Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Immediate 53-Man Roster-Cut Predictions Post-Redskins Game

Luke EasterlingCorrespondent IMarch 15, 2017

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Immediate 53-Man Roster-Cut Predictions Post-Redskins Game

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have wrapped up preseason play and are now looking ahead to this weekend's deadline for final roster cuts.

    The Bucs must cut down the roster by 22 players heading into the regular season, and there are plenty of tough decisions to make.  Hotly contested battles at receiver, defensive end, guard and in the secondary have left some difficult decisions for general manager Jason Licht and head coach Lovie Smith to make.

    Will the versatility of Da'Quan Bowers and Jamon Meredith allow them to stick?  Will speedster Jeff Demps benefit from the injuries ahead of him at running back?  Will the addition of Logan Mankins make another veteran guard expendable?

    Here are my latest predictions on what the Bucs' final cutdowns will look like this weekend.

Quarterback

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    USA TODAY Sports

    In: Josh McCown, Mike Glennon

    Out: Mike Kafka

    McCown and Glennon have been locked in as the starter and backup since Day 1 of camp, and nothing has changed up to this point.  For now, the plan remains to groom Glennon for the future behind the veteran McCown, who signed a two-year deal this offseason.

    Kafka played the majority of the final preseason game against the Washington Redskins but failed to show anything impressive enough to warrant a roster spot.  With deep position battles at many other spots, there's no reason to keep Kafka over depth somewhere else on the field.

    There's a chance Kafka could stick on the practice squad as an extra arm, but the Bucs will ride into the regular season with just two active quarterbacks.

Running Back

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    Brian Blanco/Associated Press

    In: Doug Martin, Bobby Rainey, Charles Sims, Mike James, Jeff Demps, Jorvorskie Lane (FB)

    Out: None

    Don't be surprised to see all of these backs make the roster for now, thanks in large part to the injury to Sims.  The rookie third-rounder is expected to miss 12-14 weeks following ankle surgery, so keeping depth is vital.

    James is also nursing a shoulder injury, which could put him on the chopping block.  However, I don't think the team is quite ready to give up on his talent, which he showed last year by running for over 150 yards against the Seattle Seahawks on the road.

    Martin is obviously the locked-in starter, and while Rainey has been completely unimpressive this preseason, he's stayed No. 2 on the depth chart and has experience as a return specialist as well.

    The player who could benefit most from the injuries ahead of him is Demps, who has shown flashes of his world-class speed but still hasn't looked completely comfortable as a football player.  If both Sims and James were completely healthy, I doubt he makes the final roster.

    Lane is extremely versatile, excelling both as a blocker and as a receiver out of the backfield, and has outplayed Lonnie Pryor up to this point.

Wide Receiver

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    Brian Blanco/Associated Press

    In: Vincent Jackson, Mike Evans, Louis Murphy, Chris Owusu, Robert Herron, Solomon Patton

    Out: Russell Shepard

    Jackson and Evans will start on the outside, but the battle for snaps in the slot is likely to continue throughout the season.  Owusu is the early favorite, but the youngsters Herron and Patton will be hot on his heels.

    Patton, and undrafted free agent, looks to have secured his spot as the primary return specialist, while the veteran Murphy will provide depth on the outside to spell Jackson and Evans.  Patton was the Florida Gators' leading receiver last season and outplayed incumbent slot candidates Eric Page and Skye Dawson, who were both released last week.

    Tampa Bay already cut down a few receivers, leaving only Shepard as the odd man out in this unit.  It's possible the former LSU Tiger could stick around on the practice squad.

Tight End

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    In: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Brandon Myers, Luke Stocker

    Out: Cameron Brate

    Seferian-Jenkins has been brought along slowly, but he'll be a big part of the Bucs passing attack once the regular season gets rolling.  The second-rounder out of Washington got a late start on offseason workouts thanks to his college classes and a foot injury, but his combination of size and athleticism will make him a huge matchup problem for opposing defenses.

    Tampa Bay felt comfortable enough with its tight end situation to deal second-year pro Tim Wright, a converted receiver who was a pleasant surprise last season after signing with the team as an undrafted free agent.

    Myers was one of the first free agents signed by the Bucs this offseason and brings plenty of NFL experience to this group.  Stocker has struggled to stay healthy throughout his career in Tampa Bay, but he's obviously done enough to impress the Bucs' coaching staff that it felt confident Tampa Bay could do without Wright.

    Brate ends up the odd man out this weekend when the final cuts come down.

Offensive Line

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    In: Anthony Collins (T), Demar Dotson (T), Logan Mankins (G), Evan Dietrich-Smith (C), Kadeem Edwards (G), Kevin Pamphile (T), Patrick Omameh (G), Rishaw Johnson (G)

    Out: Oniel Cousins (G), Jamon Meredith (G/T), Josh Allen (G/C), Jeremiah Warren (C), Andrew Miller (G), Edawn Coughman (T)

    One of the weakest units on the Bucs' roster got a huge boost this week, as six-time Pro Bowl guard Mankins was acquired from the New England Patriots.  This shores up one of the two guard spots that have been a pair of revolving doors throughout training camp and the preseason.

    This also makes disappointing veterans like Cousins and Meredith expendable after they both struggled to live up to expectations. 

    Collins, Dotson and Dietrich-Smith are locked into the starting lineup, while Omameh looks like the favorite to start at right guard.  Edwards and Pamphile are both rookie fifth-rounders who need time to develop, and Johnson is a recent addition who could be an interesting project.

    Allen and Miller are undrafted free agents who didn't particularly stand out, while Warren and Coughman will also get squeezed out.

Defensive Line

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    USA TODAY Sports

    In: Michael Johnson (DE), Adrian Clayborn (DE), Gerald McCoy (DT), Clinton McDonald (DT), Akeem Spence (DT), William Gholston (DE), Steven Means (DE), Da'Quan Bowers (DE/DT), Larry English (DE)

    Out: Scott Solomon (DE), Matthew Masifilo (DT), T.J. Fatinikun (DE), Ronald Talley (DE)

    The starting unit is set along the front four, but there's been a bitter battle for the backup roles in this rotation.  Means and Gholston have been dealing with injuries over the past few weeks, but they're both young and fit perfectly into this defense. 

    Spence will rotate in at the nose tackle spot, allowing McDonald to spell McCoy, who has destroyed everything in front of him this preseason.  Bowers has also struggled to stay on the field, but his ability to slide inside and give quality snaps at tackle should buy him at least one more chance.

    English was a recent acquisition who made a splash against the Buffalo Bills last week with a pair of sacks.  A fish out of water in the San Diego Chargers' 3-4 defense since being chosen in the first round of the 2009 draft, English looks much more comfortable in the Bucs' 4-3 and could end up being quite the find.

    Solomon has had a strong showing so far and is a prime candidate to stick around on the practice squad.  Masifilo plays with a nonstop motor, but he'll lose out to Bowers' overall talent.  The depth of this unit squeezes out the likes of Talley and Fatinikun.

Linebacker

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    USA TODAY Sports

    In: Lavonte David, Mason Foster, Dane Fletcher, Jonathan Casillas, Danny Lansanah, Ka'Lial Glaud

    Out: Nate Askew, Brandon Magee

    David and Foster will likely be on the field for every snap, while Fletcher looks to have a slight edge on Casillas, especially after the latter had to deal with a disciplinary issue last week.

    Lansanah has arguably been the most pleasant surprise of the entire preseason, constantly making plays against both the run and pass as well as on special teams.  He's performed well enough that he could end up pushing for playing time on the strong side with the starting unit.

    Glaud and Askew are neck-and-neck, but experience gives the nod to Glaud at this point.  Both have had solid camps, and Askew is a prime candidate to be stashed on the practice squad.  A receiver at Texas A&M until his senior season, Askew has loads of natural talent that just needs time to develop.

    Magee has been nursing an injury and just hasn't been on the field enough to make an impact.

Secondary

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    USA TODAY Sports

    In: Alterraun Verner (CB), Johnthan Banks (CB), Mike Jenkins (CB), Dashon Goldson (S), Mark Barron (S), Leonard Johnson (CB), Quinton Pointer (CB), Rashaan Melvin (CB), Major Wright (S), Bradley McDougald (S)

    Out: Marc Anthony (CB), Kip Edwards (CB), Anthony Gaitor (CB), Keith Lewis (CB), Keith Tandy (S)

    Verner and Jenkins have missed most of the preseason nursing hamstring injuries, but they should both be ready to go come Week 1.  Banks is locked into the starting lineup, while Barron and Goldson are entrenched at the starting safety spots.

    Melvin, Wright and McDougald have also struggled with injuries, but when healthy, they've all proved they've got what it takes to merit a roster spot.

    Johnson and Pointer will be Nos. 1-2 at the nickel corner spot, with Pointer possibly making a stronger push for playing time than some may have thought after a strong preseason.

    Anthony, Edwards and Gaitor just won't find enough room to stick.  Lewis is a small-school standout who should get stashed on the practice squad while he develops.  Tandy has continued his strong play in the box, but he's a liability in coverage and has been outplayed this preseason by McDougald.

Special Teams

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    Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

    In: Connor Barth (K), Michael Koenen (P), Andrew DePaola (LS)

    Out: Patrick Murray (K)

    Murray gave Barth a run for his money, but his bid will end up falling short this weekend.  Barth, who missed all of last season with a torn Achilles tendon, is the most accurate kicker in franchise history and is more experienced.

    Heading into camp, many fans were skeptical Koenen was worth his hefty-for-a-punter price tag, but he's proved his value as a field-position weapon with a strong preseason.  He's got no competition on the roster, and I don't see any chance the team brings in anyone else before the regular season.

    DePaola's only competition up to this point, Jeremy Cain, was cut last week.  Despite Cain having previous experience playing for Bucs head coach Lovie Smith in Chicago, he was beat out here in Tampa Bay.