Instant Analysis: The Depth Chart

Instant Analysis offers exactly what it implies — short, insightful and in-depth analysis of breaking Buccaneers news. What it means, who it affects and why it's happening now. Today, IA offers a take on the first depth chart of the season.

The first thing that jumped out at me was Chris Simms at No. 3 at quarterback. I assumed he would be No. 4 because he missed plenty of practice resting his sore elbow, and Bruce Gradkowski has thrown the ball well in camp. So seeing Simms at No. 3 was a surprise.

Why is he No. 3? Well, there's the experience factor. Simms has more than Gradkowski. There's the big arm factor. When healthy, Simms has the better arm. There's also the money factor. Simms is due to make $10 million the next two years, and it's likely some of that money is guaranteed (he's set to make $2 million in base salary in 2007). If he's cut, any guaranteed money is accelerated against the cap (but the Bucs can afford it, because they're $15 million under the cap).

Considering Simms isn't playing on Friday, the fact that he's No. 3 doesn't mean much right now. Gradkowski is going to get plenty of reps and that depth chart could very well change next week. I think the Buccaneers are trying to prop up Simms' confidence — and maybe motivate Gradkowski just a little.

Luke Petitgout as the starting left tackle didn't surprise me. Yes, he's hurt and has missed too many practices to count now, but the Bucs still see him as their opening-day starter, and that's why he's there. And Arron Sears being the starting left guard didn't stun me either. That's a job the Bucs want to give to him. Seeing Anthony Davis as his backup was a mild surprise, only in that he'll probably start at left tackle for Petitgout on Friday, before giving way to backup Donald Penn. But that backup role is the one the Bucs want Davis in.

And can we stop talking about how Dan Buenning is going to beat out John Wade at center now? He's No. 3 on the depth chart behind Wade and Matt Lehr. While I admire Buenning's gumption for trying to pick up a new position, he needs time to learn the ropes and that's going to take about a year. This guy rehabbed his knee the entire offseason, curtailing whatever development he could have made at center. I think this guy is fighting for a roster spot, not a starting job.

On defense, no real surprises. The Bucs have gotten younger at several positions — Patrick Chukwurah (28) at right end, Jovan Haye (25) at under tackle, Barrett Ruud (24) at middle linebacker and Cato June (27) at strong side linebacker are all younger than last year's starters (though June is only younger by a few months over Ryan Nece). That's a key development, though I still don't agree with the replacement of RE Simeon Rice. But all the old faves are there — Greg Spires, Chris Hovan, Derrick Brooks, Ronde Barber, Brian Kelly, Jermaine Phillips and Will Allen.

The youngsters are nipping at their heels, though. Of the seven defensive players taken in April's draft, four are direct backups. The competition, especially at safety, will be fierce.

Finally, Mark Jones ahead of Chad Owens at kick and punt returner is, I think, a nod to Jones' familiarity with the system, both at wide receiver and as a returner. I think that by the end of the preseason, the job will be Owens'.

Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for and the Charlotte Sun-Herald in Port Charlotte, Fla. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association and has won national awards for his Buccaneers coverage from the PFWA, the National Newspaper Association and the Associated Press Sports Editors.

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