Tampa Bay Buccaneers Players Climbing the Depth Chart This Offseason
With minicamp wrapped up, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a clear path to training camp in July. The players now have six weeks to get ready to fight for their spots on the depth chart.
While many positions are essentially settled, there are still starting spots to be determined as well as the depth at cornerback, guard and running back.
The Bucs need players who will fit head coach Lovie Smith's vision for the team. Namely he needs Tampa 2 prototypes in the secondary, as well as athletic offensive linemen and weapons in the pass game for offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford's scheme.
The players most likely to make noise on the depth chart are those who were drafted or signed by Smith's administration or experienced players who were on the cusp of breaking through last year.
Here are five Buccaneers players who are primed to climb the depth chart in 2014.
Cornerback Rashaan Melvin
The biggest success for any front office is to find a quality player without spending a draft pick on him. Former undrafted free agent Rashaan Melvin could make the Bucs look very wise this season.
He possesses ideal size for a corner at 6'2" and 192 pounds. He's big enough even to cover the likes of Vincent Jackson as he did in minicamp this week, per Eric Dellaratta of Pewter Report.
In fact, with Alterraun Verner and Johnthan Banks limited by injuries, Melvin and CB Danny Gorrer ran with the first-team defense for most of camp, according to Dellaratta.
Right now Melvin is battling for a spot on the roster, but his two interceptions in minicamp exhibited his value to the team's cornerback depth, according to the Tampa Bay Times' Greg Auman.
His interceptions in camp demonstrate that he has hands and can play the ball. Combined with his size and speed, as well as pedigree coaching from Gil Byrd, Leslie Frazier and Lovie Smith, Melvin could become a starting quality defensive back.
He has certainly looked impressive this offseason. The problem is that he looked impressive last offseason too. He ended up on injured reserve before he ever took a snap in the regular season.
The biggest key for Melvin to climb the depth chart is to simply stay healthy.
Running Back Charles Sims
Fortunately for him, Jeff Tedford's offense appears tailor-made for the 6'0", 211-pound running back. Sims was a prolific receiver in college, and the team is impressed so far, according to Bucs running back coach Tim Spencer:
Bucs RBs coach Tim Spencer very high on rookie Charles Sims. Loves his commitment to small things - blocks as hard as he runs, catches well.— Greg Auman (@gregauman) June 3, 2014
Sims won't likely beat the more experienced Martin for the starting tailback spot, barring injury. However, he should be the third-down back and see frequent action in relief of Martin.
Wide Receiver Louis Murphy
Prior to the draft, the wide receiver situation was precarious at best. After the team traded Mike Williams and lost Tiquan Underwood to free agency, Vincent Jackson was the only remaining receiver with any experience.
Thus far, he appears to be making the most of his opportunities, earning the recognition of the coaching staff for his work in OTAs and minicamp:
#Bucs coach Lovie Smith singled out WR Louis Murphy, a St. Petersburg native, for making plays during OTAs and Tuesday's minicamp.— Rick Stroud (@NFLSTROUD) June 10, 2014
Murphy doesn't have the size of Jackson or Mike Evans, but his speed makes him a threat in the deep passing game. It should serve him well, given the "speed in space" offensive philosophy that Jeff Tedford is installing, per Leo Howell of the Pewter Plank.
With few other experienced options at receiver, the Bucs need Murphy to have a strong training camp.
Cornerback Danny Gorrer
Along with Rashaan Melvin, Danny Gorrer represents the key depth at cornerback in Tampa Bay.
Melvin and Gorrer have been running with the first-team defense, while projected starters Alterraun Verner and Johnthan Banks have been sidelined with injuries, per Pewter Report's Eric Dellaratta. Gorrer's work in their relief gained the attention of the coaching staff:
Gorrer seems good for a splash play every so often, but "every so often" has kept him in the cellar for his entire career. With five years under his belt, he could be ready to take the next step and become a big contributor on the Bucs defense.
Guard Patrick Omameh
Scary statement or not: Patrick Omameh could be the starting left guard in 2014.
Make no mistake, a healthy Carl Nicks is penciled in the spot right now. He is an elite player when he's on the field.
Doubts over his ability to play football at all, no less make it to training camp, are difficult to ignore:
Nicks on whether he will play in '14:. “God, I hope so. I mean, honestly I think I’ll be ready to play. It’s just the waiting game...''— Rick Stroud (@NFLSTROUD) June 10, 2014
Over the course of OTAs and minicamp the Bucs, have toyed with the configuration of the offensive line without Nicks. Oniel Cousins, Jamon Meredith, Kadeem Edwards and Omameh have all worked with the first-team offense:
Today's first-team guards for Bucs: Oniel Cousins at left guard, Jamon Meredith at right. Expect a battle in July, with or without Nicks.— Greg Auman (@gregauman) June 12, 2014
Rookie Kadeem Edwards saw a lot of time with the 1st-team line today, playing left guard. Patrick Omameh was at right guard.— Scott Smith (@ScottSBucs) June 10, 2014
According to The Tampa Tribune's Roy Cummings, Omameh is a front-runner to start at guard this year. He is an athletic and intelligent player who continues to improve as he gets more reps with the first-team offense.
If Nicks isn't able to go, Omameh would be a risky bet to put on the line, but he could pay off in the long run.