The initial 53-man roster was decided this past weekend. I say initial because as Head Coach Bruce Arians has mentioned, they're always looking to add players they feel can contribute. If there's another guy out there that can help the team and is an upgrade to what the Bucs currently have, they'll pull the metaphorical trigger and make a move.
That being said, the roster was cut down to 53 on Saturday and the practice squad was filled out by 4 p.m. Monday. Presumably, we have the players that will take the field at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers for the Bucs season opener (squeals). And if you don't know by now, country superstar Tim McGraw is playing a full concert prior to the game that's free with your game ticket.
Back to the task at hand. Now that we have those guys, let's take a little bit of a look at what we're going to do with them, starting with the offense and specialists.
No surprise here. When Coach Arians was hired, he doubled down on Winston's talent and said the two's long-standing relationship (Arians has known Winston since his days playing youth football in Alabama) was a determining factor in taking the Tampa Bay job. Known across the league as the 'Quarterback Whisperer,' even writing a book by the same name, Arians will be tasked with improving Winston's game in a contract year. The club picked up Winston's fifth-year option last season and 2019 will serve as a major evaluator when deciding whether to invest in Winston long-term. Winston also has the help of Offensive Coordinator Byron Leftwich, who is now running a system he played in while a signal caller under Arians in Pittsburgh. Then there's quarterbacks coach Clyde Christiansen, who was previously in the same role with the Buccaneers under Tony Dungy.
Gabbert is a player that has played under Arians before in Arizona. He brings value not only as a backup, but as a player coach, able to further translate the nuances of the offense. He suffered a shoulder injury in the third preseason game, but thankfully the injury isn't that serious.
Griffin, or 'Mr. August' as he's affectionately been called, had a stellar preseason for Tampa Bay and the four-game stretch where he passed for 744 yards was far from an outlier. Griffin has performed well for the Bucs in his four preseasons with the team but has yet to take a regular season snap. He stays on to become more comfortable with the offense and provide viable depth.
Offensive Line (9)
The Bucs made a last-minute addition by trading for tackle Jerald Hawkins with the Pittsburgh Steelers prior to final cuts. He adds a veteran presence to the line, this being his fourth year in the league. He was on IR all of last season with a quad injury but played in five games in 2017, making one start. He adds depth to a group that could use it. The left side of the line, including center Ryan Jensen, is locked up long-term. Cappa earned the starting job at right guard during camp and Dotson is a vested veteran, and one of only three players on the team that eclipses the age of 30.
Watford was acquired by the team in free agency and his strength lies in his versatility. He can play all across the line when called upon, which Coach Arians is well-familiar with, given that Watford also played under him in Arizona.
"Earl's forte is five-position flexibility on Sunday," Arians said. "He's played as a three and four-game starter. I'm very comfortable with that role."
Benenoch has playing experience, too, starting all 16 games at right guard for the Bucs last year. This staff, however, felt he was better suited at tackle, rather than guard. He's done well with the transition in the preseason. Bailey was an undrafted rookie free agent the team signed in the spring and did enough during camp to prove he provides quality depth primarily at the guard position.
View photos of the Buccaneers' 53-man roster.
Tight Ends (4)
You wanted it, you got it. After a stellar preseason, second-year player Tanner Hudson has made the 53-man roster for the Buccaneers heading into Week One. Hudson spent last season on Tampa Bay's practice squad but proved himself useful in the receiving game, connecting with quarterback Ryan Griffin especially (12 completions, 175 yards and three touchdowns), but also carved out a role on special teams.
With Howard and Brate being tight ends 1 and 1a, this may now be one of the deepest position groups on the team and for good reason. Throughout the preseason, the Bucs have deployed a lot of 12 personnel looks, putting two tight ends on the field on a regular basis, therefore making four tight ends pretty necessary on the roster. Who says Arians doesn't know how to use these guys?
Running Backs (4)
The Bucs added to their running back corps on Monday, signing T.J. Logan off waivers from the Arizona Cardinals. Logan played for Arians in Arizona and was their most viable return man, averaging 24.7 yards on 12 returns. Barber is still the starter – and though his pass-catching abilities have improved, he still excels at getting the tough yards. Jones looks like a whole new back from his rookie year in 2018 and should split a significant amount of time with Barber. Ogunbowale proved his worth, elevating himself from the practice squad last year to the 53-man roster this year, thanks in part to his improved route-running, making him a viable third-down option and his impact as a leader on special teams.
Wide Receivers (6)
The Bucs ended up keeping six receivers on the 53-man roster to round out the skill positions, even with three very good pass-catching tight ends. Evans has further separated himself as the team's 'X' receiver during camp, with Godwin being the do-it-all guy and Perriman using his speed to be the deep threat. Watson is still looking to take a leap forward but has put on some weight, helping him hold up better in traffic and on the inside. If he can work on his blocking abilities, he could be a good backup for Godwin in the slot. Both Wilson and Miller are speedy guys that can dart around all over. They may be a bit undersized to be used inside, but Wilson got a lot of work on the outside, as did Miller before an injury limited his game action. Both are also likely to be factors on special teams and in the return game, depending on newcomer Logan and the staff's vision for his return role.
K Matt Gay
P Bradley Pinion
LS Zach Triner
The Bucs have a kicker – and they got him in the fifth round of this year's draft out of the University of Utah. Gay's range is pretty incredible. His first NFL kick this preseason set a record at Heinz Field against the Steelers as he converted a 55-yard attempt before the half. The Bucs nabbed Pinion in the offseason from San Francisco in free agency. Pinion also has kickoff abilities in case Gay's leg is getting overworked. Pinion seems to have developed a good rapport with long snapper Zack Triner, who will maintain the job through the 2019 season.
The countdown to season kickoff is on! The Bucs are kicking off the NFL's 100th season with a FREE Tim McGraw pregame concert for all fans with a ticket to the home opener on Sept. 8! Get your tickets today.