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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs' Release Week 14 Depth Chart: J.J. Russell Steps Up

LB J.J. Russell filled in for injured LB Lavonte David against Carolina and played all but one defensive snap while recording his first career sack

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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. Within 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. Rookies are marked with an asterisk. Players we will be discussing in depth are highlighted in bold text.

OFFENSE

WR: Mike Evans, Trey Palmer *

WR: Chris Godwin, Deven Thompkins

LT: Tristan Wirfs, Justin Skule

LG: Aaron Stinnie, Matt Feiler

C: Robert Hainsey

RG: Cody Mauch *, Nick Leverett

RT: Luke Goedeke, Brandon Walton

TE: Ko Kieft

TE: Cade Otton, Payne Durham *

QB: Baker Mayfield, Kyle Trask, John Wolford

RB: Rachaad White, Chase Edmonds, Sean Tucker *, Ke'Shawn Vaughn

For the second time in the last three games, star left tackle Tristan Wirfs had to leave the game due to injury, but once again he only missed minimal time. Against San Francisco he was out for two snaps and then returned for the Buccaneers' next possession. This time, against Carolina, it was the same story and just one snap missed. Justin Skule filled in both times.

Despite playing through a couple injuries, including a neck issue, Chris Godwin played 54 of a possible 62 offensive snaps, one more than Mike Evans. Godwin was only targeted three times and none resulted in a catch, but he did provide the Bucs' deciding touchdown on a 19-yard end-around. Trey Palmer played 14 fewer snaps than Godwin but had two more targets, resulting in two catches for 12 yards.

The Buccaneers had six receivers active for the first time this season after elevating both David Moore and Ryan Miller from the practice squad. All six got into the game, with Deven Thompkins drawing 13 snaps, Moore eight and Miller three. Neither Moore nor Miller were targeted in the passing game. It was Miller's NFL debut.

Tight end Cade Otton, who has played every offensive snap in a game three times this season, nearly did it again, sitting for just one of the Bucs' 62 plays. However, he was not targeted a single time in the passing game for the first time this season. Overall, Otton has been on the field for 756 of the Bucs' 778 plays this season, or 97.2%. Only quarterback Baker Mayfield and three offensive lineman have seen more playing time on the Bucs' offense.

DEFENSE

DL: Calijah Kancey *, Pat O'Connor

NT: Vita Vea, Greg Gaines

DL: Logan Hall, William Gholston

OLB: Yaya Diaby *, Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, Markees Watts *

ILB: Devin White, K.J. Britt, J.J. Russell

ILB: Lavonte David, SirVocea Dennis *

OLB: Shaquil Barrett, Anthony Nelson, Cam Gill

CB: Jamel Dean, Zyon McCollum, Keenan Isaac *

CB: Carlton Davis, Christian Izien *, Josh Hayes *

S: Antoine Winfield Jr., Kaevon Merriweather *

S: Ryan Neal, Dee Delaney

The only change on the Bucs' depth chart in Week 14 was in the reserve spot behind defensive lineman Calijah Kancey. With Mike Greene going on injured reserve, the Buccaneers promoted Pat O'Connor from the practice squad for the second time this season. O'Connor played 10 snaps on special teams against the Panthers but did not get into the game on defense.

The big story for the Bucs' defense in Week 13 was the absences of 80% of the team's depth chart at off-ball linebacker for more than three quarters of the game. The Bucs were without Lavonte David, Devin White and SirVocea Dennis due to illness or injury, leaving J.J. Russell and K.J. Britt to start without any official backups. When Britt went down with a back injury after seven defensive snaps, safety Ryan Neal came into the game to play linebacker and wound up with 57 snaps, his most since Week Eight. Neal finished the game with four tackles, including one key stop for a loss near the Bucs' goal line in the second quarter.

Russell played all but one snap and turned in seven tackles and his first career sack. Without Neal available to split snaps at safety with Dee Delaney, as had been the modus operandi over the previous month, undrafted rookie Kaevon Merriweather got extensive playing time for the second time this season. In this case, he played 35 of the 72 defensive snaps, while Delaney played 38.

The Panthers' offense used "11" personnel, with three receivers, on 88.4% of their plays, which meant a lot of work for Bucs slot corner Christian Izien. Izien played 62 of a possible 72 snaps and recorded five tackles plus a forced fumble. That was his highest percentage of playing time since he was on the field for 63 of 69 snaps against Buffalo in Week Eight.

SPECIALISTS

P: Jake Camarda

PK: Chase McLaughlin

KO: Jake Camarda

H: Jake Camarda

LS: Zach Triner

PR: Deven Thompkins, Trey Palmer *

KR: Deven Thompkins, Rachaad White

Rookie cornerback Josh Hayes saw the most playing time of any Buccaneer on special teams against Carolina, logging 26 of a possible 29 plays, which meant he was on every unit except field goal. Hayes made a critical open-field tackle on return man Ihmir Smith-Marsette late in the third quarter. Russell, who typically sees a lot of special teams action when active for a game, was used on just 10 of the 29 snaps due to his increased role on offense. Outside linebacker Cam Gill played just one snap on defense but got 24 on special teams. Merriweather added to his increased defensive responsibilities with 26 plays on special teams.

View the top photos of Tampa Bay's Week 13 matchup vs. the Carolina Panthers.

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