GUESS WHO’S BACK, BACK AGAIN.
DEEZ IS BACK, TELL A FRIEND.
DEEZ IS BACK, DEEZ IS BACK, DEEZ IS BACK, DEEZ IS BACK, DEEZ IS BACK, DEEZ IS BACK!
(You know you just sang that in your head!)
It’s been a while, Buc Nation. The last time I put something out for Bucs Life was my final mock draft way back in April. But now I’m back and ready for the 2021 season with our defending Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Man, that sounds so good, doesn’t it?
Now it’s time to do it all over again but first, they have to put a team on the field. The Buccaneers have gotten off to a good start doing just that by being the first Super Bowl-winning team in about 40 years to bring back all 22 of their starters. Not only did they do that, but they also retained the services of a number of players that filled in as starters or made significant contributions as reserves. In fact, the only players they did not bring back were special teams ace Ryan Smith who signed with the Chargers, safety Andrew Adams who signed with the Eagles, offensive lineman Joe Haeg who signed with the Steelers, tight end Antony Auclair who signed with the Texans and running back LeSean McCoy who remains unsigned.
The only outside free agent that Tampa Bay signed of any real significance was former Bengals running back Giovanni Bernard, who was brought in to be the new third-down back essentially replacing McCoy.
With the starting positions solidified, the Bucs went into the 2021 NFL Draft looking to add depth. They did just that picking outside linebacker Joe Tryon (Washington) in the first round, quarterback Kyle Trask (Florida) in the second round, offensive lineman Robert Hainsey (Notre Dame) in the third round, wide receiver Jaelon Darden (North Texas) in the fourth round, inside linebacker KJ Britt (Auburn) in the fifth round, cornerback Chris Wilcox (BYU) in the sixth round and inside linebacker Grant Stuard (Houston) in the seventh round. Now add in a few more minor free agent signings and they have their 90-man training camp roster.
And boy, what a talented roster it is.
It won’t be easy whittling this thing down to 53 players by Week 1 of the regular season, but that’s exactly what Bruce Arians and his coaching staff have to do over the next four weeks or so. It’s a good “problem” to have. Imagine having an even more talented and more experienced roster than the one that just won the Super Bowl six months ago.
These are exciting times in Tampa Bay folks.
The good news for them, and some of these players, is that the NFL has extended last year’s flexible roster rules due to COVID into the 2021 season. That means instead of just 10 players allowed on the practice squad, teams can have up to 16, including up to 6 with more than two accrued seasons.
My plan here is to break down each position group, then give my prediction on which players will make the team from each group. At the end, I’ll give you my final 53-man AND 16-man practice squad rosters. So enough with the chit-chat. Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty, shall we?
Tom Brady, Blaine Gabbert, Ryan Griffin, Kyle Trask (R)
Obviously, the Bucs starting quarterback position is filled. The uncertainty with this group mainly centers around backup Ryan Griffin. The 31-year-old has spent the last 6 seasons in Tampa and has never started or even thrown a pass in a regular-season game. With the re-signing of Blaine Gabbert and the addition of Kyle Trask in the draft, Griffin’s tenure with the Bucs could be coming to an end. He may still end up on the practice squad but if not, he could be packing his bags and heading elsewhere.
PREDICTION: Brady, Gabbert & Trask are on the active roster with Griffin going to the practice squad
Ronald Jones II, Leonard Fournette, Giovanni Bernard, Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Troymaine Pope, CJ Prosise
This might be one of the most talented backfields Tampa Bay has ever had from top to bottom. They re-signed Fournette and added Bernard in free agency to replace LeSean McCoy as the third-down back. Since Bruce Arians is big on this “running back by committee” thing, they’ll probably keep four backs on the roster.
PREDICTION: Jones II, Fournette, Bernard & Vaughn are on the active roster with Prosise going to the practice squad
Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown, Scotty Miller, Tyler Johnson, Justin Watson, Jaelon Darden (R), Cyril Grayson, Travis Jonsen, Jaydon Mickens, Josh Pearson, TJ Simmons (R), John Franklin
With 13 receivers currently on the roster, this is the biggest position group on the team. Since the top six are probably set, the real competition will be for the one or two positions remaining on the practice squad. The rookie Darden will have to separate himself as the clear choice for return specialist if he wants to knock Watson out of that final roster spot.
PREDICTION: Evans, Godwin, Brown, Miller, Johnson & Darden to the active roster with Watson & Jonsen going to the practice squad
Rob Gronkowski, OJ Howard, Cam Brate, Tanner Hudson, Codey McElroy, Jerrell Adams, De’Quan Hampton
This is going to be a fun group to watch this season IF they can all stay healthy. We got robbed of seeing the Gronk & OJ Show last season. Hopefully, we’ll get that privilege this year. The top three here are pretty obvious, but the real battle will be for a spot on the practice squad.
PREDICTION: Gronkowski, Howard & Brate to the active roster with Hudson going to the practice squad
Donovan Smith, Tristan Wirfs, Ali Marpet, Alex Cappa, Ryan Jensen, Aaron Stinnie, Josh Wells, Brad Seaton, Robert Hainsey (R), Sadarius Hutcherson (R), Nick Leverett, John Molchon, Donnell Stanley, Chidi Okeke
While the starting o-line is fairly set in stone, the decision here will be to keep 8 or 9 linemen on the active roster. Considering how often Bruce Arians likes to run jumbo packages in his offense, I’m going with nine. The key with the reserves in this group will be versatility. The more you have, the more valuable you are to the team. The ability to play multiple positions will increase their chances of earning a spot.
PREDICTION: Smith, Marpet, Jensen, Cappa, Wirfs, Stinnie, Wells, Hainsey, and Seaton to the active roster with Molchon, Leverett, and Hutcherson going to the practice squad
Vita Vea, Ndamukong Suh, Rakeem Nunez-Roches, Will Gholston, Jeremiah Ledbetter, Pat O’Connor, Khalil Davis, Elijah Ponder (R), Benning Potoa’e, Steve McLendon, Sam Renner, Kobe Smith
The interior of the Bucs d-line is all about run-stopping and pocket collapsing. That’s how you make this roster. Period. They could keep anywhere from 6 to 8 guys in this group, but I’m going right down the middle with seven.
PREDICTION: Suh, Vea, Gholston, Nunez-Roches, O’Connor, Davis, and Ledbetter to the active roster with Potoa’e and Ponder going to the practice squad
Jason Pierre-Paul, Shaq Barrett, Joe Tryon (R), Anthony Nelson, Cam Gill, Quinton Bell, Ladarius Hamilton
The Bucs really needed to add some depth to their outside linebacker group and they did so by using their 32nd pick on Washington edge rusher Joe Tryon. Now the Bucs should have a pretty decent rotation on the edge to give JPP and Shaq some extra downs off to rest.
PREDICTION: Pierre-Paul, Barrett, Tryon, Nelson, and Gill to the active roster with Bell going to the practice squad
Devin White, Lavonte David, Kevin Minter, KJ Britt (R), Joe Jones, Grant Stuard (R)
The Bucs needed to add depth here too and they fixed that problem by drafting not one, but two inside linebackers in this year’s draft. With the top three spots filled already, that fourth and final spot might come down to those two draft picks. However, don’t rule out the four-year vet Jones for that final roster spot.
PREDICTION: David, White, Minter, and Jones to the active roster with Britt and Stuard going to the practice squad
Jordan Whitehead, Antoine Winfield Jr, Mike Edwards, Javon Hagan, Chris Cooper, Raven Greene, Augustus Contressa (R), Lawrence Wright IV (R)
This I going to be one of the more interesting battles to watch in training camp. Not only is that fourth safety spot up for grabs, but so is a spot on the practice squad. I think Hagan has a slight edge here since he was with the team last year, but it really is anyone’s game. Again, versatility is the name of the game. Todd Bowles likes his safeties to be interchangeable, so whoever proves themselves to be solid in both coverage AND run support will probably get the nod here.
PREDICTION: Whitehead, Winfield Jr, Edwards, and Hagan to the active roster with Greene going to the practice squad
Carlton Davis, Jamel Dean, Sean Murphy-Bunting, Ross Cockrell, Herb Miller, Nate Brooks, Dee Delaney, Antonio Hamilton, Cameron Kinley (R), Chris Wilcox (R)
Unless something bizarre happens in camp, then I think the top five cornerback positions are filled. With that being said, anything can happen. One of the rookies would really have to outplay one of the vets Cockrell or Miller to make this roster, but stranger things have happened.
PREDICTION: Davis, Murphy-Bunting, Dean, Cockrell, and Miller to the active roster with Wilcox and Kinley going to the practice squad
K Ryan Succop, K Jose Borregales (R), LS Zach Triner, P Bradley Pinion
There’s not much mystery with this group. The same three guys that were such a pivotal part of last year’s success will almost certainly be this team’s special teams unit again. The question here will be can the rookie kicker impress enough in camp to earn one of those valuable practice squad spots?
PREDICTION: Succop, Triner, and Pinion to the active roster
53-MAN ROSTER PREDICTION
QB (3): Tom Brady, Blaine Gabbert, Kyle Trask
RB (4): Ronald Jones II, Leonard Fournette, Giovanni Bernard, Ke’Shawn Vaughn
WR (6): Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown, Scotty Miller, Tyler Johnson, Jaelon Darden
TE (3): Rob Gronkowski, OJ Howard, Cam Brate
OL (9): Donovan Smith, Tristan Wirfs, Ali Marpet, Alex Cappa, Ryan Jensen, Aaron Stinnie, Josh Wells, Brad Seaton, Robert Hainsey
DL (7): Vita Vea, Ndamukong Suh, Rakeem Nunez-Roches, Will Gholston, Jeremiah Ledbetter, Pat O’Connor, Khalil Davis
OLB (5): Jason Pierre-Paul, Shaq Barrett, Joe Tryon, Anthony Nelson, Cam Gill
ILB (4): Lavonte David, Kevin Minter, Devin White, Joe Jones
S (4): Jordan Whitehead, Antoine Winfield Jr., Mike Edwards, Javon Hagan
CB (5): Carlton Davis, Jamel Dean, Sean Murphy-Bunting, Ross Cockrell, Herb Miller
ST (3): Ryan Succop, Bradley Pinion, Zach Triner
16-MAN PRACTICE SQUAD
QB Ryan Griffin, RB CJ Prosise, WR Justin Watson, WR Travis Jonsen, TE Tanner Hudson, OL John Molchon, OL Nick Leverett, OL Sadarius Hutcherson, DT Benning Potoa’e, DT Elijah Ponder, OLB Quinton Bell, ILB KJ Britt, ILB Grant Stuard, S Raven Greene, CB Chris Wilcox, CB Cameron Kinley
Well, there you have it. My prediction for the 2021 Tampa Bay Buccaneers roster. Now, we just sit back and see what they do with it. They’re defending champs. They’re #1 in the preseason power rankings. They’re the most talented team on paper. But none of that means anything. At least not to them. Last year was last year. And according to Bruce Arians, this year’s team “ain’t done shit yet“.
Winning a Super Bowl is hard. Winning two in a row is rare. It’s only been accomplished eight times since 1966 and the last time it happened was in 2004-05 by the New England Patriots. And guess who their quarterback was for both of them…Tom Brady.
Some people believe in the myth of the “Super Bowl hangover“, when a team that wins the big game goes into the following season riding the high of their accomplishment. Most of the time, they end up with a disappointing season. I don’t see that happening with this team. Some of them have been starved of success for so long that, now that they’ve had a taste of it, they just want more of it. Just the other day, Bruce Arians said that this team “still looks hungry“. I believe him.
But the biggest reason that I think they’ll build on their success and be even better this season, is because of Tom Brady. He just turned 44 years old. He’s been to ten Super Bowls, winning seven of them. He just received his seventh Super Bowl ring the other night. And he was pissed off in his press conference a few days later because he and his offense had a “shitty practice“. He’s a competitor. He’s a winner. He’s a perfectionist. And he demands all of that from each and every one of his teammates.
THAT is why this team will be fine this season.
THAT is why this team will be back-to-back Super Bowl Champions.
And THAT is why, if he sticks around for one more season, this could be the first NFL team in history to three-peat as champions.
It’s a new day in Tampa Bay guys and gals. Sit back and enjoy this ride because teams like this don’t come along very often. Now all that’s left to say is…BRING ON THEM COWBOYS!
Until then, as always…GO BUCS!!!