The preseason has finally ended, and it is that time of the year where dreams come to an end. The Buccaneers’ final cuts before the season have come and gone, and this time it has left us quite a surprise.
The 2016 roster for your Tampa Bay Buccaneers has finally been announced. There are definitely some question marks and surprises, but none bigger than the fact of the four undrafted rookies have made the initial 53-man roster. Leonard Wester, DaVonte Lambert, Channing Ward, and Alan Cross are the names of these four true underdogs that have made their way onto the team.
All four have truly been underappreciated throughout Buc nation. These names were not considered to make the roster, but against all odds, they did just that. So just who are these guys?
Let us begin with the backup left tackle Leonard Wester. Wester is a product out of the small division II school of Missouri Western. Although the possibility of being drafted was up in the air, Wester was brought into visit multiple teams before the draft. Unfortunately, Wester was never selected during the 2016 NFL draft, but he did manage to keep the interest of the teams he visited with. Luckily, Jason Licht was able to persuade Wester with a signing bonus of $20,000, which he wholeheartedly accepted.
Almost immediately upon his arrival in the pewter and red, Wester was thrown to wolves. Coming from a such a small level to playing left tackle for an NFL team was quite the jump, but he was able to succeed in his endeavors. For a majority of training camp and the preseason, Wester was locked into second string. His performance at this spot was above average, and he was able to keep both Mike Glennon and Ryan Griffin off of the turf. This obviously made an impact to both Coach George Warhop and Coach Koetter, who may see him as a swing tackle or an eventual replacement for Demar Dotson.
The next name on our list, is that of Davonte Lambert. This Auburn alumni was also one to miss his opportunity to hear his name called at the draft. Like the others, he was one the 19 original undrafted players to make his way onto the Buccaneers’ roster. Lambert’s size is one to take note of. Standing around 6’2” 280 pounds, he is the lightest of the defensive tackle group. Unlike Wester, Lambert received most of his playing time towards the ends of the preseason games. Appreciation for Lambert almost went completely unnoticed due to the fact of his depth chart position, but that did not stop him from playing his heart out. His five tackles in such limited playing time was enough to impress his position Coach Jay Hayes, and a good bet would be that Coach Hayes sees good upside in Lambert.
Channing Ward, much like Davonte Lambert, has been overshadowed for about the same reasons. The Ole Miss’ graduate was also listed as the bottom of the depth chart, and had a multitude of veterans in front of him. Although Ward is listed as a defensive end, he stands at 6’4″ 280 pounds. Coach Jay Hayes more than likely sees versatility in Ward, and according to his coaching track record, that is exactly what he wants. It is no secret that the Buccaneers will be using a nickel package for a good bit of their game plan. Ward could be seen as defensive end who can slide inside and still be able to produce.
Finally, the most surprising name to make the 53 man roster… Alan Cross. Cross is a former walk on long snapper at the University of Memphis. As Alan Schecter recently wrote, Cross mentioned that he was asked by coaches if he would like to try tight end, in addition to his position as long snapper, so that he may be able to earn a scholarship. Cross is the absolute epitome and definition of what it is like to be to be an underdog. Basically, this is Cross’s second time walking onto a team where he later has made an impact. Although his preseason numbers were only three catches for 27 yards, he was able to outshine the Bucs’ sixth round draft pick and his good friend, Danny Vitale. He can block, he can catch, he can long snap, and he can work his butt off. What’s not to love?
Jason Licht has struck gold for a couple years now based upon his drafted and undrafted rookie classes. Can this be another year where we find a player to make an impact as great as Adam Humphries did?
What is your opinion Buc fans? Will these four names last on the 53 man? Let us know in the comment section or tweet using the hashtag #53Bucs