Bucs could have reshuffled offensive line and four new starters on defense

Demar Dotson and Ali Marpet return to a Buccaneers offensive line that could see some old faces in new roles. Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire

TAMPA, Fla. -- With free agency and the draft in the rearview window, and organized team activities and minicamp in full swing, here’s a prediction of who could be in the starting lineup for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when the season kicks off in September:


QB: Jameis Winston: After showing significant improvement in 2016, the Bucs have surrounded Winston with a ton of weapons, giving him all the tools he needs to take a big leap in 2017.

RB: Doug Martin: The Bucs showed a lot of faith in Martin by not selecting a running back high in the draft, and they're very encouraged by what they've seen from him this offseason. It should be noted that Martin will miss the first three games of the season due to suspension.

TE: O.J. Howard: Howard is already the most complete tight end on the Bucs' roster and will play an important role not just as a pass-catcher but as a run-blocker for their run-first offense.

LT: Donovan Smith: According to Pro Football Focus, Smith ranked 69th among offensive tackles last year, but showed a lot of improvement in the second half of the season.

LG: Kevin Pamphile: A converted tackle, Pamphile started all 16 games last year for J.R. Sweezy.

C: Ali Marpet: The Bucs really like the way he has progressed in his two years at right guard and have been experimenting with him at center this offseason. The other option would be Joe Hawley or Evan Smith stepping in here, with Marpet moving back to guard and pushing Pamphile back to swing tackle.

RG: J.R. Sweezy: Sweezy missed all last season recovering from a disc-related issue that forced him to undergo surgery. He was given the go-ahead to resume football earlier this year and there should be no reason he's not on the field in Week 1.

RT: Demar Dotson: Watch the fourth quarter of the Dallas game last year and see why Dotson is valuable.

WR: Mike Evans: Winston's favorite target, he recorded 1,000 receiving yards for the third-straight year in 2016. His 6-foot-5 frame continues to create matchup problems for opposing defenses.

WR: DeSean Jackson: The perfect pairing for Evans' size and the first true vertical threat the Bucs have had since Joey Galloway. He might be 30, but the Bucs believe he has "timeless speed."

WR: Adam Humphries: Humphries will continue to man the slot, but you'll also see the Bucs occasionally move other receivers in here. Evans has lined up here and Jackson could too, with Chris Godwin stepping in on the outside.


Note: Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Smith doesn't believe in having 11 starters on defense. He believes they have 14-15 starters depending on down and distance and specific situations. This is especially true along the defensive line, where Noah Spence, Jacquies Smith and Clinton McDonald should all continue to play significant roles.

DE: Robert Ayers: Ayers will line up on the outside on base downs and move inside in nickel pass-rush situations, with Noah Spence then stepping in. Jacquies Smith is also an option for nickel passing situations.

DT: Gerald McCoy: A five-time Pro Bowler, McCoy is the motor of the defensive line, with one of the quickest get-offs of any defensive tackle in the league.

DT: Chris Baker: He played 3-4 defensive end in Washington but will move inside in Tampa. The Bucs love his combination of size and quickness.

DE: William Gholston: Gholston will continue to serve as their strongside defensive end who anchors the C-gap against the run. As with Ayers, expect to see Spence and Smith step in during nickel situations.

LB: Lavonte David: Look for new wrinkles in the Bucs' defense next season, including more blitzing from David. An offseason of rest should do him a lot of good after battling several injuries throughout last season.

MLB: Kwon Alexander: Alexander's 145 combined tackles were fourth most in the league last year. Increased comfort in Mike Smith's system should allow him to take his game to another level.

LB: Devante Bond: Kendell Beckwith gets the edge talent-wise, but how ready will he be for the start of the season after recovering from a torn ACL?

CB: Brent Grimes: Grimes led the NFL with 17 pass breakups, eight of them coming on third down and three in the red zone. What he lacks in size, he makes up for with his superior athleticism, even as he approaches 34.

FS: Justin Evans: The Bucs' second-round pick steps in right away as a starter. The Bucs love his range and believe he moves like a corner.

SS: J.J. Wilcox: The Bucs love his hard-hitting style and he should be a real force against the run. He registered 196 tackles, 15 passes defensed, five interceptions, three fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles in four seasons with the Cowboys.

CB: Vernon Hargreaves: After being thrown into the fire last season and playing the second-most snaps of any rookie on defense in the league, Hargreaves will play more aggressively in 2017 -- something head coach Dirk Koetter has called for.


K: Nick Folk: Folk went 3-for-3 on field goals from 40 to 49 yards last year, tied for best in the league, and went 2-for-4 on kicks from 50-plus yards. Roberto Aguayo made just 4 of 11 attempts from 40-plus yards last season.

P: Bryan Anger: He set franchise records for punts inside the 20 (32) and net punting average (42.4) last season, and helped the Bucs become one of the top punt-coverage units in the NFL.

KR: Justin Evans: This one is truly up in the air, and this will likely be another training camp competition this year. Evans did average 28.5 yards per kick return as a senior at Texas A&M, but that was in a limited capacity.

PR: Adam Humphries: Humphries had a 72-yard punt return for a touchdown in the preseason last year against the Browns. He wasn't able to replicate that magic in the regular season, but he still played well in this role last season.