Leonard Fournette expressed how much he cares about where he sits on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers first unofficial depth chart, released on Wednesday.
After all, Fournette became “Playoff Lenny” in a historically good postseason performance as the go-to running back after sub-par regular season. He also came to the Bucs in 2020 with hopes of being the feature back.
That was “2020 Lenny” who played behind Ronald Jones II until the playoffs. This season, Fournette didn’t even bother to peek at the depth chart for Saturday’s preseason opener against Cincinnati according to Buccaneers.com’s Scott Smith.
“No, not at all,” Fournette said in Wednesday’s press conference. “We know what we bring to the table, what’s expected. Whatever happens, if any one of us ever has to carry (the load), we’re not going to miss a heartbeat. We’re all taught the same thing, we all have a great coach.”
“It just depends on the game plan, that’s all,” Fournette added. “Whatever they give me I’ll take and we’ll see from there. But other than that my job is to come out here and compete like I’m doing against the best and make each other better every day.”
Bucs head coach Bruce Arians said in March that starting jobs are up for grabs, and Fournette showed the desire to compete for the top spot. With this unofficial depth chart only being the first, Fournette could still become the feature back by Week 1 in September depending on how training camp and preseason games go for him and Jones.
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Super Familiar Depth Chart but With a Few Tweaks
Tampa’s starters on the new depth chart looks just like it did for Super Bowl LV — with a few tweaks. The Bucs returned all 22 starters from last season, the first Super Bowl winners to do so since the 1979 Oakland Raiders.
The only differences between the starters on the Super Bowl depth chart versus the new depth chart occurred due to injuries. Tight end O.J. Howard didn’t play in the Super Bowl due to a season-ending Achilles injury in Week 5. Right guard Alex Cappa also sat out the Big Game due to an injury in the playoffs.
Regardless of where any of the other players fall on the 90-man depth chart, they all get one common denominator against the Bengals on Saturday.
“Everybody will play,” Arians said in Monday’s press conference. “Don’t know how much but everybody will play. The (Tennessee) Titans week we’re going against them for two practices. That will determine how that is as far as who plays in that one. And the last one we’ll play a bunch.”
Bucs Tight End Battle Shifts
Cameron Brate played a bigger role in 2020 than expected once Howard’s season ended abruptly.
Brate, who just returned from the Active/Physically Unable to Perform List, landed at second string for the new depth chart. Howard has looked solid in camp though Arians acknowledged work ahead.
“He’s still catching up to the speed of it and the physicality of it,” Arians said on Monday. “He’s been out a long time, so needs this camp.”
Notably, Codey McElroy moved into a second-string spot ahead of Tanner Hudson, who occupied the third tight end spot behind Brate last year. Arians spoke highly of McElroy on Wednesday.
“Codey can run and catch, too,” Arians said in the press conference. “He’s learning a lot of football; a lot of things are new to him. You wouldn’t expect to be coaching some of those things at this level until you look at his background. Some of what’s obvious to the rest of us isn’t obvious to him. He’s learning on the fly but he’s a big, talented guy and he’s willing to put his face in there, or his shoulder.”