Making Call on the Buccaneers' Hardest Remaining Cuts
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have nearly reached the time of year dreaded by players all around the league: preseason roster reductions.
The hardest part of these preseason cuts is letting go of the players who are clearly talented but for whatever reason just couldn't rise to the occasion. Whether it's injury or an overabundance of depth at a certain position, there are many factors outside of just talent that can put a player out on the street.
The Buccaneers have both problems. Players like Da'Quan Bowers cannot prove themselves to the new coaching staff standing on the sidelines in a hat and slippers. But the Bucs also have the enviable problem of having a deluge of talent at the wide receiver and running back positions. Hard decisions will have to be made before the start of the regular season.
Of all of the potential cuts the Bucs will have to make in the coming weeks, the following five players will be the hardest to release.
Some have shown something special or possess rare talent but may be victims of the numbers game. Others are on the verge of ending their Buccaneer careers on the sidelines. The outlooks vary based on individual circumstances.
Here are the five hardest cuts the Bucs front office might be forced to make over the next two weeks and the likelihood that they will remain in Tampa.
Earlier this year, Lovie Smith couldn't contain how truly excited he was at the prospect of having a speedster like running back Jeff Demps on the roster.
However speed alone doesn't make an NFL player. Despite his world-class speed, Demps' place with the Bucs is not secure.
Demps struggled a bit in training camp particularly with ball security, which The Tampa Tribune's Roy Cummings called "his biggest weakness."
Up until last week, arguably the biggest obstacle to Demps' roster chances was the Bucs' depth at running back. That was before Charles Sims was lost for 12-14 weeks with an ankle injury.
Mike James also suffered a setback though he should be back sooner than Sims according to the Tampa Bay Times' Greg Auman:
Bucs RB Mike James says shoulder injury isn't anything longterm, "day to day," recognizes importance of showing coaches more in preseason.— Greg Auman (@gregauman) August 19, 2014
The injuries to Sims and James could give Demps the chance he needs to make the roster.
Outlook: Looking up
Da'Quan Bowers is running low on opportunities to prove he wasn't a bust.
After three seasons of middling production as a defensive end, Bowers was given life by Lovie Smith who moved the former Clemson Tiger inside to play as a defensive tackle:
Bucs again working Da'Quan Bowers inside as second-team defensive tackle. Getting work ahead of Cummings, Masifilo, who are on third line.— Greg Auman (@gregauman) July 28, 2014
The move apparently invigorated Bowers as his play impressed Bucs coaches and players alike, as tweeted by the Tampa Bay Times' Ira Kaufman:
Da'Quan Bowers, heading into a contract year, is off to a good start with Tampa Bay's new coaching staff— Ira Kaufman (@IKaufmanTBO) August 9, 2014
Da'Quan Bowers may have been Tampa Bay's best defensive player Friday night and teammate Gerald McCoy couldn't have been happier about it— Ira Kaufman (@IKaufmanTBO) August 9, 2014
Unfortunately, Bowers old nemesis found him once again, per Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times:
Bucs DE Da'Quan Bowers still slowed by a groin injury. Unsure when he'll return to practice or whether he'll play at Bills on Saturday.— Greg Auman (@gregauman) August 18, 2014
Bowers knows that his failure to so far make good on his promising career and stay healthy during this preseason has him in danger of being cut:
Bucs DE Da'Quan Bowers understands making the roster isn't a given for him: "Everybody's on the bubble," he says.— Greg Auman (@gregauman) August 21, 2014
Bowers doesn't have strong ties to the current Bucs administration, which didn't draft him. If injury continues to keep him off the field, Bowers will find himself out of a job after next week.
Outlook: Not good
It's no secret the Bucs offensive line is a serious problem. Jamon Meredith may not have done enough to show he's part of the solution rather than part of the problem.
Meredith entered training camp and the preseason as the starting right guard. That quickly changed after his dreadful performance in the first preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars:
First pass play and Jamon Meredith got blown up in pass pro. Second play and Dotson called for holding. Yech.— Sander Philipse (@Bucs_Nation) August 8, 2014
Since then, Meredith has been out of the running to start at guard. per the Tampa Bay Times' Auman:
Lovie Smith says Jamon Meredith is going to concentrate on tackle position after not playing well at guard Friday.— Greg Auman (@gregauman) August 10, 2014
Meredith is still listed as a guard on the team's depth chart, but he may find himself the odd man out with the glut of guards the Bucs are trying out.
The Bucs traded safety Kelcie McCray to the Kansas City Chiefs for backup guard Rishaw Johnson, per the Tampa Tribune's Cummings. While there is no guarantee that Johnson will even be on the roster at the end of the preseason, the move doesn't bode well for Meredith's future in Tampa.
Outlook: Not good
After two years of setbacks and frustration, wide receiver Tommy Streeter might finally be ready to make an impact on an NFL roster.
Streeter was drafted by the Ravens in 2012, but he never played a snap for Baltimore during the regular season. He spent last year out of football and is looking to get his career back on track.
So far Streeter has given the Bucs every reason to keep him on the roster. He is simply amazing this preseason, making incredible catches during training camp and scoring the team's first points of the preseason:
Touchdown Bucs -- Mike Glennon connects with WR Tommy Streeter for 6-yard score. Extra point now to tie ...— Greg Auman (@gregauman) August 9, 2014
The Bucs have a glut of wide receivers vying for just one or two roster spots. Streeter may have the best chance of all the receivers on the bubble to make the roster.
While other Bucs receivers like Robert Herron and Solomon Patton are fast and quick, Streeter boasts a 6'5", 215-pound frame that matches the likes of Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans.
As good as Streeter has been this preseason, he may lose out thanks to the numbers game, especially as a guy like Solomon Patton proves his worth on special teams, per the Tampa Bay Times' Rick Stroud.
There isn't much more that Tommy Streeter can do to prove he belongs on the roster. All he can do is hope the Bucs recognize his value and keep him on.
Outlook: Pretty good
The preseason has not been kind to the Bucs' cornerback depth, but it may give Danny Gorrer the opportunity he needs to make this roster.
The Bucs have been without free-agent acquisition Alterraun Verner throughout much of the preseason. He has only recently been deemed ready to return and possibly play in the upcoming preseason matchup with the Buffalo Bills, per Jenna Laine of Sports Talk Florida.
Fellow corners Rashaan Melvin and Mike Jenkins have also missed significant time due to injuries:
William Gholston, Da'Quan Bowers, Michael Johnson, Major Wright, Mike Jenkins, Mike James, Rashaan Melvin and Brandon Magee all out today— JennaLaineBucs (@JennaLaineBucs) August 19, 2014
Gorrer has been one of the few consistently healthy corners on the Bucs roster. He played seven games for the Bucs last season but didn't prove himself to be much of a playmaker.
With Verner, Jenkins and Melvin out, Gorrer has had plenty of opportunities to prove his worth to the Bucs, even starting the first preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars:
Johnthan Banks did start the game opposite Danny Gorrer at CB.— Scott Smith (@ScottSBucs) August 8, 2014
Gorrer can't count on the cornerback depth to be depleted forever. If the Bucs have Verner, Jenkins and Melvin along with Johnthan Banks and Leonard Johnson, they may not be able to carry Gorrer as a sixth corner.
The worst thing Gorrer can do at this point is end up joining the crowd of injured players on the sideline for an extended period of time. Gorrer already missed one day due to injury, per The Ledgers' Rick Brown:
CB Danny Gorrer was on the sidelines today, along with the usual suspects. #Bucsinjuries— Rick Brown (@LedgeronBucs) August 21, 2014
Gorrer's best shot at making the roster is very simple: stay healthy and on the field. The sooner he gets off the sidelines, the better.
Outlook: Worrisome but not hopeless