Each week during the regular season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' communications department publishes a "Game Release" to aid the media in coverage of their upcoming game. Included in that release are a number of documents regarding the player roster, including a depth chart, which lists the pecking order at every position on offense, defense and special teams.
Each game week, we will be taking a closer look at that depth chart, pointing out any changes or relevant notes from the previous game. Let's start on offense. Players we will be discussing in depth are highlighted in bold text.
- WR: Mike Evans, Julio Jones, Jaelon Darden
- WR: Chris Godwin, Breshad Perriman
- LT: Donovan Smith, Josh Wells
- LG: Luke Goedeke, Nick Leverett
- C: Robert Hainsey, John Molchon
- RG: Shaq Mason, Brandon Walton
- RT: Tristan Wirfs
- TE: Cameron Brate, Cade Otton, Kyle Rudolph, Ko Kieft
- WR: Russell Gage, Scotty Miller
- QB: Tom Brady, Blaine Gabbert, Kyle Trask
- RB: Leonard Fournette, Rachaad White, Ke'Shawn Vaughn, Giovani Bernard
The Buccaneers will likely have to get by for several weeks without their All-Pro right tackle, as Tristan Wirfs sustained a high ankle sprain in the overtime period on Sunday. The Buccaneers only put each player on the depth chart once on offense or defense, even if they technically back up several spots, and interestingly there is no backup listed for Wirfs. Josh Wells played the final snap at right tackle after Wirfs injury. Wells was also the first choice to start at left tackle in place of an injured Donovan Smith earlier this season, but when he got hurt too the Bucs turned to Brandon Walton and were pleased with the results.
Chris Godwin has gradually become more and more involved in the offense as he has worked his way back to full strength after last year's knee injury. On Sunday in Cleveland, he played all but three of a possible 69 offensive snaps, an extremely heavy workload that suggests he's back to his old form (as did the 12 catches for 110 yards and a touchdown). Mike Evans played 90% of the snaps and Julio Jones got 62%, leaving little work for Breshad Perriman or Scotty Miller, who had one target between them.
Rookie tight end Ko Kieft has now logged eight starts in 11 games this season, largely because the Bucs have tended to open games in heavy run-blocking packages. Kieft ended up getting 16 offensive snaps, one of which resulted in his first NFL touchdown. While fellow rookie Cade Otton has emerged as the team's most used tight end for much of the season, in this game he had just one more offensive snap (36) than Cameron Brate (35). And Brate finished with five targets to none for Otton. This is probably not any kind of trend but simply a result of some specific game-planning. Otton had 19 targets over the previous four games combined.
Veteran running back Giovani Bernard returned from injured reserve in Week 12 and was active for the game in Cleveland but did not get a single snap on offense or special teams. The Buccaneers definitely discovered that rookie Rachaad White could be an every-down back, almost literally. White played a season-high 62 snaps (90%) with Leonard Fournette out and produced 109 yards from scrimmage, including nine catches on nine targets for 45 yards.
- DL: Akiem Hicks, Pat O'Connor
- NT: Vita Vea, Rakeem Nunez-Roches, Deadrin Senat
- DL: William Gholston, Logan Hall
- OLB: Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, Carl Nassib
- ILB: Devin White
- ILB: Lavonte David, Olakunle Fatukasi
- OLB: Anthony Nelson, Genard Avery
- CB: Jamel Dean, Sean Murphy-Bunting
- CB: Carlton Davis, Zyon McCollum
- S: Antoine Winfield Jr., Dee Delaney
- S: Mike Edwards, Keanu Neal, Nolan Turner
With virtually every defensive back the Bucs employed on Sunday needing attention from the trainers at some point during the game, the defensive snaps in the secondary were spread out among all eight contributors the Bucs had active for the game. Cornerback Carlton Davis was slow to leave the field after sustaining a facial laceration but it occurred on a third down and he returned to the game without missing a defensive snap. He was the only Bucs DB to play all 79 snaps and he turned in a pair of passes defensed.
Safety Keanu Neal didn't start but he did play 63 defensive snaps as the Bucs went back to using safety Antoine Winfield Jr. in the slot in sub packages. Winfield spent part of the first half being evaluated for a concussion and later sustained an ankle sprain, so he only logged 52 snaps instead of his customary 100% usage. Sean Murphy-Bunting thus got some playing time until he too left with a contusion. Safety/cornerback hybrid Dee Delaney ended up with 11 snaps and rookie corner Zyon McCollum got 10.
Likely in response to Cleveland's run-heavy offense, the Buccaneers' defense started in an unusual package that included four down linemen, with Rakeem Nunez-Roches joining the listed starters, and one outside linebacker. That OLB was neither of the team's usual two starters, Joe Tryon-Shoyinka and Anthony Nelson, but reserve Carl Nassib. Nunez-Roches (34 snaps, 43%) and Nassib (26, 33%) both saw good chunks of playing time, with Nunez-Roches registering his second sack of the season and Nassib combining with Devin White on another one. Vita Vea, who only practiced a small amount during the week due to a foot ailment that unexpectedly cropped up during the bye week, was still able to play 61% of the snaps.
- P: Jake Camarda
- PK: Ryan Succop
- KO: Jake Camarda
- H: Jake Camarda
- LS: Zach Triner
- PR: Jaelon Darden, Scotty Miller
- KR: Rachaad White, Jaelon Darden
The Bucs apparently do not want to put too much of a burden on White when he has an increased role on offense, as it was wide receiver Jaelon Darden who was the return man on all five Cleveland kickoffs. At least, White was deep for all five, but watched them all sail over his head for touchbacks. White did play nine snaps on special teams as the personal protector on punts, and he contributed a kick-coverage tackle.
Linebacker Ulysees Gilbert, elevated from the practice squad for the second game in a row, tied Delaney and McCollum for the most usage on special teams, seeing action on 28 of a possible 31 snaps. Gilbert recorded two special teams tackles, as did Delaney.