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
Last week, the Buccaneers switched Julio Jones and Russell Gage on the depth chart to reflect the fact that Jones had essentially taken over the third receiver role and was getting more snaps than any receivers other than the starting duo of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. However, Jones sat out Sunday's contests against Cincinnati due to a knee ailment, which thrust Gage right back into heavy usage in 11 personnel. Gage logged 46 offensive snaps, or 62% of the total, roughly double what he had gotten in the previous two games after returning from injury. He finished the game with eight catches for 59 yards and two touchdowns.
Wide receiver Breshad Perriman, who had been a healthy scratch the previous two weeks, was back in action with Jones sidelined and he actually started the game in a three-receiver set. Perriman finished with seven total offensive plays but was not targeted. The fourth receiver on the snap countdown was actually rookie Deven Thompkins, who was elevated from the practice squad for the second straight game in order to handle kick returns. This time, however, Thompkins also got some action on offense, 13 snaps in total, and recorded one run for nine yards and one catch for seven yards. As of Tuesday, Thompkins was still not displayed on the depth chart because he technically remains on the practice squad. However, that will have to change by the end of the week if the Buccaneers plan to continue using Thompkins as their return man, and Head Coach Todd Bowles seemed to indicate that was the plan in his Monday press conference.
Rookie running back Rachaad White made his fifth straight start but was actually out-snapped by veteran Leonard Fournette, 43 to 29. White had one more carry (11 to 10) but Fournette had two more targets (4 to 2). Fournette finished with 74 yards from scrimmage, to 43 for White.
Left tackle Donovan Smith was briefly shaken up on the Buccaneers' first drive of the game but only ended up missing two snaps. It was first-year player Brandon Walton who stepped in for those two snaps, as the Bucs' usual swing tackle, Josh Wells, was already in the starting lineup in place of an injured Tristan Wirfs.
Rookie Ko Kieft was the lone tight end in the Bucs' opening-play lineup against the Bengals and he finished with 20 offensive snaps, his third highest total of the season.
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 played in Week 15 without outside linebackers Genard Avery and Carl Nassib, and their top edge rusher, Shaquil Barrett, has been on injured reserve since Week Nine. That left the team with only two active OLBs in Anthony Nelson and Joe Tryon-Shoyinka and, in an unusual outcome for that position, both played all 66 defensive snaps. There were, in fact, seven defenders out of the 11 starters who never came off the field on defense, with Nelson and Tryon-Shoyinka joined by inside linebackers Lavonte David and Devin White, cornerbacks Sean Murphy-Bunting and Carlton Davis and safety Logan Ryan.
Returning from a two-game injury absence, Murphy-Bunting got his second start of the season with Jamel Dean sidelined by a toe ailment. He finished with two tackles and a pass defensed. Usual starting safeties Mike Edwards and Antoine Winfield Jr. also returned after missing time due to injury but, unlike Murphy-Bunting, neither could play the whole game. Winfield started but aggravated his ankle injury and only played 18 defensive snaps. Edwards was eased back in with 32 snaps, roughly half the total, but is expected to return to more robust playing time going forward.
With Vita Vea sidelined by a calf injury, Rakeem Nunez-Roches continued to absorb significantly more playing time. In fact, his 43 defensive snaps were the most by any of the Bucs' down linemen in Week 15, two more than Akiem Hicks.
P: Jake Camarda
PK: Ryan Succop
KO: Jake Camarda
H: Jake Camarda
LS: Zach Triner
PR: Scotty Miller
KR: Rachaad White, Giovani Bernard
As noted, Thompkins took care of the punt and kickoff return duties for the second straight week. Punter Jake Camarda was only needed for one punt in the game thanks to offensive efficiency in the first half and turnovers in the second half.
Linebackers K.J Britt and J.J. Russell, the latter elevated from the practice squad for the game, took the most snaps on special teams, with 19 each. Kieft and defensive lineman Patrick O'Connor were next with 16 each.