TAMPA — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers let 2012 sack leader Michael Bennett leave during free agency in March because they thought Da’Quan Bowers was ready to replace him as the starting left defensive end.
Bowers proved during a disappointing preseason, though, that he’s still got a ways to go to be an every-down player, which is why Daniel Te’o-Nesheim was listed first at left end on the Bucs’ first regular-season depth chart, released Tuesday.
A fourth-year pro out of Washington, Te’o-Nesheim made 14 starts and recorded four sacks for the Bucs last year.
The listing represents a major change at the position, where Bowers was listed first on the depth chart released for the start of preseason games last month. It does not, however, represent a big surprise.
Bowers, the Bucs 2011 second-round draft pick, struggled with his conditioning during training camp and never found a rhythm during the preseason, finishing with five tackles, including one for a loss, and one pass defense in four games.
“I think Da’Quan is progressing and that’s good, but as a coach you always want it to be faster and I’m sure the player does as well,” Bucs coach Greg Schiano said at the end of the preseason.
“So we’re working through it and getting better, and that’s all that matters. What I said for the whole football team applies to Da’Quan as well. If he continues that climb, he’s very talented and could be a really good player.”
The Bucs believe 2013 second-round draft pick Johnthan Banks will be a good player, too, but he might not be a starter Sunday if the Bucs open up in a traditional two-cornerback defensive set.
As he has been throughout the preseason, Banks is listed second behind second-year pro Leonard Johnson at the right cornerback position opposite Darrelle Revis. Banks might start the opener anyway, though.
The Bucs have worked Banks exclusively at right corner and used Johnson as the slot corner when they go to a three-corner alignment. The same will likely hold true against the Jets.
In other depth chart news, Dekoda Watson continues to be listed first ahead of Jonathan Casillas at strongside linebacker and Luke Stocker is listed first ahead of the injured Tom Crabtree (ankle) at tight end.
Brian Leonard is listed as the top backup running back behind Doug Martin, but the Bucs list no backups for either right guard Davin Joseph or left guard Carl Nicks.
That means the mystery surrounding a possible replacement for Nicks, who has missed nearly two weeks of work while battling a staph infection, might continue right up until game time.
In other Bucs news, the team on Tuesday brought back veteran defensive tackle Gary Gibson, who was released on Saturday, and placed cornerback Danny Gorrer (groin) on the injured reserve/designated for return list. Each team can place only one player on that list per season.
The Bucs also tweaked their practice squad on Tuesday, signing wide receiver Skye Dawson and releasing tackle Jace Daniels. An undrafted rookie out of TCU, Dawson spent the preseason with the Washington Redskins.