Tampa Bay Buccaneers Training Camp: Week 4 Stock Report
On the eve of the regular season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are about to gamble heavily on their 2014 roster. Some Bucs players whose stock is on the rise will capitalize. Others whose stock is on the downslide may find themselves on the street next week.
Only days away from the final cuts to the 53-man roster, the Bucs are still making substantial changes. The Bucs cut a blockbuster deal with the New England Patriots this week, trading tight end Tim Wright and a draft pick for guard Logan Mankins, according to Fox Sports' Jay Glazer:
Breaking: the Patriots have agreed to parameters of a trade to send Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins to the Bucs for a pick and TE Tim Wright— Jay Glazer (@JayGlazer) August 26, 2014
The acquisition of Mankins shifts the dynamics of the offense and further reduces the value of some of the Bucs' underachieving offensive linemen.
Some players like Doug Martin and Austin Seferian-Jenkins will find their stocks profit from the absence of players adjacent to them on the depth chart. Others, like Solomon Patton, simply willed their way ahead with solid performances throughout training camp and the preseason.
Here is the Buccaneers training camp and preseason Week 4 stock report.
Solomon Patton is all but guaranteed a spot on the Bucs' 2014 roster.
Only one man was returning punts and kicks for the Bucs during their third preseason game against the Buffalo Bills. Patton apparently won the returning competition and was on full display over the past two weeks.
Patton all but solidified his spot on the roster by nabbing a touchdown in the Bucs' final preseason game against Washington.
Another strong indication of Patton's ascension was the release of last year's returner Eric Page, per the Tampa Bay Times' Greg Auman. Unseating the incumbent makes a loud statement from the Bucs and shows their confidence in Patton.
The addition of Logan Mankins could mean the subtraction of Oniel Cousins from the Bucs roster.
Over the preseason, Cousins has been, to be perfectly plain, bad. Really bad.
Oniel Cousins is still awful. Good grief #Bucs— Tom Krasniqi (@TKras) August 8, 2014
Oniel Cousins with bad back-to-back plays.— PewterReport.com (@PewterReport) August 23, 2014
He’s been so bad that he was one of only two depth chart starters to play in the Bucs’ final preseason game against Washington:
Patrick Omameh and Oniel Cousins will be the only two starters to play this game, @ScottSBucs just said.— Sander Philipse (@Bucs_Nation) August 28, 2014
Typically the final preseason game is left for the bubble players who may not make the roster. With the Bucs trading for Logan Mankins, the team may have no need for Cousins.
Prior to Mankins' arrival, Cousins and Rishaw Johnson were the only guards with actual playing experience in the NFL. Cousins no longer has the advantage of experience.
He also lacks the versatility to play multiple positions, per Greg Auman:
With Mankins at left guard, is Oniel Cousins in danger of not making Bucs' 53-man roster? Backup would preferably have center versatility.— Greg Auman (@gregauman) August 26, 2014
Cousins lacks the upside of youngsters like rookie G Kadeem Edwards or second-year player Patrick Omameh while costing nearly $200,000 more in salary-cap space, per Over the Cap.
Logan Mankins is a clear upgrade over Cousins. It may only be a matter of time before the Bucs decide Cousins doesn’t bring enough to the table to keep him around.
The bell cow is back.
No one wants to see a player go down with a major injury, especially not a rookie like Charles Sims. Per CBS Sports' Josh Katzowitz, Sims underwent ankle surgery last week that will shelve the running back for 12-14 weeks.
Sims' loss is Martin's new workload. Though he was going to be the starter regardless, Martin is back as the Bucs' "bell cow," as Lovie Smith said in a press conference last week, per The Associated Press.
Martin should also benefit from the addition of Logan Mankins, who is a powerful run-blocker. Good or bad, the events of the past week have put Martin in a strong position entering the season.
Lovie Smith may like Da'Quan Bowers, but he's certainly not making much of an impact on the field.
Bowers missed all but the first of the Bucs’ preseason games with a groin injury. Per the Tampa Bay Times' Rick Stroud, Lovie Smith said last week that while Bowers was on the right track, he needed to show up to make the team:
I think every day you don't practice, you're hurting your chances (of making the team). We've seen enough to like Da'Quan a lot. But all the reps that he's not getting, someone else is getting them.
Though Smith didn’t outright say Bowers was on the verge of losing his spot, he did make it clear that it was in peril.
Bowers doesn’t have a lot of good grace to go on, starting only eight games and producing only 5.5 sacks during his three-year NFL career.
The hiring of Smith presented Bowers with new life and a clean slate, but he’s spent so much time on the sideline that he has yet to prove his actual worth. Smith may be losing his patience with Bowers and could be ready to move on.
The Bucs' No. 1 cornerback is finally healthy.
After spending all of training camp and nearly the entire preseason on the sidelines with a hamstring injury, CB Alterraun Verner made his preseason debut against the Buffalo Bills last week.
The Bucs' cornerback depth has been tested and strained by injuries. CB Mike Jenkins has not practiced or played in the month of August, leaving Johnthan Banks as the Bucs' most durable starting corner:
When do we actually see Mike Jenkins play? At what point do we give Johnthan Banks any credit for being the most durable DB the Bucs have?— JennaLaineBucs (@JennaLaineBucs) August 24, 2014
With Verner getting healthy, he becomes more valuable as other corners go down. Second-year CB Rashaan Melvin, hampered by an ankle injury, missed the Bucs' final preseason game against Washington:
Also no Bradley McDougald or Rashaan Melvin for Bucs tonight. It'll be a thin secondary vs. Redskins ...— Greg Auman (@gregauman) August 28, 2014
Missing two key cornerbacks threatens to frustrate the Bucs' entire defense, making Verner's return and continued health essential as the regular season begins.
Offensive tackle Jamon Meredith has been blocking for the Bucs since 2012, but his time in Tampa may be near its end.
Meredith started the preseason as the Bucs' starting right guard. One abysmal preseason game later and Meredith was demoted and moved to tackle.
Meredith did himself no favors in the Bucs’ final preseason game, stalling drives and eventually being replaced in the second half, per Tom Krasniqi of the Tampa Bay Tribune and Greg Auman:
Holding call on Jamon Meredith. Not good for him. #Bucs forced to punt— Tom Krasniqi (@TKras) August 28, 2014
Bucs have made one tweak on offensive line -- waiver pickup Edawn Coughman at right tackle for Jamon Meredith. Rest is same from 1st half.— Greg Auman (@gregauman) August 29, 2014
Meredith’s struggles do not bode well for his chances to make the roster. His $1.4 million salary, per Over the Cap, doesn’t help his case either.
If RB Jeff Demps doesn’t make the Bucs’ final roster, he won’t be able to use the excuse that he wasn’t given a chance.
During the Bucs’ final preseason game against Washington, Demps touched the football more than any other Bucs player, carrying the ball 20 times for 59 yards.
"I knew I was going to have a long day, so I had to be prepared," Demps said, per the Tampa Bay Times’ Matt Baker.
Clearly the Bucs wanted to see if Demps could carry the load of a starting running back. Unfortunately, he didn’t gain too much ground or score any points, but he didn’t receive much help from his offensive line.
Whether Demps’ performance on Thursday won him a roster spot remains to be seen. However, the opportunity alone should give him some hope that the Bucs are interested in seeing him succeed.
Stock: Mostly flat but trending up