Observation Deck: 53-man analysis

Well, the cuts are done. How did I do? And how did the Bucs do? In this edition of "Observation Deck," I keep score for my 53-man roster prediction, then break down what the Bucs kept and the reasons why.

The roster in Tampa Bay is set. The Buccaneers have their 53 men.

A day ago I put together my predictions for the 53-man roster and why I thought certain players would be cut.

How did I do? Well, you can read on to find out. But the Bucs made different decisions than I expected, and some of them were quite interesting. And they're probably not done yet, as there are several players out there on the free-agent market that could help them (see my story on the top free agents now available after today's cuts).

Now I'll break down the Buccaneers' choices and analyze how they'll affect the Bucs this regular season.

Quarterback (4) : Jeff Garcia, Luke McCown, Bruce Gradkowski, Chris Simms.

Cut (0): None.

My prediction: Simms would be cut.

Analysis: Well, the Bucs surprised me. I figured they would keep the standard three quarterbacks and let Simms go. There's logic to this, and I've detailed it before. Simms is close to being ready, he's more experienced than the other backups and he knows Jon Gruden's offense as well as anyone. Simms will likely be the fourth quarterback on the depth chart until he can prove in practice that he's 100 percent physically and as a quarterback. As for the rest of them, expect McCown to be the No. 2 quarterback when the depth chart comes out next week.

Running back (2) : Carnell Williams, Earnest Graham.

Cut (2): Lionel Gates, Kenneth Darby.

My prediction: Gates would be cut.

Analysis: Cutting Darby is a mild surprise to me because he had a solid preseason. But with Williams, Graham and Michael Pittman (whom I have listed as a fullback here but is really more of a hybrid back), the Bucs must have felt safe at the position. Graham responded well to Darby's challenge after the first preseason game and kept his job. Darby is a solid back with excellent receiving skills and it would be no surprise if the Bucs signed Darby to the practice squad on Sunday or Monday. Gates came on a bit in the final preseason game against Houston, but he didn't get enough reps in the first three games, nor did he flash the talent the Bucs thought he had in the first three games. He's iffy for the practice squad, if he's eligible at all (see my article on practice squad eligibility).

Fullback (2) : Michael Pittman, B.J. Askew.

Cut (1): Byron Storer.

My prediction: Storer would be cut.

Analysis: This really was no surprise. Most teams — even run-heavy teams — don't keep three fullbacks. With Pittman's conversion to the position appearing to be a successful one, there was no reason to keep two true blocking backs. Askew stays because he has more experience and a good track record.

Wide receiver (5) : Joey Galloway, Maurice Stovall, Ike Hilliard, Michael Clayton, David Boston.

Cut (4): Chad Lucas, Chas Gessner, Paris Warren, Mark Jones.

My prediction: Lucas and Gessner would be cut. Warren would move to IR.

Analysis: Warren's release was a bookkeeping decision, as the Bucs had to release him before they could put him on injured reserve. He should clear waivers, as should Gessner, though no one knew he was hurt before Saturday. Gessner had a solid preseason but was never going to make the final cut. Chad Lucas never did enough on the field in preseason to warrant a roster spot. He had just one catch in the first three preseason games.

Jones is a big surprise. I predicted before training camp that Chad Owens would win the job, but after Owens' release on Monday, I felt Jones' job was safe. Apparently I was wrong. Jones appeared to improve a bit as a kick returner and put the Bucs in good field position in the Miami game. Either the Bucs feel they can find another returner on the waiver wire (and there is one out there, if they're inclined) or they believe that Pittman, Graham, Hilliard or even Galloway can return kicks.

Tight end (3) : Alex Smith, Anthony Becht, Jerramy Stevens

Cut (2): C.J. Leak, Keith Heinrich.

My prediction: Leak and Heinrich would be cut.

Analysis: This was expected. Heinrich had some drops in the preseason. I'm not even sure Leak played. If he did, it wasn't much playing time at all. Smith, Becht and Stevens proved pretty formidable during the preseason, and Stevens had a great game on Thursday to clinch his roster spot.

Offensive line (9) : John Wade (center), Davin Joseph (right guard), Jeremy Trueblood (right tackle), Arron Sears (left guard), Luke Petitgout (left tackle), Dan Buenning (center/guard), Anthony Davis (guard/tackle), Matt Lehr (center/guard), Donald Penn (tackle)

Cut (3): Chris Denman, Enoka Lucas, Dennis Roland.

My prediction: Denman, Lucas and Roland would be cut.

Analysis: This one fell according to form. Denman is another player we didn't know was hurt until Saturday, but by clearing waivers and moving him to IR, the Bucs get a chance to develop Denman for the future. Lucas and Roland both have eligibility for the practice squad, and it's possible the Bucs could put one of them there. Bottom line is the nine players that made the team played better than the three that were cut, and that's how it's supposed to work.

Defensive line (9) : Kevin Carter (end), Greg Spires (end), Gaines Adams (end), Patrick Chukwurah (end), Chris Hovan (tackle), Jovan Haye (tackle), Ryan Sims (tackle), Greg Peterson (tackle) Greg White (tackle/end).

Cut (3): Darrell Campbell (tackle), Julian Jenkins (end), Ellis Wyms (tackle).

My prediction: Campbell, Jenkins, Peterson and White would be cut.

Analysis: Wow, there's plenty to talk about here. Apparently Peterson's late play impressed the coaching staff enough to keep him active. Peterson did have two sacks in the Miami game and had a solid performance against Houston. White, the Arena Football end who played for Orlando earlier this year, was used as a nickel pass rusher inside and made some decent plays. It's likely that the Bucs are worried about Chukwurah's knee injury, one that no one but the Bucs knows the extent of. White could be used outside.

Of course, so could Wyms, one of the team's highest paid players but one that never lived up to the expectations the team had for him. Apparently they felt seven years was enough. He didn't really stand out this preseason and Peterson's play appeared to overtake him late in the preseason.

Linebackers (7) : Derrick Brooks, Barrett Ruud, Cato June, Ryan Nece, Quincy Black, Adam Hayward, Leon Joe.

Cut (2): Jerry Mackey, Jamie Winborn.

My prediction: Joe would be cut.

Analysis: Winborn's release is a stunner. Only Brooks had more NFL experience than Winborn at linebacker. Winborn has been a starter in the NFL and chose not to leave Tampa Bay this offseason when he could have. I thought he had a solid preseason playing on the weak side behind Brooks. But, when you look at the numbers and the playing time he got, it becomes a bit clearer why he's gone. Winborn had only three tackles through the first three preseason games, while Hayward had eight, which entering the Houston game led the team. So Hawyard's performance won him the role as Brooks' backup. The Bucs better hope Brooks is the picture of durability.

Mackey was only here for a week and I think the learning curve was too much. Sure, he got a taste of the defense during rookie camp, but being in training camp is a far different experience, and he missed all of camp. Joe has been in a Cover 2 scheme his entire career, and played under former Bucs coach Lovie Smith. The Bucs must feel that Joe has a better grasp of the scheme than Mackey.

Secondary (10) : Ronde Barber (cornerback), Brian Kelly (cornerback), Phillip Buchanon (cornerback), Sammy Davis (cornerback), Jermaine Phillips (safety), Will Allen (safety), Sabby Piscitelli (safety), Tanard Jackson (safety), Kalvin Pearson (safety), Torrie Cox (cornerback — moved to reserve/suspended list),

Cut (4): Carlos Hendricks (cornerback), Alan Zemaitis (cornerback), Donte Nicholson (safety), Marcus Hamilton (cornerback).

My prediction: Cox, Hendricks, Zemaitis and Nicholson would be cut.

Analysis: Hamilton is a Cover 2 corner, but as Zemaitis learned last year it's a difficult transition in the NFL to the scheme, even if you played it in college as Hamilton did. The Virginia rookie tackled well, but didn't break up any passes, and that's a cornerback's job. Still, I think the Bucs like him enough to make him a practice squad player. His cut is a case of not making enough splash plays and the Bucs' need for veteran depth behind Barber and Kelly, which Davis provides.

Zemaitis never made enough plays, period. Plus his play was never consistent enough.

Nicholson has had three years in the system and has never been able to hang on to a job for that long. He had eight tackles in the first three preseason games, but the Bucs were set on keeping both Jackson and Piscitelli, and Pearson has more value on special teams than Nicholson. Hendricks appeared to be gaining some traction midway through preseason, but I think that misplayed pass in the second half of the Miami game, where he ran into safety Kalvin Pearson, may have played a factor. He had the play and mistimed his jump, and his collision with Pearson caused a touchdown.

Special teams (3) : Josh Bidwell (punter), Matt Bryant (placekicker), Andrew Economos (long snapper).

Cut (0): None.

My prediction: None would be cut.

Analysis: They were locks for the roster in May.


Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for BucsBlitz.com 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. He is also a contributor to the Scot Brantley Show from 4-7 p.m. weekdays on WHBO 1490-AM in Tampa-Clearwater.


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