In the business of media coverage for football games, there is a ubiquitous item known as the "flip card.' It features the rosters and depth charts for the two opposing teams, plus some additional information, and it's usually printed on some thick form of stock. The flip card is so-called because the two sides are traditionally printed upside-down from each other and broadcasters are used to flipping it over vertically when they want to move from front to back.
The flip card is also the reason that the Buccaneers released an "official" depth chart on Tuesday for the first time in 2019, and the first time under their new head coach Bruce Arians. The Buccaneers will head to Pittsburgh at the end of the week to open their preseason slate and they are required to put out documents such as depth charts that can be used in game materials, most notably that good old flip card.
So, here it is, the Buccaneers' first depth chart under Arians, who took over as the team's new coach in January. Check it out, because there is quite a bit of interesting information contained within it, but understand that this is essentially a starting point. The Bucs are only a week-and-a-half into training camp, they still have four preseason games to play and there are still plenty of jobs under contention. This first depth chart should be taken with a grain of salt large enough to be a potential choking hazard.
"It doesn't mean crap," said Arians. "It's changing every day. Guys who can play different positions will move up; guys who are stuck in one position will move down."
The Buccaneers' depth chart changes from season to season, of course, as players arrive and depart. In this case, though, there are actually some structural changes to the chart itself, most notably on defense where the Bucs are now identifying as a 3-4 team. In addition, the offensive depth chart now lists two tight end starting positions after finishing last season with a depth chart that listed just one along with three starting wide receivers. That is almost surely a reflection of the return to health of both O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate and the expectation that they will both be central to the Bucs' offense in 2019.
Two rookies are currently listed as starters: inside linebacker Devin White and safety Mike Edwards. That has been expected for White since the evening he was drafted. Meanwhile Edwards, a third-round pick, has quickly moved to the front of the team's wide-open safety competition, in part because one of the team's incumbents, Justin Evans, is currently on the PUP list. On offense, the most notable change in the starting lineup from last season is second-year man Alex Cappa stepping in at right guard.
Here are some additional observations from the Buccaneers' first depth chart of 2019:
· The 3-4 defensive depth chart means a three-man line, two outside linebackers (OLB) and two inside linebackers (ILB). Any player who might fill one of those three down-linemen spots is designated as a "defensive lineman" (DL) on the Buccaneers' roster but the three spots are differentiated as two defensive ends (DE) and one nose tackle (NT) on the depth chart. Vita Vea, the Bucs' enormous and agile first-round pick from a year ago, is the nose tackle while key free agency addition Ndamukong Suh is one of the two ends.
· Players who are currently on either the PUP or NFI list at the moment are listed in parentheses at the back end of their respective positions, as is Lavonte David, who recently had a procedure for a torn meniscus and will likely be out several weeks. Obviously, Jason Pierre-Paul would not be in the fifth spot at one of the OLB positions if he was healthy. As it is, Carl Nassib is first in one of those two spots, as one would expect after he finished last season as a starting defensive end in the old 4-3 scheme. Noah Spence and Shaq Barrett are one-two at the other OLB spot and it seems likely that the top position is still very much in doubt, and that both will play quite a bit. Rookie fourth-rounder Anthony Nelson comes in behind Nassib.
· Lavonte David was originally listed first at one of the two ILB spots, along with White, as expected. The pair originally listed right behind them is comprised of two players who know the system from their days with the Arizona Cardinals, Deone Bucannon and Kevin Minter. Bucannon, however, is now paired with White while David is temporarily listed at the back end of the position.
· Carlton Davis and Vernon Hargreaves are at the top of the list at cornerback but the second pairing is the team's two rookie draft picks, Sean Murphy-Bunting and Jamel Dean. Because the Buccaneers only list two cornerback spots as starters (as is standard around the league), this list probably doesn't shed much light on who is ahead in the battle for the slot corner job.
· As noted above rookie Mike Edwards occupies one of the two main safety spots. The other is second-year man Jordan Whitehead, who led the Bucs with 11 starts at safety as a rookie last season. Undrafted rookie D'Cota Dixon has climbed to second behind Edwards and alongside free agent signee Kentrell Brice.
· The offensive depth chart has a chance to be largely unchanged at the top from 2018, particularly if one treats Howard and Brate as returning co-starters and notes that Chris Godwin was actually considered a co-starter with DeSean Jackson by the previous coaching staff. Cappa or perhaps another contender will be the new right guard after Caleb Benenoch occupied that spot last year. Listed after Cappa on the depth chart is veteran Earl Watford, who previously played under Arians in Arizona and was signed by Tampa this offseason.
· Breshad Perriman and Justin Watson are the two primary backups listed behind Godwin and Mike Evans, with sixth-round rookie Scotty Miller slotted in behind Watson. As with the slot corner spot, this depth chart arrangement doesn't shed much light on who is battling for the slot receiver assignment, perhaps in part because the Buccaneers will use a lot of different players in that role.
· The special teams portion of the depth chart obviously notes that Bradley Pinion is the new punter and that the kicking job is a competition between veteran Cairo Santos and rookie fifth-rounder Matt Gay. As the veteran, Santos gets top billing but the competition is still too close to call.
· There aren't many clues as to the competition for the two return jobs, though Bobo Wilson gets the top spot at both PR and KR. Holding onto that spot would go a long way in Wilson's attempt to make an opening-day roster for the first time in his three years in Tampa. The only other player listed at either spot is second-year running back Ronald Jones, who is second at kickoff return.