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, Russell Gage
WR: Chris Godwin, Breshad Perriman
LT: Donovan Smith, Josh Wells
LG: Nick Leverett, Luke Goedeke
C: Robert Hainsey, John Molchon
RG: Shaq Mason, Brandon Walton
RT: Tristan Wirfs
TE: Cameron Brate, Cade Otton, Kyle Rudolph, Ko Kieft
WR: Julio Jones, Scotty Miller
QB: Tom Brady, Blaine Gabbert, Kyle Trask
RB: Leonard Fournette, Rachaad White, Ke'Shawn Vaughn, Giovani Bernard
The most notable change in the offensive depth chart heading into Week 15 is the swap of Julio Jones and Russell Gage at two of the receiver spots. Jones had been listed second behind Mike Evans, with Gage taking one of the other two starting receiver spots, along with Chris Godwin. Now Jones has that third starting spot, and Gage is listed behind Evans. This is consistent with snap totals Jones returned from injury in Week Eight.
In the last six games, Jones has averaged 43 snaps a game, more than any other receiver on the roster after Evans and Godwin. In the two games since Gage returned from his own injury, he has logged 26 and 25 snaps. The Buccaneers also now have six receivers on their depth chart instead of the seven they had been carrying all season due to last week's release of Jaelon Darden. For the second game in a row, Breshad Perriman was on the inactive list after the team elevated a seventh receiver, rookie Deven Thompkins, from the practice squad.
Rookie running back Rachaad White made his fourth start in a row and continues to reshape the Bucs' backfield into a nearly even timeshare with Leonard Fournette. While White started against New Orleans in Week 13, he was still out-snapped by Fournette, 48-33. In Week 14, for the first time all season when both backs were available, White played more snaps than Fournette, 40-36. He also logged 13 carries to four for Fournette, though the veteran back had seven targets in the passing game to five for White.
At tight end, rookie Cade Otton continues to operate as the de facto tight end despite being listed as second on the depth chart behind Cameron Brate. Otton played 45 of a possible 76 offensive snaps to 28 for Brate. Fellow rookie Ko Kieft started the game alongside Otton in "12" personnel but was only on the field for five offensive plays. He did get a target during those five plays, catching an 11-yard pass.
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, K.J. Britt
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., Logan Ryan, Dee Delaney
S: Mike Edwards, Keanu Neal
The Buccaneers restored their inside linebacker position to the preferred number of four on the active roster by activating K.J. Britt from injured reserve last week. He is once again listed second behind Devin White.
Outside linebacker Carl Nassib continues to see a spike in his playing time due to his productive efforts in recent weeks. Against San Francisco, Nassib was given a season-high 59% of the defensive snap total, as his playing time in the last four weeks has gone from 10 plays to 26 to 29 and now 37. He is primarily eating into Joe Tryon-Shoyinka's playing time, as Anthony Nelson also logged his highest snap count of the year, at 52, which was 83% of the total. Meanwhile, Tryon-Shoyinka got a 43% snap share and Genard Avery was only on the field for 10 plays.
With Vita Vea leaving the game in San Francisco early due to a calf injury, both Rakeem Nunez-Roches and Deadrin Senat saw their playtime rise. Nunez-Roches was on the field for 39 of the 63 defensive plays against the 49ers, his second-highest total of the year, and Senat got 17 snaps after recording just three over the last four games combined. Nunez-Roches actually logged the most snaps of any of the Bucs' down linemen in San Francisco.
Safeties Keanu Neal and Logan Ryan once again played every snap in Week 14 in the continued absence of starters Mike Edwards and Antoine Winfield Jr. Cornerback Carlton Davis also was on the field for all 63 defensive plays but fellow starter Jamel Dean left the game with a toe injury, opening up playing time for rookie corner Zyon McCollum, who finished with 24 snaps. Dee Delaney got work in the slot, but because the 49ers use three-wide groupings far less often than most teams, he finished the game with only 19 snaps.
P: Jake Camarda
PK: Ryan Succop
KO: Jake Camarda
H: Jake Camarda
LS: Zach Triner
PR: Scotty Miller
KR:Rachaad White, Giovani Bernard
The Bucs did make one big change on special teams in Week 14, but half of it is not reflected on the depth chart. As noted above, Darden was released and is thus no longer listed at the punt and kickoff return jobs, which he had been holding down. Rookie wide receiver Deven Thompkins took those spots, but because he was elevated from the practice squad for the game and then automatically reverted to that unit the next day he is also not listed on the depth chart. Scotty Miller, the listed punt returner, has not fielded a single punt all season and Rachaad White, the listed kickoff returner, hasn't seen action in that capacity since Week 10.
Britt returned to action after his I.R. stint and immediately resumed his role as the team's most active special teamer. He was on the field for 19 of the Bucs' kick-and-coverage snaps against the 49ers, for a team-high 90% usage rate. Kieft was perhaps the team's most efficient special teams player, as he was involved in just 11 of those plays but was able to record three kick-coverage tackles. He leads the team this season with 10 special teams stops.