5 Players Who Might Find Themselves on the Buccaneers Practice Squad in 2014
The Buccaneers' first practice squad of the Lovie Smith era will likely reflect the principles Smith employed as he transforms the roster.
"Speed in space," the return of the Tampa 2 and more athletic offensive linemen are some of the key tenants of the new regime. No doubt Smith and general manager Jason Licht plan to build this year's practice squad to develop players to fit the new schemes.
The practice squad is a haven for the team's athletically gifted but technically raw neophytes. Some of the Bucs' undrafted free agents were signed with this fate in mind.
Some of the players on this list simply are not ready for prime time. Others are on the losing end of the numbers game, particularly at positions the Bucs retooled this offseason, like offensive line and tight end.
Here are five players who are likely to fill Tampa's practice squad in 2014.
Wide Receiver Solomon Patton
The Bucs are built big at wide receiver with Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans likely to start, but they are also adding pieces on offense to fit offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford's speed-in-space offense.
Solomon Patton is a speed demon, posting sub-4.4 40 times at Florida's pro day this year, per Alligator Army's Trevor Sikkema. He has better hands than his pedestrian numbers at Florida would suggest and can return kicks on special teams.
Patton's chance to make the Bucs' main roster rests on sixth-round pick Robert Herron's performance in training camp and preseason. Barring a meltdown or injury to Herron, Patton faces a near insurmountable battle that most undrafted free agents have against the weight of a draft pick.
Guard Andrew Miller
Rebuilding the offensive line has been a top priority of the Bucs this offseason. The practice squad will likely reflect their plans to further develop the line.
Former Virginia Tech guard Andrew Miller fits the mold of the new Bucs offensive lineman: quick-footed and athletic. He flashed speed and power during his career in Blacksburg, landing him a free-agent deal with the Bucs this spring.
The Bucs acquired a number of interior linemen to address a clear weakness last season. A casualty in a numbers game, Miller will likely hit the practice squad unless one of the linemen in front of him is hampered by injury.
Cornerback Keith Lewis
The most intriguing practice squad prospects have a certain mystique to them, a nebulous talent that hasn't quite been tapped or exposed. Right tackle Demar Dotson was one such project when he was picked up by the Bucs after playing only one year of college football at Southern Miss.
Cornerback Keith Lewis could follow in Dotson's footsteps.
The former Virginia University of Lynchburg defensive back has ideal speed and ball skills for an NFL cornerback. The biggest question surrounding him is the level of competition he played against in the United States Collegiate Athletic Association.
Time on the practice squad will be vital to Lewis' development. Like Dotson when he was picked up by the Bucs, Lewis is still a raw athletic talent who requires patience and deliberate roster movement to become a legitimate NFL cornerback.
Tight End Cameron Brate
Former Harvard tight end Cameron Brate is another example of the depth chart overflowing into the practice squad.
The Bucs loaded up at tight end this offseason by adding second-round pick Austin Seferian-Jenkins and free agent Brandon Myers to last year's breakout star Tim Wright. They didn't leave much room for project players like Brate.
As one of Harvard's all-time leading scorers, he brings smarts and solid hands to Tampa, a combination that is not lost on Lovie Smith. While he likely won't make the main roster this year, Brate could bide his time on the practice squad and become a serious competitor in the coming years.
Defensive End Chaz Sutton
The pass rush has been a stumbling block for the Bucs for the better part of a decade. Part of the problem has been their failure to develop (and keep) young pass-rushers as they enter the league.
Like the rest of the players on this list, former South Carolina defensive end Chaz Sutton is an impressive athlete but technically raw.
His performance last year was lackluster despite playing opposite first overall pick Jadeveon Clowney. He simply does not have the pass-rush moves or the overall consistency to make an impact at this point.
If the Bucs are able to harness Sutton's explosive athleticism, he would be an absolute steal. He may not be ready for the main roster at this point, but some time on the practice squad should help him become the pass-rusher the Bucs so desperately need.
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