The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have elected to use three of their four practice squad protection options in Week Six, and it's obvious at what position they are concerned about maintaining their depth.
Two of those three protected players are interior defensive linemen Jeremiah Ledbetter and Benning Potoa'e, who are appearing on the list for the first time this season. The third is kicker Greg Joseph, whom the Buccaneers have chosen to protect each week so far. The Buccaneers are down a defensive lineman after Vita Vea suffered a season-ending leg fracture in Chicago in Week Five and are working on a plan to replace his contributions moving forward.
By using three of their four protection options – a new rule put in place over the summer to help teams with roster flexibility while playing amid a pandemic – the Buccaneers can make sure none of those players can be signed by other teams to their active rosters before this weekend's game. That protection period lasts from 4:00 p.m. ET Tuesday through Sunday's meeting with the Green Bay Packers at Raymond James Stadium. All practice squad players still have opportunities to get promoted by other teams between when their team's game is played and the next Tuesday deadline.
The Buccaneers could also choose to elevate one or both of Ledbetter and Potoa'e from the practice squad to the game-day roster but are not required to do so. Teams can elevate up two players a week in this manner without having to go through the usual waiver process, but those players can come from the entire practice squad roster, not just this week's protected players.
Ledbetter (6-3, 295) has previous NFL regular-season experience, including one game with the Buccaneers in 2018. He also played all 16 games for the Detroit Lions in his 2017 rookie season, recording 14 tackles, four quarterback hits and 0.5 sacks. The Lions drafted Ledbetter out of Arkansas in the sixth round in 2017. He spent most of the 2018 season on Tampa Bay's practice squad before a late promotion and was briefly a member of Baltimore's practice squad last season before returning to the Buccaneers in late October.
Potoa'e (6-3, 290) was a teammate of Vea's at Washington from 2015-17. He was signed by the Buccaneers as an undrafted free agent this spring and has been on the practice squad since the start of the season. At Washington, Potoa'e played in 45 games and contributed 117 tackles, 8.5 sacks and three forced fumbles.