Breaking down the Bucs' 53-man roster

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers made their final roster cuts on Saturday night. Now they enter Sunday's opener against New Orleans with their final 53. How did the Bucs assemble this roster? Who were the surprise cuts? How will this roster translate into regular-season success? analyzes it all right here.

THE BREAKDOWN: On offense, the Bucs kept one pure center (Jeff Faine), three guards and three tackles. The Bucs also have rookie Jeremy Zuttah listed as an offensive lineman, giving them eight linemen. Zuttah, Dan Buenning and Anthony Davis can all play two positions. With Davin Joseph still out, Zuttah could start on Sunday. But when the core is healthy, it's a unit teeming with flexibility and talent.

The Bucs kept four quarterbacks, including rookie Josh Johnson. I predicted he would get cut, unless the Bucs felt they couldn't re-sign him to the practice squad. I wouldn't rule that out early this season. The Bucs will need the roster spot at some point.

I thought Kenneth Darby might make it at running back, but the Bucs chose to keep their three vets, along with FBs B.J. Askew and Byron Storer. Darby could be another practice squad keeper.

The Bucs didn't surprise me at wide receiver, where they kept six, including rookie Dexter Jackson. By cutting Micheal Spurlock (something I didn't expect entering the final preseason game), the Bucs handed Jackson the return chores for punts and kickoffs. It's a solid group, but Joey Galloway cannot get hurt. At tight end, the Bucs kept three, as I expected. But to my surprise they cut Jerramy Stevens and kept Ben Troupe, no doubt impressed by the latter's final preseason game performance.

On defense, the Bucs kept five defensive ends and three tackles, though Greg Peterson, Jimmy Wilkerson and Kevin Carter can play inside. This is a highly flexible unit that you'll see defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin use in plenty of different ways.

The release of LB Ryan Nece means the Bucs are pinning their future on Quincy Black and Adam Hayward, both of whom made the final cut. The Bucs kept seven linebackers, a bit of a surprise, with Matt McCoy making it as Barrett Ruud's primary backup in the middle and sixth-round pick Geno Hayes earning a roster spot.

The Bucs kept nine defensive backs — four corners and five safeties. Elbert Mack probably surprised some people by making the final roster, but he had a great preseason and deserves the spot. He could end up being the special teams replacement for Kalvin Pearson. I'm highly impressed with Mack, Eugene Wilson and Aqib Talib and the Bucs did a great job of making this unit better this offseason.

The special teams jobs were no surprise, though you should keep an eye on PK Matt Bryant's performance early this regular season. The Bucs are expressing some concern over Bryant's late-preseason inaccuracy.

BIGGEST CUT: Probably the release of Nece, who has been a standout in terms of depth and versatility for years for the Bucs. He can play all three positions at linebacker and really expressed no interest in rocking the boat. The Bucs know they have an aging player at the position in WLB Derrick Brooks. They also know that both Black and Hayward are talented enough to make up for Nece's work on special teams.

BIGGEST KEEPER: Mack definitely played his way on this team. I'm really not surprised he made it. The keeper that did surprise me was Troupe, who had done little as a pass-catching tight end until Thursday's game against Houston. Apparently his performance was impressive enough to compel the Bucs to jettison Stevens, who had a year of experience with the offense. Hayes' inclusion on the roster was a bit of a stunner, too.

REALITY CHECK: The Bucs will face a decision by Week 8 regarding RB Carnell Williams, and it's difficult to know at this point what the Bucs are expecting. The fact that they kept just three running backs, to me, signals that the Bucs expect him to be ready. If so, I would expect them to release Johnson and move him to the practice squad. He's the most expendable player on the roster, but there's a lot of time between now and late October.

WHAT'S OUT THERE?: There will be lingering rumors regarding WR Anquan Boldin, simply because his presence in the offense would be an instant upgrade over every receiver except Galloway. But if it hasn't happened by now, it would take Galloway getting hurt to force the Bucs to deal. If Jackson struggles in the return game, the Bucs could go after a player like Tim Dwight. Terry Glenn and Joe Horn are the top receivers available. If Bryant struggles in the kicking game, Jay Feely and Billy Cundiff — who signed with the Bucs at one point last year — could be brought in.

Defensively, former Falcons T Rod Coleman, a player the Bucs were interested in last year, is now available again. The Bucs could also bring back Booger McFarland. Plus, the Bucs like veterans and DE Roosevelt Colvin is now a free agent. Chances are, though the Bucs won't make any moves defensively. They seem set at all positions.

PREDICTIONS SCORECARD: Well, I missed Darby, who was released. I expected him to stay. I nailed McCoy but missed Hayward, mostly because I thought the Bucs would keep Nece. I also missed Troupe and Stevens. I did, however, correctly predict Mack's inclusion on the roster. I also nailed Lucas' release, too. I was about 50 percent.

ON THE SEASON: I like this roster, to be honest, and I was prepared not to at the start of training camp. I really think the secondary could turn into one of the league's best. The offensive line has solid depth, there's plenty of reason to feel confident at quarterback and the running backs should be very productive. If I were the Bucs, I'd keep looking for help at wide receiver and defensive tackle, where they only have three pure tackles. But, overall, it's a well-constructed roster that could have more success than my 8-8 prediction.

Matthew Postins is the editor and publisher of

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