The Tampa Bay Buccaneers released their first 2011 depth chart on Monday, almost exactly at the midpoint of training camp.
Why Monday? Because they had to.
With the first preseason game looming on Friday, the team was required to put out an “official” depth chart to start the week. The Kansas City Chiefs, who will play host to the Buccaneers at Arrowhead Stadium on Friday evening, were required to do the same.
Tampa Bay’s new depth chart is crowded, of course, given the enormous 90-man camp rosters allowed this year by the 11th-hour CBA agreement. It’s also packed with rookies and young players, including three NFL newcomers in the top spots at their position. And it seemingly provides some answers, too, about how certain battles are shaping up in the early going.
What does it really mean, however? Ask Head Coach Raheem Morris and he’ll tell you, simply and bluntly: Absolutely nothing.
So take the Buccaneers’ first depth chart of the year with more than a few grains of salt. It’s a work in progress, and jobs all over the 29-line document will remain in competition throughout training camp and the preseason.
That said, the new depth chart is yet another sign that football is almost upon us. The Bucs are four days away from their first live action of 2011 and just 34 days away from the regular-season opener. So let’s take a quick look at some of the more interesting entries on that depth chart, even if they’re not yet set in stone.
Click here to view the entire depth chart.
1. Wide Receiver
It’s no surprise that last year’s rookie duo,
What’s most interesting about the receiver depth chart is that second-year man
2. Right Tackle
This position is a prime example of the reason Morris, like most coaches, thinks a depth chart at this stage of the preseason isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.
Lee finished the 2010 season as the starter but the Buccaneers made a point of re-signing Trueblood as an unrestricted free agent. It’s clear that those two are battling for the starting spot, and that might be one of the toughest predictions on the depth chart in this year’s training camp. Still, on the very first depth chart, Trueblood is listed first, which means he will likely start the preseason opener against the Chiefs.
3. Second Tailback
With Cadillac Williams officially out of the picture after his signing with the St. Louis Rams, the Buccaneers have an opening at the primary spot behind starting running back
At the moment, that job appears to be
4. Defensive End
Not that it was unexpected, but first-round pick
On the other end of the line, the first spot at left end goes to the player who started the Bucs’ last two games at right end in 2010,
5. Middle Linebacker
This spot has fostered one of the best battles of training camp, as the team looks for the right replacement for the departed Barrett Ruud. While third-round pick
McKenzie and Foster have both seen a significant amount of playing time with the first crew during training camp, though McKenzie started out with a higher percentage of the snaps and Foster has recently seen it tilt more in his direction. On the first depth chart, Foster gets the nod at the top Mike slot, with McKenzie in the second slot. The team is also high on undrafted rookie
The two players who made the most starts at safety in 2010 are still in the starting spots on the first 2011 depth chart.
What’s more interesting is the placement of rookie
7. Return Man
The Buccaneers have plenty of proven options to return punts and kickoffs. In fact, Micheal Spurlock and Sammie Stroughter have both returned kicks for touchdowns in the past few seasons.
It’s Spurlock who gets the first seat at both return jobs, however, at least heading into the preseason. The Buccaneers have listed the same order at both punt returner and kick returner: Spurlock, Preston Parker and Stroughter.
There are other notes of interest regarding the first 2011 depth chart. Three players are listed at different positions than they had entering camp:
The aforementioned three rookies in the first slots at their position are Clayborn and Foster, as mentioned, plus long-snapper
News flash: Tampa Bay is a young team. The 22 players listed as starters on offense and defense on the first depth chart of 2011 have an average age of 25.95 years old. Of those 22, a whopping 13 are still 25 years old or younger. Only three are 30 or older: 30-year-old
If the depth chart released on Monday were to remain as-is until the regular-season opener – and, again, Morris would strongly caution you from making that assumption – the lineup would have relatively little turnover from the season before. Of the 22 players listed on Monday’s depth chart, only four were not starters for at least half of the 2010 campaign: Trueblood (right tackle), Bennett (left end), Clayborn (right end) and Foster (middle linebacker). That number goes up by one if you consider the two kicker positions as starters, as the team has imported former Atlanta punter
The starting lineup in Friday’s preseason opener at Kansas City may strongly resemble the depth chart the team released on Monday. That game itself, however, is part of the ongoing competition that may produce some changes to the depth chart over the next month. Take a moment to peruse the Bucs’ first 2011 depth chart, and enjoy the read, but don’t assume it has all the answers.