The Tampa Bay Buccaneers still have most of their core from their Super Bowl team in 2020. Tom Brady is still slinging it at 45, and star receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin are still catching as well as ever, at least when they’re healthy. On defense, longtime Bucs including Lavonte David and Vita Vea headline a solid, well-rounded unit.
Of all of Tampa Bay’s departures since the championship, none were more impactful than head coach Bruce Arians. The Buccaneers’ bench boss shockingly retired after last season and handed the reins to defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. The former Jets head coach will get a second chance with a much better roster in Tampa Bay.
Training camp is underway, and the Buccaneers open the preseason on Saturday against the Dolphins. With the season just around the corner, Bowles’ roster is rounding into form. Most of his first depth chart is as expected, but there are some surprises in it as well.
Biggest surprises from Todd Bowles’ first 2022 Buccaneers depth chart
3. Tyler Johnson as a second-stringer
Wide receiver has never been a position of concern for Tampa Bay in the Brady era. The Bucs not only have two of the game’s best in Evans and Godwin, but added Russell Gage and then Julio Jones over the offseason. Those four taking the top spots on the depth chart is no surprise.
What is surprising is what comes after them on the depth chart. Johnson, a 2020 fifth-round pick from Minnesota, is the next receiver after the big four. He saw the field occasionally last season, posting 36 catches for 360 yards.
Johnson being at this spot on the depth chart is a bit surprising considering the Bucs’ other options. Cyril Grayson Jr. and Breshad Perriman both made more of their opportunities last season and came up with some huge plays. Scotty Miller is coming off an injury-plagued season, but still delivered one of the most iconic plays in team history during the Super Bowl run.
The receivers behind the big four probably won’t see the field too often this season. However, placing Johnson ahead of some of his peers is still a bit perplexing.
2. Mike Edwards starting at safety
The Buccaneers lost starting safety Jordan Whitehead to free agency this offseason, leaving a gap at safety. Antoine Winfield Jr., who earned a Pro Bowl nod last season, clearly has one of the safety spots locked down. The mystery came from the other spot, and Tampa Bay seems to be promoting from within with Edwards.
Edwards primarily played as a nickel DB in recent seasons. He picked off three passes last season, including two pick-6s in the same game. His familiarity with the system is likely what gave him the starting role.
However, the Buccaneers’ offseason moves make the decision a little more confusing. Tampa Bay added two safeties in Logan Ryan and Keanu Neal, indicating a desire to improve the position. Ryan and Neal will likely still see use as rotational players, however, Edwards still has the starting job for now.
1. Sean Murphy-Bunting ahead of Jamel Dean
The Buccaneers’ pass defense was a weak spot last season, allowing nearly 240 yards per game. Dean was one of the better cornerbacks on the roster, though, with a PFF grade of 74.5. Meanwhile, Murphy-Bunting struggled after injuring his shoulder in week one, posting a PFF grade of just 61.7.
Given that, Murphy-Bunting being ahead of Dean on the depth chart is a bit of a shock. The Buccaneers’ secondary ended up costing them in their Divisional Round loss to the Los Angeles Rams, allowing 366 yards. They need all the help they can get on the back end, and Dean is a clear improvement over the current starter.
This season will likely be Tampa Bay’s last shot with Brady at the helm, and they need to do everything possible to ensure success.