Mike James, new Buccaneers’ running back. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports
Steven Means, Defensive End
The Good: When Means was drafted, I instantly assumed that the 3-4 outside linebacker from Buffalo was going to compete for time at SAM linebacker with the Buccaneers. After all, an athletic player with decent size and strength and experience in a two-point stance would be ideal for the edge-setting role of the SAM in a 4-3 defense. After the draft, I was proven wrong, as the Buccaneers’ decision makers let it be known that Means was coming to Tampa Bay to play defensive end. Means is a special teams worker who will earn his roster spot by playing tough on kickoff and punt coverage, and would ideally earn playing time on defense by overcoming his lack of size with improved strength thanks to NFL strength and conditioning coaching. Means is a blank canvas right now, as an athletic player with a high motor and great attitude. In fact, part of his best case scenario is to rub off on William Gholston, and drive the bigger, stronger defensive end to work hard and compete as the two battle for snaps.
The Bad: There is a scenario that leads to Means not making the team. He’d likely come back to the Buccaneers practice squad, unless he is picked up by another team, but Means may not be great enough at special teams to merit wasting a roster spot on a player who isn’t good enough to play on defense. Steven will have to prove himself as a worthy defensive end to make the Buccaneers’ 53 man roster.
The Likely: Everything I have seen and read about Means shows me he’s going to make the team one way or another. He’s going to work hard enough to force Greg Schiano to put him on the team for opening day. What he does from there is a mystery, but I suspect he’ll be a key player on special teams.
Mike James, Running back
The Good: James has all the tools needed to be an every down back, but lacks any skills or abilities that set him apart from the average, replacement-level running back. That being said, he was brought in to be a backup running back, and because he’s able to do everything Doug Martin can do (at a lower level of excellence), he’ll see his best case scenario as a reliable option to spell the Buccaneers’ franchise runner. He can catch, block, and run capably, and while he’s not going to push for carries on a regular basis, his presence could go a long way to keeping Doug fresh all season.
The Bad: The negative, as with most late-round draft picks, is to not make the roster. James could lose out to Brian Leonard and Michael Smith, and there is still potential for the Buccaneers to add another running back via free agency that pushes James off the roster.
The Likely: I think James will make the roster in place of Michael Smith, because he’s able to contribute to the offense, which is on the field more often than the kick return unit, which is where the bulk of Smith’s value seems to be. James may rarely see the field, because Leonard and another free agent may get the carries not taken by Doug Martin, but he’ll prove to be more valuable than Smith, who lacks a well-rounded skill set.