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.

Explore all your options

Six of the Bucs’ seven draft picks are likely to make the team, with outside linebacker Jose Ramirez the exception.

Rutgers rookie Christian Izien won the starting nickel cornerback job, and Charlotte outside linebacker Markees Watts may make the team.

Bucs wide receiver Rakim Jarrett (18) celebrates after he catches a pass against the Baltimore Ravens during Saturday's game in Tampa.
Bucs wide receiver Rakim Jarrett (18) celebrates after he catches a pass against the Baltimore Ravens during Saturday's game in Tampa. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]

Of course, rookie defensive tackle Calijah Kancey and guard Cody Mauch are penciled in as starters to begin the season.

If there ever was a year for the Bucs to get younger, this is it. The Carolina Panthers will start rookie quarterback Bryce Young. The Atlanta Falcons are going with second-year pro Desmond Ridder.

The Saints’ Derek Carr enters the season with the most experience under center in the NFC South, but Bowles remains confident the Bucs can defend the division title even with so many rookies and first-year players.

“We’re not conceding anything,” he said.

The additional reps the younger players got in the preseason were to make sure they’ll be ready when the team calls on them, Bowles said.

“There’s a lot of teaching that we have to do to make sure they’re ready to go play once the season starts,” he said. “So the play time is invaluable for those guys. I know everybody thinks we were resting the starters, but we were getting guys ready to play. We’re moving them around and putting them in situations and giving them learning experiences to help us during the season, not just to help us get through the preseason.

“So you can stick them in the fire and let them go.”

• • •

Sign up for the Sports Today newsletter to get daily updates on the Bucs, Rays, Lightning and college football across Florida.

Never miss out on the latest with your favorite Tampa Bay sports teams. Follow our coverage on Twitter and Facebook.