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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs Defensive Depth Chart: Antoine Winfield Joins Returning Starters

The Buccaneers will have some helpful continuity on defense, with 10 of their 11 projected starters returning from last year's roster, but rookie S Antoine Winfield, Jr. has earned a big role

View photos of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 53-man roster.

While the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will field a new-look offense in 2020, led by a new starter at the game's most important position, the team's defense will benefit from a large and likely helpful amount of continuity.

The Buccaneers revealed their first depth chart of 2020 on Sunday and newcomers like quarterback Tom Brady and right tackle Tristan Wirfs stand out on offense. On the other side of that depth chart is a projected starting 11 made up almost entirely of players who were on the roster last year. The last time the Buccaneers had an opening-day defensive lineup featuring 11 returning players as starters was 2009.

That streak may continue on in 2020 because rookie safety Antoine Winfield, Jr. is listed as one of the two starters at safety. The second-round draft pick joins right tackle Tristan Wirfs, the Bucs' first-round pick, as the only rookies listed among the starters to open the season.

Click here to review the Bucs' first depth chart of 2020. Below are the listed defensive starters:

DL: Ndamukong Suh

NT: Vita Vea

DL: William Gholston

OLB: Jason Pierre-Paul

ILB: Devin White

ILB: Lavonte David

OLB: Shaquil Barrett

CB: Carlton Davis III

S: Jordan Whitehead

And here's a breakdown by position:

Defensive Line – The three-man line that powered the Buccaneers to the top spot in the 2019 rushing defense rankings returns, with Suh, Vea and Gholston all hoping to add more to the team's sack total this year, as well. After adding around 20 pounds and a significant amount of strength to his upper body, Rakeem Nunez-Roches is ready to take on a larger role in 2020 as Vea's primary reserve at nose. The Buccaneers kept three reserves on the interior line and they have a variety of strengths. Nunez-Roches showed off his power in training camp while rookie sixth-rounder Khalil Davis is more of a quick interior penetrator. Patrick O'Connor has good length and some inside-outside versatile, and he fills several critical roles on special teams, which helped him hold onto a roster spot.

Outside Linebacker – No change to the starting duo of Barrett and Pierre-Paul from 2019, and for good reason. Those two combined for 28.0 sacks, the most by an pair of NFL teammates last year, even though Pierre-Paul missed the first six games due to an offseason neck injury. The Buccaneers are counting on second-year player Anthony Nelson, a fourth-round pick in 2019, to take over the role as the third man in the edge-rush rotation vacated by the productive Carl Nassib. The Buccaneers also kept two young players from small schools who are still developing as pass-rushers, in part because they showed some special teams value in camp. Quinton Bell was a seventh-round draft pick by the Raiders in 2019 out of Prairie View A&M, where he initially began as a wide receiver. Cam Gill signed with the Buccaneers this year as an undrafted free agent out of Wagner.

Inside Linebacker – The Bucs went slim at this position, with only veteran Kevin Minter and third-year man Jack Cichy backing up the star-powered duo of Lavonte David and Devin White. That won't be an issue if the Buccaneers avoid injuries here, because David and White are likely to play close to 100% of the defensive snaps. Minter would be the first man in if either starter was absent, but both he and Cichy figure to have core roles on special teams.

Cornerback – While Davis and Murphy-Bunting are listed as the starters, they are essentially joined in that role by Jamel Dean, who would be the third corner in nickel packages. Because the three-receiver set is the most prevalent offensive grouping in today's NFL, opposing defenses are in the nickel more often than not. Murphy-Bunting is expected to reprise his role from the second half of last season, when he would start opposite Davis in base packages and move into the slot in the nickel, with Dean coming in to play the other outside spot. Davis was second in the NFL with 19 passes defensed last year and was recently referred to as a "top 10" cornerback in the league by Arians. Murphy-Bunting tied for the lead among NFL rookies last year with three interceptions. Dean somehow racked up 17 passes defensed despite essentially only playing defense in 11 games. The Bucs' depth here is made up of fifth-year player Ryan Smith, who is the team's best special teams cover man, and undrafted rookie Parnell Motley, who looked like a playmaker in training camp.

Safety – Winfield and Whitehead are the listed starters, and Whitehead opened 14 games last year before a hamstring injury ended his season two weeks early. Edwards was a starter opposite Whitehead to begin the season but was later replaced, only to return in the last two weeks to take over for Whitehead. Edwards hada good camp as well and there's a good chance the Bucs will find ways to use more than two safeties, perhaps including some "big" three-safety nickel groupings. Winfield learned two jobs on the fly in his first training camp, both as a free safety and a slot corner and could end up seeing action in some creative ways. The Bucs believe he is going to be a big-time playmaker in their secondary and will be trying to get him into the mix as soon as possible. The other reserve is dependable veteran Andrew Adams, who started 11 games last year.

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