The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been active this offseason, bringing in a couple of All-Pro defensive backs, a couple of promising rookies, and a few more players who provide depth and special talents. But these incoming players all took the roster spots of outgoing players who were not retained, traded, or released by the Buccaneers. So how do Greg Schiano and his staff divide the snaps that are left to be had with the loss of players like Michael Bennett, Dallas Clark, and Roy Miller?
Let’s take a look at a few key players who have left, and where their snaps will go in 2013.
Roy Miller, Defensive Tackle
The answer here is fairly straightforward, isn’t it? Roy Miller’s 503 snaps should be mostly given to Akeem Spence, the Bucs’ fourth round pick out of Illinois. Gary Gibson already played around 300 snaps as it was, so it’s unlikely he’ll play any more than that, and new signing Derek Landri will figure to take some snaps as well. But should Spence not live up to expectations as a starting nose tackle in the NFL, expect to see Landri and Gibson pick up more of the playing time.
Michael Bennett, Defensive End
There are a lot more snaps to be taken here, and this may be the most important change on the roster for the Buccaneers. And while I doubt Bennett’s ability to recreate his 2012 performance in the future,the truth of the matter is that he played through injury and logged just under 1000 snaps. That means there are a ton of plays on defense that will need to be made by someone else.
Da’Quan Bowers figures to be the first in line for these snaps, as he sat out due to injury and played only 292 snaps in 2012. If he’s able to show some durability, he is in line to triple that amount. But that still leaves 300-400 snaps for others to take. William Gholston and Steven Means are the primary additions to the defensive line rotation, and will almost certainly be the ones called upon to take these extra snaps. Adrian Clayborn‘s return will also mean Daniel Te’o-Nesheim is free to back up at both end positions, and he will likely help spell Bowers to ensure he remains fresh. But if Bowers is unable to remain healthy, this position gets ugly in a hurry unless one of the rookies outperforms expectations. I still suspect the Buccaneers may sign a veteran for this position after players are cut during training camp and the preseason, as Daniel Te’o-Nesheim cannot be a starting end for a contending team.
Dallas Clark, Tight End
Dallas Clark played 586 snaps last season, with almost 400 of those being plays where he ran a route in the passing game. Luke Stocker and Nate Byham were both called upon to block in his place, meaning the Buccaneers’ intentions were usually pretty easy to identify. So the addition of Tom Crabtree, who is capable as a blocker, means the Buccaneers will have at least three options who are able to block. The question is, will any of them provide an option in the passing game? Stocker and Crabtree are both talented enough to do so, but have never done it on a regular basis. I suspect that Crabtree will be given the opportunity to develop into the Buccaneers’ number one option at tight end, but I would not discount Mark Dominik’s insistence that Luke Stocker, his former fourth round selection, be given a chance to become to primary target at the position.
Ronde Barber, Safety/Cornerback
The newly-retired Ronde Barber played snaps at corner and safety in 2012, and luckily the Buccaneers have made plans to replace the plays Barber was on the field for last year. Dashon Goldson and Darrelle Revis with both be taking much-needed snaps at safety and corner, but it will be Johnthan Banks who will be taking the snaps Barber would have played in 2013. Banks is a zone corner who has the tools to play man-to-man, but as he learns to be a lockdown man-to-man defender, he’ll likely find himself in Ronde Barber’s role on the defense. He showed at Mississippi State that he’s able to get into the backfield and pursue ballcarriers, and his knowledge of zone principles will help replace abilities Ronde brought to the defense as a nickel corner. It’s unfair to expect Banks to step in day one and be anywhere near as good as Barber, but the safety-turned-corner out of Mississippi State would be right at home playing the way Ronde did in 2013.