NFC South: Ryan Neece

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

TAMPA, Fla. -- Random observations from Sunday's game between the Buccaneers and Patriots.

  • Sunday was Jon Gruden's birthday. I think his wife and kids chipped in and got him another quarterback.

By the way, Gruden was asked about celebrating his 45th birthday in an interview on NFL Network. "I'm halfway to 100,'' Gruden responded. You do the math.

  • The Bucs raved about receiver Antonio Bryant throughout training camp. He had a few more bright moments, gaining 16 yards on a reverse and making a 33-yard catch. Bryant's had off-field problems in the past and some people I've talked to in other front offices think he's prone to have more issues. But, so far, he's saying and doing all the right things.
  • Veteran linebacker Ryan Nece might have a hard time sticking on Tampa Bay's roster. He's third on the depth chart at strong side linebacker behind Cato June and Quincy Black and the Bucs are high on reserve weak side linebacker Geno Hayes.
  • The Bucs took a lot of heat for re-signing troubled tight end Jerramy Stevens in the offseason. He's no longer a certainty to stay on the roster. Alex Smith is set as the starter and the team is very happy with John Gilmore. Stevens is in a battle with Ben Troupe for the final spot. Oh, one other thing that could play into this situation: Stevens is suspended for the first two regular-season games.
  • Michael Bennett appears to be a lock as the third running back after another strong performance (eight carries for 57 yards and one catch for 13 yards). Earnest Graham and Warrick Dunn are locks to make the roster. That leaves undrafted rookie Clifton Smith, who has return abilities, very much on the bubble. The Bucs need to find a way to keep Smith because they won't be able to sneak him onto the practice squad without losing him through waivers.

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