NFC South: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will open their regular season Sunday against the Carolina Panthers, but it remains to be seen if offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford will be calling the plays.

Tedford is recovering from an unspecified medical procedure a week ago. Coach Lovie Smith said Monday that Tedford’s status remains up in the air.

"He’s getting better," Smith said. "He stopped through this weekend. We’re taking our time with him. He’s getting better each day. When he’ll be back here full-time, I don’t know. When he’ll be available full-time, whether he’ll be available for the game this week and all those questions, we don’t have answered right now. He’s getting better and we’ll see how all that plays out."

Smith would not say who will call the plays if Tedford is unavailable Sunday.

"In the meantime, the rest of our offensive staff will pick up for Jeff, similar to how we did it last week, with all of the guys really pitching in," Smith said.
TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers elected captains Monday and, unlike last year, there was no controversy.

McCown
Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David were selected the defensive captains and Michael Koenen will represent special teams. The offensive captains are Vincent Jackson and Josh McCown.

The significant news there is that McCown is a captain. The quarterback almost always should be a captain.

But that wasn’t the case for the Bucs last year. As part of the soap opera that was the start of last season, Josh Freeman was not elected as a captain. That led to speculation that former coach Greg Schiano had rigged the voting to prevent Freeman from being a captain. Only a few weeks later, Freeman was benched and eventually released.

With McCown as a captain, there’s a much healthier situation for the Bucs than a year ago at this time.
TAMPA, Fla. – In last year’s meetings with the Carolina Panthers, there were times when Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy was tripleteamed.

McCoy said Monday that he’d welcome a similar scenario when the Bucs host the Panthers in Sunday’s regular-season opener.

McCoy
McCoy
“I don’t care,’’ McCoy said. “It is what it is. Buffalo tried the same thing and you saw what happened. If they want to try it, they can go ahead. I’m not trying to play for myself. I play to get tripleteamed. I play so I make my teammates better. That’s one thing [Hall of Famer Warren Sapp] always talks about -- ‘Are you making the people around you better?’ That’s one thing he did. That’s one thing I’m working for. I want everybody around me to be great. It’s not about me. It’s about everybody around me.’’

The Bucs upgraded around McCoy in the offseason. They signed defensive end Michael Johnson and defensive tackle Clinton McDonald as free agents. But McCoy sees another returning starter as being crucial to the defensive line.

“I think [defensive end] Adrian Clayborn is going to be the key for us up front,’’ McCoy said. “Everybody wants to say it’s Gerald, it’s about the under tackle. No. He has to make a transition from the right to the left and people are not expecting that to be a positive transition, going from his best side to a side he has to learn over a couple months. I think he’s going to surprise a lot of people. If he can get going, it’s going to change everything else.’’
TAMPA, Fla. – The new kicker for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is a believer -- in himself.

Murray
While just about everyone assumed incumbent Connor Barth would keep his job, Patrick Murray had a different vision.

"I came in here and I believed I was going to be the starter," Murray said. "I believe if you come in thinking a different way it’s just not going to happen. Credit to Connor. He pushed me every single day. He’s a great kicker and I know he’s going to land somewhere really soon."

But it’s Murray, who came into the league as an undrafted free agent, that ended up winning Tampa Bay’s kicking job. Barth didn’t have a bad preseason, but Murray had an excellent one.

"The fact that I came in from day one that I was going to win the job and nobody was going to beat me no matter what they threw at me," Murray said. "Coach [Lovie Smith] put me in some difficult situations and I excelled at them and, thankfully, I’m a part of this organization."

Murray said his positive attitude and work ethic come from his father, Aidan.

"To be a kicker in this league, you have to have a mental edge," Murray said. "You have to be mentally tough and that comes from my father. He’s a hard-working man from Northern Ireland. We grew up pretty tough ourselves. He wasn’t easy on us, that’s for sure. That helps and it’s going to help me throughout my career."

Who's returning for the Bucs?

September, 1, 2014
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TAMPA, Fla. – When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers left Solomon Patton off their 53-man roster, they seemingly left the kickoff and punt-return jobs wide open.

Patton handled the duties through much of the preseason and had fared pretty well. The common assumption was that Patton would be returning punts and kickoffs in the regular season.

Patton now is stashed on the practice squad. But the Bucs didn’t leave him off the 53-man roster without a plan in place. It just might be a little difficult to see that plan because no one else stood out on returns in camp or the preseason.

But it appears as if the Bucs are ready to use backup running back Bobby Rainey as their punt returner. Rainey caught some punts in the preseason and really is the only option on the current roster.

Rainey also could end up handling kickoff returns. But there at least are some other options there. Backup running back Mike James and reserve receiver Chris Owusu worked as kickoff returners in training camp and could be options.
TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers made a series of roster moves Sunday, including the addition of an offensive lineman and six players signed to the practice squad.

The Bucs claimed offensive lineman Garrett Gilkey off waivers from the Cleveland Browns. Gilkey appeared in six games with one start for the Browns last season. To make room for Gilkey, the Bucs waived offensive lineman Josh Allen.

The Bucs also started filling out their practice squad with some familiar faces. Tight end Cameron Brate, running back Jeff Demps, quarterback Mike Kafka, linebacker Brandon Magee, defensive tackle Matthew Masifilo and wide receiver Solomon Patton were signed to the practice squad. All six of those players were with the Bucs in the preseason.

The Bucs still have four more spots to fill on the practice squad.
Most significant move: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took a leap of faith when they released kicker Connor Barth and decided to go with Patrick Murray. Barth was a proven veteran. Murray is an unknown. But Murray had an excellent preseason to win the job. Barth didn’t look quite as sharp and didn’t seem to have as much distance as he did before missing all of last season with a torn Achilles tendon. Barth also was scheduled to make more than $3 million this season. Murray will only cost the team $420,000.

Not so fast: A lot of people were under the assumption running back Jeff Demps would make the roster because the Bucs were so infatuated with his speed. But Demps was released Saturday. The former Olympic sprinter was given every opportunity as a running back and a return man, but he never was able to make things happen in space. Still, Demps has rare speed and the Bucs likely will try to get him signed to the practice squad, where he might be able to develop into something.

What’s next: The Bucs likely aren’t done with roster moves. They’re likely to bring in some players who were released elsewhere. Depth at linebacker, safety and on the offensive line still could be priorities.

Bucs’ cuts: Released WR Solomon Patton, RB Jeff Demps, QB Mike Kafka, DT Matthew Masifilo, DT Ronald Talley, K Connor Barth, TE Cameron Brate, DE Larry English, G Jamon Meredith, DB Marc Anthony, LB Nate Askew, T Edawn Coughman, CB Kip Edwards, DE T.J. Fatinikun, CB Anthony Gaitor, LB Ka'Lial Glaud, CB Keith Lewis, LB Brandon Magee, OL Andrew Miller, FB Lonnie Pryor, DL Ronald Talley, S Major Wright and OL Jeremiah Warren.
TAMPA, Fla. -- With the start of the regular season just around the corner, Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith talked about his offensive and defensive lines Friday.

You might be a little surprised with what he had to say. Smith had plenty of praise for an offensive line that has been criticized and has undergone a lot of changes. On the flip side, he had a challenge for a defensive line that many consider one of the team’s strengths.

Let’s start with the offensive line. Right tackle Demar Dotson is the only remaining starter from a line that wasn’t very good a year ago. Center Evan Dietrich-Smith and left tackle Anthony Collins were brought in as free agents. After some early struggles on the interior in the preseason, the Bucs made a big trade this week to bring in six-time Pro Bowler Logan Mankins.

Smith said he’s not concerned about the chemistry of the offensive line even though Mankins has yet to practice with the team.

“It’s been talked an awful lot about “the offensive line, they have to play together’’,’’ Smith said. “I don’t buy that at all. I think you get the best possible guys you can, and you make moves when you have to.’’

“He knows how to get himself ready. He’ll have to change a little bit of terminology but not as much as you would assume. He’ll fit in right away and I don’t think that will be a big issue. Some of our other offensive linemen haven’t played a lot together. But these three preseason games, they’ve come together. Based on the way they played the last time they were together [in the third preseason game], we like where we’re at going into the Carolina game [to open the regular season].’’

The defensive line is supposed to be a strength. The Bucs haven’t gotten some pressure from their starters, but the team plans to use a rotation. Smith said he hasn’t been impressed with the play of some of his backup defensive linemen.

“Very concerned about it,’’ Smith said. “It’s disappointing, the pressure we weren’t able to get. It’s been documented how we want to play football. As we look at it, the challenge for our defensive line this week will be to outplay Carolina’s defensive line. They have an excellent front seven. We need to play better than them up front. That isn’t just four guys. A couple other players have to step up. We’ll normally dress seven defensive linemen. All of them will play and we need production from all of them.’’

Bucs cut kicker Connor Barth

August, 29, 2014
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TAMPA, Fla. -- The Buccaneers pulled a bit of a surprise on Friday afternoon by releasing kicker Connor Barth.

Barth
 Presumably, the kicking job now belongs to Patrick Murray, who had a strong training camp. Barth had been with the Buccaneers since 2009. But he missed all of last season after tearing his Achilles tendon in a charity basketball game.

The decision also might have been influenced by economics. Barth was scheduled to earn $2 million in base salary. Plus, he was slated to earn $1.15 million in weekly bonuses if he made the 53-man roster. The Bucs take no cap hit for releasing Barth.

Murray is scheduled to make $420,000 this season.

Bucs begin trimming roster

August, 29, 2014
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TAMPA, Fla. – The Tampa Bay Buccaneers began the process of trimming their roster Friday with no major surprises.

The Bucs parted ways with 12 players. That leaves the roster count at 63. It has to be down to 53 by Saturday afternoon.

Offensive lineman Jamon Meredith, who once appeared to have a shot at a starting guard job, was the only vested veteran to be waived.

Defensive back Marc Anthony, linebacker Nate Askew, tackle Edawn Coughman, cornerback Kip Edwards, defensive end T.J. Fatinikun, cornerback Anthon Gaitor, linebacker Ka’Lial Glaud, cornerback Keith Lewis, offensive lineman Andrew Miller, fullback Lonnie Pryor and offensive lineman Jeremiah Warren were waived.
Examining the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (2)
The Bucs are content to go with two quarterbacks.

RUNNING BACKS (5)

Rookie Charles Sims should return from injury around midseason.

RECEIVERS (6)

Patton appears likely to make the roster as the return man. Herron has come on strong after a rocky start to camp.

TIGHT ENDS (3)

The trade of Tim Wright saved Stocker's job.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)

After the trade for Mankins, the offensive line suddenly is a lot more solid.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)

Solomon and English have played well and that could mean the end of the road for Da'Quan Bowers.

LINEBACKERS (6)

The Bucs still could bring in a linebacker from outside for depth.

CORNERBACKS (6)

Jenkins has been hurt most of the preseason, but his roster spot is safe.

SAFETIES (4)

The Bucs believed this position was deep enough to trade away Kelcie McCray last week.

SPECIALISTS (3)

DePaola edges out Jeremy Cain out for the job as long snapper.

TAMPA, Fla. -- Every year, it seems like the NFL floats the idea of shortening the preseason. But nothing ever happens.

Next time the topic comes up, we have a new Exhibit A on why four preseason games are about two too many. In Thursday night's 24-10 victory by the Washington Redskins over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, backups started for both teams. And even that first group of backups didn't play long. Much of the game was played by guys who will be released when rosters have to be cut to 53 on Saturday afternoon.

That led to some football that was less than pretty. Especially from the Buccaneers.

The Bucs, who finished the preseason with a 1-3 record, put up a whopping 14 yards of total offense in the first half alone. Things got only slight better in the second half.

But the good news for the Bucs is that the preseason is over. Their starters will be back in action when they open the regular season against Carolina.

Some other observations:
  • Take this for what it's worth, which may not be a lot. The Bucs started Patrick Omameh at right guard and Oniel Cousins at left guard. Newly-acquired Logan Mankins is going to be the starting left guard. The Bucs have to choose between Omameh and Cousins on the right side. I think Omameh has a slight edge.
  • I was surprised quarterback Mike Glennon played only one series. I would have liked to see him have the chance to get some rhythm going. Glennon is one Josh McCown injury away from starting. I doubt Mike Kafka, who replaced Glennon, will even make the team. Then again, maybe the Bucs didn't want to expose Glennon to possible injury behind a shaky offensive line.
  • Linebacker Danny Lansanah seems to have locked up a roster spot. Lansanah had a nice training camp and he continued to impress Thursday night. Lansanah tackled Washington's Evan Royster for a loss in the first quarter.
  • Cornerback Keith Lewis came up with an interception in the second quarter. But it probably was too little too late. The Bucs are pretty well set at cornerback and Lewis isn't likely to get a roster spot.
  • Safety Keith Tandy probably already had clinched a roster spot. But Tandy looked like he was playing for his job. He was all over the field and led the team in tackles.
  • Defensive end Scott Solomon continued his strong preseason. Solomon produced a third-quarter sack. He has a decent chance of making the roster.
  • Solomon Patton, who appears likely to make the team as a return man, also showed he can contribute as a wide receiver. Patton caught a touchdown pass from Kafka in the third quarter.
  • Wide receiver Louis Murphy left the game with a back injury and did not return.
TAMPA, Fla. – He wore a Buccaneers hat and decked his children out in the colors of his new team. But it was pretty obvious Thursday night that Logan Mankins still is processing the trade that brought him from the New England Patriots, the only team he ever has played for.

Mankins was introduced to the Tampa Bay media before the preseason game with Washington. During the 10-minute session, Mankins looked and talked like a man still in shock.

Mankins
“I knew what I had there, but I don’t know what I have here," Mankins said. “Only time will tell."

Mankins sounded like a man whose mind still is in two places. That’s understandable, as the trade happened only two days ago.

“It’s a sad day not to be with those guys," Mankins said. “But I’ve got new teammates here that I’m looking forward to developing relationships with."

A six-time Pro Bowl guard, Mankins is going to have to start developing those relationships quickly. The Bucs open the season in just over a week against the Carolina Panthers. Mankins said it will be a challenge to quickly build chemistry with a new offensive line.

“It’s going to be tough," Mankins said. “We’ve got a week until the first game. I’m going to try to take it in stride. I’ve got the weekend to try to get down some of the mental part of it and then all next week at practice. I’m sure the guys are going to help me as much as possible and I’m going to try my best."

Since the trade, there have been suggestions in the New England media that Mankins, 32, is in steep decline and cite that as a reason why the Patriots were willing to let him go.

“I might be in a little decline," Mankins said. “I don’t know. How many guys that have played 150 games are still on the upswing? I’ve played a lot of games, a lot of snaps. But I feel like I still have something to give this game and give to this team. I’ll try my hardest for them. If it’s not good enough, it’s not. If it is, it is."

Mankins might not have been wanted in New England any longer. But his arrival has been greeted warmly by Tampa Bay fans, who had been worried about the Bucs’ situation at guard. If Mankins is anything close to what he used to be, he should solidify Tampa Bay’s offensive line. And Mankins doesn’t want to let his new team down.

‘When someone invests in you, I don’t want to disappoint them," Mankins said. “I want to be the player they think they’re getting. I hope I can deliver what they expect."

W2W4: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

August, 28, 2014
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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-2) host the Washington Redskins (2-1) in the preseason finale for both teams Thursday night.

Three things to watch:

Mike Glennon: The backup quarterback will get most of the action with the starters expected to play very little. Glennon hasn’t looked sharp in his last two games, but that might be due in large part to some poor play from the offensive line. Glennon needs a strong performance to make the team more comfortable with him as the backup for Josh McCown.

Larry English: The former first-round pick by San Diego recorded two sacks in the last preseason game. Although English was a bust with the Chargers, there’s hope he can resurrect his career. Another strong performance by English could put him on the roster ahead of Da’Quan Bowers, who has missed much of the preseason due to an injury.

The backup offensive line: Newly acquired Logan Mankins will not play and it’s likely the other starters will sit or appear only briefly. The backup jobs remain very much up for grabs. Even though they were drafted, rookies Kadeem Edwards and Kevin Pamphile are on the bubble.

Lavonte David a well-kept secret

August, 27, 2014
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TAMPA, Fla. -- The comparisons started among Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans as soon as Lavonte David was drafted in 2012.

It seemed far-fetched, or at least very premature, but David instantly was seen as the second coming of Derrick Brooks. These days, that doesn’t seem like quite a stretch.

“It’s very early in his career and Derrick’s a Hall of Famer, so it’s hard to say that at this point,’’ Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said. “But if there’s anybody that has a chance as an outside linebacker to end up on the Derrick Brooks level, Lavonte has those qualities. His instincts, his ability to make big plays, and his ability to lift everyone up around him are similar to what Derrick had. Lavonte has those qualities. He has the chance to be one of the great players in this league.’’

As Brooks was, David is a weakside linebacker with a knack for big plays. David is coming off a 2013 season in which he had 145 tackles, seven sacks, two forced fumbles and five interceptions. Look at what Brooks did in the first two years of his career and David stacks up pretty well.

“It’s nerve-wracking being compared to that guy," David said. “He’s a Hall of Famer. All it does is motivate me to keep working hard, and maybe one day I can get to where he’s at."

Despite the brilliant start to his career, David remains one of the NFL’s best-kept secrets -- outside of Tampa Bay. David was overlooked for the Pro Bowl last season, but was named first-team All-Pro by the Associated Press. In ESPN.com's rankings of the NFL's top 100 defensive players, David came in at No. 25. He was 98th a year ago.

“[The Pro Bowl snub] didn't bother me as much as people might think," David said. “I can only control what I can control. I just go out there and play my hardest. Being voted first-team All-Pro is better than being voted to the Pro Bowl, in my opinion."

The Pro Bowls will come as long as David continues to produce, and all indications are he will. With Lovie Smith taking over as head coach, the Bucs are returning to the Tampa 2 defense that was famous back when Brooks was playing. Weakside linebacker is a crucial position in the Tampa 2 as that player is expected to go from side to side against the run and drop in coverage or blitz against the pass. Frazier said David is a perfect fit for the scheme.

“He sees things before they happen," Smith said. “He studies extremely hard. You should see him in the classroom. He’s asking questions all the time. He’s always looking for more. And then he goes on the football field and you can see that he’s applying what he’s learned. That’s not always the case. That makes him a very special talent."

How special can David be?

“The sky is the limit," Frazier said. “The way he works, as smart as he is, the talent he has -- he should go to a lot of Pro Bowls before his career is over. I’m looking forward to being a part of his evolution. He can be as good as any outside linebacker that’s played the game, in my opinion. I think he has those traits."

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