DE Greg White is listed at left end on the depth chart this summer, though he's still quite capable of playing both sides
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers made their 2008 depth chart public for the first time on Monday, but there's only one line on the one-sheeter that is absolutely certain to still be true two weeks from now.
The line, at the top of the page in a large font, reads: "Subject to Change."
The Buccaneers' training camp depth chart — a copy of which can be found here — should be viewed as a work in progress, a guide for the competition for jobs that will continue throughout August and even into the regular season. Michael Clayton is listed as second at flanker behind incumbent starter Ike Hilliard; does that mean Clayton's bid to return to the starting lineup is over? Of course not.
Still, as is the case every summer, there are still some valuable bits of information and intriguing storylines that are uncovered by the first depth chart.
For instance, Monday's release lists fifth-year quarterback Luke McCown as the first backup to starter Jeff Garcia, one slot ahead of returning veteran Brian Griese. Obviously, McCown and Griese are competing to nail down that #2 spot; Monday's depth chart could mean McCown currently has the slight edge. Again, that battle is far from over, particularly since the team has yet to play a single game this summer.
As Head Coach Jon Gruden revealed on the opening day of training camp, running back Earnest Graham is still considered the starter his position after his sudden rise to prominence last year. After him, the queue on the depth chart goes Warrick Dunn, Michael Bennett, Kenneth Darby and rookie Clifton Smith.
Of course, that tailback roster does not include last year's opening-day starter, Cadillac Williams, who is on the Active/Physically Unable to Perform list. Neither Williams nor tackle Luke Petitgout, another 2007 opening-day starter currently on the PUP list, is included on the depth chart, so their eventual returners could shake up the two-deeps at some point.
The Buccaneers practiced on Monday without four of the 22 players listed at the first positions on the offensive and defensive depth charts. With the preseason opener just five days away, Tampa Bay is currently working around the absence of Garcia, wide receiver Joey Galloway, fullback B.J. Askew and under tackle Jovan Haye. According to the new depth chart, their primary backups — and thus currently starters — are, in order, McCown, Maurice Stovall, Byron Storer and Ryan Sims.
Some other interesting battles that have been evident on the practice field and now play out in black and white:
- Backup Center: As has been obvious on the field, this one appears to be between fourth-year man Dan Buenning and rookie Jeremy Zuttah. Both have played well in camp and have recently gotten additional snaps while starter Jeff Faine rested a sore back. Both Buenning and Zuttah are also cross-training at the guard positions but are listed only at center. On the initial depth chart, before the roster is reduced to 53 men and position versatility becomes more important, players are listed only once on offense or defense. * Kickoff and Punt Returner: This one is not particularly illuminated by the depth chart. Micheal Spurlock, who finished the 2007 season as the primary kickoff returner (but not punt returner) is the only player listed at both spots. In reality, there are many candidates for both jobs on the 80-man roster, including rookies Dexter Jackson and Clifton Smith, Hilliard, Michael Bennett and others. * Backup Middle Linebacker: Antoine Cash and Matt McCoy have been trading reps at this position behind starter Barrett Ruud and, again, both players have appeared to do well so far in camp. Cash looked like the favorite to win the same job a year ago before losing his season to a knee injury. McCoy is playing the middle for the first time in his career after arriving as a free agent in the offseason. * Backup Defensive Ends: The starters from the end of the 2007 season, Gaines Adams and Kevin Carter, are still at the top of the depth chart. They will be pushed for time by a strong group of reserves, all of whom are also hoping to unseat one of the starters. Greg White, last year's sack leader, has moved from right end to left end on the depth chart and has indeed been seen frequently on the left side in camp. Newcomers Jimmy Wilkerson and Marques Douglas are both listed behind Adams at right end, though each is capable of playing other positions. Second-year man Greg Peterson, who came in as a defensive tackle last year, is listed at left end, though his days in the middle are likely not done.
Where else might jobs still be won and lost? Check out the depth chart yourself for clues. Just remember that what you see today could be quite different a month or even a week from now.
In other words, everything is still "Subject to Change."