5 Buccaneers On The Bubble

August 22 - With just two preseason games left, and the first wave of roster cutdowns coming next week, PewterReport.com editor Scott Reynolds looks at five veteran Tampa Bay Buccaneers players who were on the Bucs' roster last year, but are in danger of not making it this season.


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After making the team last year, Pewter Report looks at five veteran players who are in danger of not making the Buccaneers' 53-man roster this year.

1. RT JERRY WUNSCH
Pewter Report and PewterReport.com were among the first to report that Wunsch has had an inconsistent training camp and that he may be cut. We've been singing this tune for weeks now and Wunsch's play in the first two preseason games hasn't helped his cause. The fact that he would be a backup tackle with a salary cap value of $1.79 million also doesn't help his cause.

First Wunsch was beaten out of his starting position by second-year player Kenyatta Walker, who is a much more gifted athlete and a much better pass protector. Then the Bucs traded a seventh-round pick for tackle-guard Cornell Green, who is expected to stick on Tampa Bay's 53-man roster.

The Bucs won't keep five offensive tackles, and with Walker, Roman Oben and Lomas Brown assured of roster spots, that leaves just one more tackle spot open - and it's down to Green, Wunsch and Pete Pierson. The early odds suggest that Green gets an extended look because of the future draft pick invested in him while Wunsch will look for work elsewhere. Don't be surprised if Wunsch is a first-round cut.

2. DE MARCUS JONES
This may come as a surprise to some fans, but if you've been reading Pewter Report and the Insider stories and columns on PewterReport.com you've known that the Bucs have been very pleased with the play of new defensive end Greg Spires. That's not good news for Jones.

Spires has seen thousands of reps with the Bucs' starting defense while Jones missed all three mini-camps and part of training camp nursing his shoulder, which is still sore from offseason surgery. Spires is a consistent player who plays the run just as well as the pass, and fully understands the containment responsibilities on the left side. Jones struggled last year in his first season as a starter at left end, and notched only three sacks. Spires seems real comfortable playing there.

The patience of the Bucs' organization is wearing thin regarding Jones, who has been put on expansion draft lists for both Cleveland (1999) and Houston (2002), and they may want to go with Spires as a starter and a younger, cheaper, more promising player like Ron Warner, who had a sack against Jacksonville last week, as a backup defensive end.

The fact that Ellis Wyms, who has had a strong camp at nose tackle, can also play either end position is another reason to keep Warner and develop him and cut Jones. Jones needs to make some big plays in the last two preseason games or the team may finally give up on him. Jones' $3.75 million cap value in 2002 is also working against him.

3. WR MILTON WYNN
The fact that Wynn has yet to catch a pass in the first two preseason games isn't a good sign. The fact that Wynn can't return punts or kicks also isn't a good sign. Unfortunately for Wynn he's probably the seventh-best receiver on a team that will only keep six receivers.

With Keyshawn Johnson, Keenan McCardell and Joe Jurevicius locks to make the team, Wynn was battling mostly younger players like Frank Murphy, E.G. Green and rookies Marquise Walker and Aaron Lockett. Because of Murphy's speed and kick return ability, he'll likely make the team. Walker will probably win the fifth receiver spot based on his draft status and upside. He's a better athlete than Wynn, who is a better receiver than Lockett, and perhaps Green.

Wynn can play in this league, but the Bucs aren't going to have room for another developmental receiver aside from Murphy and Walker.

4. TE TODD YODER
Ken Dilger and Marco Battaglia are assured of roster spots, but the competition is wide open after that. Yoder, Mike Roberg and rookie Tracey Wistrom are all grouped together at this point of the preseason and a lot will be riding on the final two preseason games. The Bucs' third tight end needs to be a good receiver and blocker, but more importantly has to be solid on special teams. Yoder has the edge on Roberg, and maybe Wistrom on special teams, but not blocking or receiving.

Yoder might be the weakest of the trio in terms of blocking, and at times his concentration has waned to where he is also the worst when it comes to catching the ball cleanly. But Yoder has shined on kick and punt coverage, and that may be his saving grace.

But the fact that head coach Jon Gruden inherited Yoder from Tony Dungy's roster and drafted Wistrom may be an indication that he might lean towards Wistrom. Wistrom would be an ideal practice squad player, but because he is was a "name" player coming out of Nebraska, he wouldn't clear waivers. The Cincinnati Bengals haven't been pleased with their tight end play and will be eyeing Wistrom if he's waived from Tampa Bay.

5. WR KARL WILLIAMS
Like Wynn, Williams isn't among the top five receivers on Tampa Bay's roster. But the fact that they'll keep six with that sixth wide receiver also being a return man might be Williams' last chance to make the roster.

The Bucs wanted to upgrade their speed on special teams, and drafted Lockett, college football's fastest player last year, to compete for the punt return job. Privately, the Bucs want Lockett to win the punt return job, but after two preseason contests, Lockett is averaging just over six yards per return. Williams' career average is over 10.

Lockett's last chance to win the job away from the slow, but steady Williams is to break a couple of big ones against Washington on Saturday. If not, he's likely to get cut and Williams will hang on to the punt return job by default.


Copyright 2002 Pewter Report/PewterReport.com
This story is intended to be read only by PewterReport.com Club Insiders only and TheInsiders.com. Sharing of the Club content with non-subscribers of this service can result in cancellation of your subscription to the service and/or further actions by the publishers.

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