Want to know the last playoff game the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won a playoff game? Super Bowl XXXVII (2002). Since then, they only had two playoff appearances, winning neither of them, and a trail of losing season after losing season. 2018 proved to be no different. Despite a 2-0 start where Ryan Fitzpatrick was simply going by “FitzMagic”, the team struggled with inconsistent quarterback play and everything else, resulting in a 5-11 season.

The Bucs fired Head Coach Dirk Koetter and replaced him with Bruce Arians, who recently came out of retirement. During free agency, no major moves were made but they did score big in the draft, selecting LSU linebacker Devin Bush with the fifth overall pick. The only notable move was releasing longtime starting defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and joining the division rival Carolina Panthers.

With the preseason winding down and cut days looming, here is my 2019 Week 1 roster projection for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Quarterbacks

Credit: Kim Klement/USA Today Sports
  • Starter: Jameis Winston
  • Backups: Blaine Gabbert, Ryan Griffin
  • Preseason Cuts: Vinny Testaverde Jr., Nick Fitzgerald

I believe that this is a make or break year for Winston being the franchise quarterback. He had a great rookie season, winning Rookie of the Year and Pro Bowl honors in 2015, and had a few other decent seasons, but with a new coaching staff, they may want to bring in their own guy. Still, he remains the starter now with a lot to prove.

Gabbert was signed this past offseason and looks to be the main backup. Griffin has been with the team since 2015 and has yet to play a regular-season snap but makes the roster with the uncertainty of Gabbert being healthy in time.

Running Backs

Credit: Brett Davis/USA Today Sports
  • Starter: Peyton Barber
  • Backups: Ronald Jones, Dare Ogunbowale, Andre Ellington
  • Preseason Cuts: Bruce Anderson

Barber looks to be the Week 1 starter for now but it would not shock me if Jones takes some carries away from him. Ogunbowale has been impressive in the preseason and is drawing a lot of praise from the coaching staff. Ellington makes the roster as a Special Teamer/veteran.

Wide Receivers

Credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images
  • Starters: Mike Evans, Chris Godwin
  • Backups: Breshad Perriman, Justin Watson, Bobo Wilson, Scott Miller
  • Preseason Cuts: K.J. Brent, Matthew Eaton, Emanuel Hall, Anthony Johnson, DaMarkus Lodge, Spencer Schnell, Cortrelle Simpson
  • Out for the Year: Bryant Mitchell

Five years, five straight 1,000 yard seasons. While Tampa Bay struggles, Evans at times looks like the lone bright spot. That could be the case once again this season. Godwin looks to start alongside Evans and improve upon his 842 yard, seven touchdown season.

Perriman will look to turnaround his first-round “draft bust” label in a new city while Wilson and Watson will mainly contribute on Special Teams. Miller, a sixth-round pick, could be a practice squad candidate if the Bucs’ want to keep only five receivers.

Tight Ends

Credit: Julio Aguilar/Getty Images
  • Starters: O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate
  • Backups: Anthony Auclair
  • Preseason Cuts: Tanner Hudson, Jordan Leggett, Scott Orndoff

Howard has been consistent during his two-year run in Tampa Bay and looks to make another leap forward. Brate starts alongside in a two-tight end set and is a solid target for Winston. Auclair makes the roster with his solid blocking ability, which gives him an advantage compared to guys like Hudson for example.

Offensive Line

Credit: Monica Herndon/Tampa Bay Times
  • Starters: Donovan Smith, Ali Marpet, Ryan Jensen, Alex Cappa, Demar Dotson
  • Backups: Earl Watford, Caleb Benenoch, Zack Bailey
  • Preseason Cuts: Cole Boozer, Ruben Holcomb, Josh LeRibeus, Will Poehls, Brock Ruble, Nate Trewyn, Salesi Uhatafe
  • Out for the Year: Michael Liedtke

Tampa Bay has allowed 15 sacks through three preseason games so far, which is no good if you want to help Winston have a breakout year. The Bucs have been searching hard for offensive line help, so there’s a possibility that some eventual starters aren’t even on this roster.

We’ll stick with this group for now, with Smith re-signing and holding down the left side and Jenson being a solid center for the line. A weak spot here and it would not surprise me if this group completely changes days after this article goes up.

Defensive Line

Credit: Matt Kartozian
  • Starters: Ndamukong Suh, Beau Allen, William Gholston
  • Backups: Vita Vea, Pat O’Connor, Rakeem Nuñez-Roches, Jeremiah Ledbetter
  • Preseason Cuts: Terry Beckner, Elijah Qualls, Stevie Tu’ikolovatu
  • Non-Football Injured: Jason Pierre-Paul

McCoy is a huge void to fill and the Bucs hope that Suh can replicate the success he had during his days in Detriot and recent Los Angeles Rams run. Gholston has been solid and starts on the line as well as Allen.

Vea was a first-round pick last year but struggled with injury. If he can stay healthy, look for him to eventually move into the starting line. O’Conner, Nuńez-Roches, and Ledbetter provide depth for the team.

Pierre-Paul was involved in a single-car accident and suffered a neck fracture. He was played on the Non-Football Injured list but could possibly be out for the entire 2019 season.

Linebackers

Credit: Kim Klement/USA Today Sports
  • Starters: Carl Nassib, Devin White, Lavonte David, Noah Spence
  • Backups: Deone Bucannon, Kevin Minter, Anthony Nelson, Devante Bond
  • Preseason Cuts: Shaquil Barrett, Jack Cichy, Demone Harris, Farrington Huguenin, Davis Kenney, Cory Nelson, Emmanuel Smith
  • Out for the Year: Kahzin Daniels
  • Non-Football Injured: Kendell Beckwith

David is an underrated linebacker in the NFL and mans the middle along with first-round rookie White. Nassib typically plays defensive end but moves to the outside linebacker spot due to Tampa Bay’s 3-4 defense. Spence will likely start on the other side.

The backups look to be solid, with hybrid linebacker/safety Bucannon being the first guy to come into the rotation. Minter will look to also be involved in the defense while Nelson and Bond look to contribute on Special Teams.

Cornerbacks

Credit: Gary Rohman/USA Today Sports
  • Starters: Vernon Hargreaves, Carlton Davis
  • Backups: Sean Murphy-Bunting, Jamel Dean, M.J. Stewart
  • Preseason Cuts: De’Vante Harris, Mazzi Wilkins
  • Suspended: Ryan Smith

Hargreaves has been solid during his time with the Bucs and locks down one side of the field while Davis will take over the other side. Murphy-Bunting will look to play the nickel spot while Dean and Stewart will contribute on Special Teams.

Safeties

Credit: Kim Klement/USA Today Sports
  • Starters: Justin Evans, Jordan Whitehead
  • Backups: Darian Stewart, Mike Edwards
  • Preseason Cuts: Kentrell Brice, John Battle, Lukas Denis, Isaiah Johnson
  • Out for the Year: D’Cota Dixon, Orion Stewart

The safety department is solid here. Evans and Whitehead are young safeties that’ll likely be the starters once again. Stewart is a former Pro Bowler and Super Bowl Champion and he’ll likely play in certain defensive formations. Edwards is a third-round rookie that could eventually develop into a starter down the line.

Specialists

Credit: Kim Klement/USA Today Sports
  • Kicker: Cairo Santos
  • Punter: Bradley Pinion
  • Long Snapper: Zach Triner
  • Preseason Cuts: Matt Gay

The Buccaneers only Special Teams flaw has been the kicker spot. For years they have struggled to find a stable kicker. I have Santos making the roster due to being consistent for his career and has had the upper-edge during the preseason. Pinion and Triner are the only punter and long snapper respectively on the roster, so they make the team.

Much like the Miami Dolphins, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers look to be on a rebuild once again. The team has a lot of question marks, mainly if Winston can show that he the quarterback for the franchise for the next couple of seasons. He has some reliable targets in Evans and Howard to throw to but also has guys like Godwin that have a lot to prove. The offensive line has a lot to prove but ultimately could be different once Week 1 rolls around.

The defense has some bright spots. Suh is a great defensive tackle that’ll look to replace the hole that was left once McCoy was gone from the team. The middle linebackers look set with David and White while Hargreaves will look to be the top corner on the team

Overall, not a lot of bright spots. Expect Tampa Bay to be last place once again in the NFC South and we may see a ton of changes in the roster once the 2020 offseason rolls around.

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