TAMPA — Pondering potential cuts to the 90-man roster to make room for promising tryout players in rookie minicamp, Bucs coach Dirk Koetter says he can see how much harder it will be for players to make the cut in his second season.
"I think just in general our roster is deeper than it was a year ago," Koetter said after the second day of minicamp. "I think it's getting tougher and tougher to make it. When you start thinking about 'Yeah, we'd like to have this guy, but who do you want to let go?' … not so easy. … There's some guys that maybe a year or two ago might have had a better chance, but we've got a deeper football team right now than we did a year before."
Seeing depth in May and having depth in September — and converting that to success on the field — remains the challenge for Koetter and the Bucs.
"It's a nice problem if it ends up with more points on the scoreboard on Sundays," Koetter said.
That depth is obvious at receiver, where the Bucs signed veteran DeSean Jackson and drafted Chris Godwin in the third round. After being depleted by injuries last year, the Bucs will likely cut multiple receivers that played for them last season. Former Eagles receiver Riley Cooper, in minicamp as a tryout player, is no lock to get a contract out of the weekend.
"You can tell that he's played in the NFL and he's played for a while," Koetter said of the 29-year-old former standout at Clearwater Central Catholic and UF. "Obviously when you bring guys in from a whole bunch of colleges, they're a little bit nervous and learning a new system. (But) he's played in the NFL. That stands out for sure."
Bring on the newcomers
Chris Conte and Keith Tandy combined for some of the biggest plays in the Bucs' five-game win streak last season, but the offseason saw the Bucs sign J.J. Wilcox as a free agent and draft Texas A&M's Justin Evans in the second round, setting up all kinds of competition in the secondary.
"It's good for everyone," Conte said. "I think almost every year I've played safety there's been somebody drafted at safety. I hope he's a great addition to our team."
Tandy said he and Conte have bonded in the offseason, and both will embrace the challenge of the newcomers.
"We're always looking for competition, looking for ways to make the team better," said Tandy, who got engaged in the offseason. "It makes everybody raise their game up. We're all going to challenge each other, then we're all going to hang out off the field."
"They just call me Stevie T. Only some of the coaches attempt it. As far as right now, I'm just Stevie." — Rookie DT Stevie Tu'ikolovatu, on his last name, TOO-ee-koe-loe-VAH-too.