NFC South: Derek Hardman

Looking at Bucs' offensive snaps

February, 12, 2013
When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed Vincent Jackson to a five-year, $55 million contract last offseason, it was clear they expected him to earn the money.

Jackson did that by instantly becoming a true No. 1 wide receiver. But he also put in plenty of time. Jackson was on the field for 93.04 percent of Tampa Bay’s 1,049 offensive plays.

The only other wide receivers with higher playing-time percentages in 2012 were Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald (97.91 percent), Detroit’s Calvin Johnson (96 percent) and Atlanta’s Roddy White (93.21).

Here’s a look at the breakdown of playing-time percentage for the rest of Tampa Bay’s offense:

NFC South afternoon update

December, 13, 2012
Lots of odds and ends have been popping up around the division this afternoon. Let’s take a quick run through them:


It’s starting to sound as if receiver Roddy White's knee injury might be a little more serious than initially thought. White missed his second straight day of practice Thursday and coach Mike Smith said the receiver’s playing status for Sunday could be a game-time decision. Go grab Harry Douglas for your fantasy team.

On the bright side, cornerback Asante Samuel, who has been bothered by a shoulder injury, said he’s ready to return.


The Panthers remain pretty banged up. Running back Jonathan Stewart, receiver Brandon LaFell, defensive tackle Dwan Edwards and center/guard Geoff Hangartner each missed their second practice of the week. Defensive end Charles Johnson (back) also was added to the injury report and missed Thursday’s practice.


Reported testimony from the appeals hearings said that former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams wanted to stop the bounty program, but assistant head coach Joe Vitt told him not to. On Thursday, Vitt strongly disagreed with that claim. Vitt said when he was questioned about that matter during the hearings, he offered to take a lie-detector test.

The Saints continue to have issues at right tackle as Zach Strief and Charles Brown both missed another day of practice due to injuries. If they can’t play Sunday, William Robinson likely would get the start.


The Bucs are relatively healthy as they get ready to play the Saints. Cornerback LeQuan Lewis was the only player that didn’t practice fully. But Lewis did participate on a limited basis in Thursday’s practice for the first time since suffering a knee injury.

The Bucs just announced they have signed guard/tackle Derek Hardman and released guard Hayworth Hicks.

Around the NFC South

November, 28, 2012
Time for a tour of some odds and ends from around the division:


Michael Cunningham writes about how the Falcons are using a committee approach at running back with Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling splitting time with Michael Turner. That makes sense on a lot of levels. Rodgers is showing all sorts of potential, and Snelling is reliable, if unspectacular. Using multiple running backs also is a common theme around the league. In the NFC South alone, New Orleans and Carolina use the committee approach. Only Tampa Bay, with Doug Martin, has a true feature back.

The Falcons reportedly have increased their credit line to $200 million. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re planning to use that money toward the new stadium they are seeking.


Former Carolina safety Mike Minter officially was introduced as the new head coach at Campbell University. The Camels went 1-10 this season. But I wouldn’t be surprised if they get better results with Minter. He knows a thing or two about quick turnarounds. He was on Carolina’s 1-15 team in 2001 and saw how John Fox turned things around and had the Panthers in the Super Bowl in the 2003 season.

The Panthers have started to let quarterback Cam Newton make more audible calls at the line of scrimmage. That seemed to work pretty well Monday night in Philadelphia. Newton’s a smart guy, and it only makes sense to let him audible more often going forward.


The rivalry game between the Saints and Falcons won’t be played until Thursday night, but some other games already have started. New Orleans defensive end Will Smith admitted he’s using some previous comments by Atlanta receiver Roddy White as motivation. When the Saints beat the Falcons in New Orleans a few weeks ago, White implied the Saints didn’t do anything to win the game and the Falcons handed them a victory. If Smith is using the comments as motivation, I’m guessing he’s not the only member of the Saints taking that approach.

Immediately after Thursday night’s game in Atlanta, Smith and linebacker Jonathan Vilma will leave for Washington D.C. They plan to be present when their attorneys question former New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams in a hearing on the appeals on suspensions for Vilma and Smith.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is a finalist for Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year.’’ I’m guessing he’s not going to get too many votes from New Orleans fans.

New Orleans offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael reportedly is on the radar for Boston College’s coaching vacancy. Makes plenty of sense, because Carmichael is a Boston College graduate and also is viewed as one of the top young offensive minds in the sport.


Stephen Holder writes that offensive tackle Jeremy Trueblood, who was placed on injured reserve this week, probably has played his last snap with the Bucs. That’s a pretty safe assumption. Trueblood, whose contract is up after the season, took a pay cut during the preseason and lost his starting right tackle job early in the season. Even with Tampa Bay’s offensive line enduring all sorts of injuries, he wasn’t able to work his way back onto the field. It’s pretty apparent Trueblood doesn’t have a place in this team’s future plans.

The Bucs announced Wednesday morning that they have signed Derek Hardman to take Trueblood's roster spot. Hardman previously spent some time with the Bucs.

Rick Mayer reports New England tight end Rob Gronkowski bought a $1.6 million house in Tampa. Buc fans shouldn’t read anything into this. Gronkowski isn’t scheduled to become a free agent until 2020, and apparently plans to use the Tampa property as an offseason home. Lots of professional athletes have offseason homes in Tampa, mostly because of the nice climate.

Saints, Falcons feeling cap crunch

September, 14, 2012
Beyond the obvious, there’s another reason why the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints have to hope they don’t encounter many more injuries.

They don’t have enough salary-cap space to add many more players. I just got a look at the latest league-wide cap figures, and the Falcons have the second-smallest amount of cap room available.

San Francisco leads with only $754,618 available. The Falcons are just behind them at $761,498. They are the only two teams with less than $1 million in cap space.

The Saints are only slightly better off than the Falcons. They’re $1.72 million under the cap, and only three teams have less room than them. But the Saints’ situation is complicated because Will Smith and Jonathan Vilma's cap figures are counting fully. If their suspensions are reinstated, the Saints would get substantial cap relief.

If the Falcons or Saints have to make many more roster moves, they’ll have to free up some room by restructuring existing contracts.

The other two NFC South teams are in good cap shape. Carolina is $5.3 million under the cap. Prior to Friday’s signing of offensive lineman Derek Hardman and the release of defensive lineman Wallace Gilberry, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were $13.5 million under the cap.

Buccaneers add O-line depth

September, 14, 2012
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers continue to jiggle their roster.

The team announced Friday morning that it has re-signed offensive lineman Derek Hardman and released defensive tackle Wallace Gilberry.

Hardman was with the Bucs in the preseason and his re-signing gives the team more depth and flexibility on the offensive line. The Bucs still are dealing with the season-ending injury to Pro Bowl guard Davin Joesph.

They moved Ted Larsen into the starting lineup, but didn’t have a true backup guard on the roster until adding Hardman, although tackles Jamon Meredith and Demar Dotson or backup center Cody Wallace could play there in a pinch.

Gilberry went through the preseason with the Bucs and was released in the final cut-down before being re-signed last week. The Bucs have Corvey Irvin and Gary Gibson as their backup defensive tackles. But it wouldn’t be surprising if Gilberry is re-signed again in the future.

Updated NFC South salary-cap space

September, 5, 2012
Now that we’re into the first week of the regular season, the way salary-cap figures for each team are calculated has changed.

In the offseason, only the top 51 figures count against a team’s cap. Now, every contract counts and that includes practice squad players and guys who are no longer on the roster, but are counting for outstanding pro-rated bonus money.

I just got a look at where each NFC South team stands under the cap, so let’s run through it.

The Falcons are only $1.049 million under the cap. If this team suffers a serious injury and wants to sign a replacement of any significance, it likely will have to restructure a contract or two to free up room. The Falcons are carrying a lot of “dead money,” including some that stretches back to guys who haven’t played for Atlanta since 2010. Jamaal Anderson, Michael Jenkins, Chauncey Davis and Ovie Mughelli are taking up more than $2 million in salary-cap space.

The Carolina Panthers are at $5.1 million and some of that is due to smart accounting. Former guard Travelle Wharton is costing the team $1.9 million, but the hit for this year is spread out equally for next year. The Panthers do have about $550,000 tied up in former punter Jason Baker and kicker Olindo Mare and they also lost an injury grievance to safety Nate Salley, which is costing them $440,000. The Panthers already are projected to be close to the 2013 cap and would like to carry some of this year's room over to next year.

The New Orleans Saints are $8.7 under the cap, but that’s misleading. Defensive end Will Smith's $5.1 million figure is off the books during a four-game suspension, but comes back on as soon as it’s over. Smith also could come back on the books if the NFL Players Association gets a temporary restraining order on his suspension. Jonathan Vilma's $3.3 figure isn’t counting as he serves a season-long suspension. But, like with Smith, the Saints have to keep room open for him in case he is reinstated, even if it’s only temporary.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have $14.9 million in cap space. That figure doesn’t include Wednesday’s re-signing of cornerback Brandon McDonald and the release of offensive lineman Derek Hardman, but those moves likely will have only a minor impact. The Bucs rank third in the league in cap space, but don’t call them cheap. They spent a fortune in free agency and front-loaded the contracts of Carl Nicks, Vincent Jackson and Eric Wright. I wouldn’t anticipate the Bucs using most of their remaining salary-cap space. They want to carry it over to next year because they already are projected to be close to the 2013 salary cap. Carrying over some of this year’s cap space would give the Bucs room to add a few more free agents next year.

Observation deck: Bucs-Redskins

August, 29, 2012
Tampa Bay’s 30-3 loss to the Washington Redskins on Wednesday night didn’t make for great viewing.

Blame much of it on Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano. But, more importantly give Schiano lots of credit for making one of his best decisions since taking over the Buccaneers in January.

The Tampa Bay starters did not play. Instead, they stood on the sidelines after going through a full practice at Georgetown University earlier in the day.

It’s not unusual for an NFL coach to use his starters lightly or sit some of them in the final preseason game. But Schiano took this to an extreme. He even sat long-snapper Andrew Economos and a few guys that are likely to be key backups.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. After watching Pro Bowl guard Davin Joseph go down with a season-ending knee injury last week, Schiano wasn’t taking any chances. He wants his starters healthy for the regular-season opener, which comes Sept. 9 against Carolina.

That game is going to be a lot more important -- and, hopefully more entertaining -- than the preseason finale.

Some quick observations from Wednesday night’s game:
  • The Bucs still are trying to figure out how they’re going to replace Joseph. Jamon Meredith started at right guard, but I don’t know if that means he’ll be there for the Carolina game. Meredith surrendered a sack and was called for two penalties in the first half. The Bucs are experimenting with their options at that spot. Ted Larsen, who got the start at center, and Derek Hardman, also are possibilities from the current roster. But the Bucs also could scan the waiver wire for help in the coming days. After watching all the backup offensive linemen, I’d suggest the waiver wire might be the way to go.
  • Defensive tackle Wallace Gilberry might have helped his chances of landing a roster spot. He batted down a pass at the line of scrimmage early in the game. The Bucs are expected to use Gerald McCoy and Roy Miller as their starters. Amobi Okoye is expected to be part of the backup rotation, but he’s missed a lot of time with an injury. Gilberry likely is in the mix with Gary Gibson and Frank Okam to be part of the rotation.
  • I remember a preseason or two back in the 1990s when third-stringer quarterback Scott Milanovich was the most popular quarterback in Tampa Bay. After watching Brett Ratliff get the start and play the entire game, I don’t think starter Josh Freeman or backup Dan Orlovsky have anything to worry about. In fact, I think there is at least a chance the Bucs could follow the path a lot of other teams have taken in recent years and go with only two quarterbacks on the regular-season roster. In fairness to Ratliff, he got no help from his offensive line.
  • Broadcaster and former Buc John Lynch might have stirred up some speculation when he said the Bucs should try to sign tight end Chris Cooley, who recently was released by the Redskins. Usually, I try to shoot down speculation about the Bucs signing guys in their 30s because that really doesn’t fit the profile of a team that’s doing most of its building through the draft. But I’m with Lynch on this one. I think the Bucs could use a little more depth to go with Dallas Clark and Luke Stocker. If Cooley’s healthy, he might be worth a shot. I think he’d be a better lockerroom fit than Jeremy Shockey, who still remains unsigned. General manager Mark Dominik said during a fourth-quarter interview with the broadcast team that there had been contact with Cooley's agent, but said the team is now aggressively pursuing the veteran tight end.
  • Rookie safety Sean Baker still might be a long shot to make the 53-man roster. But he intercepted two passes and recovered a fumble Wednesday night. That might help Baker land a spot on the practice squad.
  • Nice to see Bucs’ co-chairman Joel Glazer hugging Raheem Morris before the game. Morris coached the Bucs the last three seasons and is now Washington’s defensive backs coach. Morris had a good relationship with ownership, but it was obvious to all that a move had to be made as the Bucs lost their final 10 games of last season. I’m just guessing here, but I doubt any members of the Glazer family were exchanging hugs with Washington general manager Bruce Allen, who once held the same role in Tampa Bay.

Countdown to Bucs' game

August, 29, 2012
The final week of the preseason is about to begin.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers play at Washington on Wednesday night at 7. The Saints, Falcons and Panthers each are scheduled to play their final exhibition contest on Thursday night.

Let’s get ready for the Bucs’ game by checking out some headlines:
  • Dory LeBlanc has a list of five things to watch. She starts it off with the chemistry of the offensive line. This is a huge issue after the Bucs lost Pro Bowl guard Davin Joseph to a season-ending injury. The Bucs want to take a look at several players (Ted Larsen, Jamon Meredith and Derek Hardman are the candidates) at right guard. But it might be tough to develop much chemistry in this game because the starters aren’t expected to stay in for long.
  • Stephen Holder has a list of five players to watch in the final preseason game. Receiver Jordan Shipley is on there and it’s tough to get a read on if he’ll make the team. Shipley has been with the Bucs for only a week, after being claimed off waivers from the Bengals. Shipley had a knee injury last year and the Bucs need to get a good look at him before they cut down their roster to 53 on Friday.
  • Speaking of trimming the roster, Roy Cummings points out that cornerback Myron Lewis might be on the bubble. Lewis seems to have dropped off after getting off to a fast start in training camp.
  • Speaking of guys that might be on the bubble, Mark Cooks has a list of offensive players that might have a tough time making the team. One of them is running back Mossis Madu. He’s right on the fringe. Doug Martin and LeGarrette Blount are locks to make the team and rookie Michael Smith appears to be ahead of Madu on the depth chart. Madu’s only shot at a roster spot may come only if the Bucs decide to carry four running backs.

I’ll be back with observations on the Bucs soon after the game ends. Meantime, feel free to use the comments section below to share your thoughts on what you see out of the Bucs.

Around the NFC South

August, 29, 2012
I usually try to give you a look at the NFC South headlines in the morning. But we’re a little off schedule because we’re putting the finishing touches on our season previews that are scheduled to run Thursday and we’re doing some game planning for the regular season.

So let’s take this opportunity to squeeze in a quick look at what’s going on around the division.
  • Ira Kaufman writes that the Bucs plan to give Ted Larsen, Derek Hardman and Jamon Meredith some playing time at right guard during Wednesday night’s preseason finale at Washington. After losing Davin Joseph to a season-ending injury, the Bucs are scrambling to find a new starter. The Bucs will monitor the waiver wire in the coming days and you could see them bring in another guard as an eventual starter. But I think it’s likely the opening-day starter will be one of the three guys currently on the roster.
  • Mike Triplett reports that the New Orleans Saints’ practice facility appears to be holding up well as Hurricane Isaac hits the area. It still remains unclear if the Saints will return home immediately after their Thursday night preseason game at Tennessee.
  • Joseph Person has an overview of how Carolina’s 53-man roster could shape up. I think the most compelling position is wide receiver. Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell are set as the starters and Kealoha Pilares and Joe Adams are almost certain to make the roster because they have ability in the return game and promise as wide receivers. Louis Murphy, who was brought in via trade and played for coordinator Rob Chudzinski in San Diego seems to be the favorite for the third receiver spot. But it’s likely the Panthers will keep only six receivers and that means Seyi Ajirotutu, Armanti Edwards and Jared Green are on the bubble. Ajirotutu got some playing time last year and might be the favorite. Edwards, a third-round draft pick in 2010, did some good things in training camp, but it still might not be enough. Green is an undrafted free agent who had a great training camp, but he seems likely to be the victim of a numbers crunch. But I think there’s a good chance Green ends up back on the practice squad.
  • Like a lot of coaches, Atlanta’s Mike Smith is very guarded with injury information. But he’s not nearly as secretive when it comes to discussing how he plans to use his personnel. As he’s done several times this offseason, he again said Jacquizz Rodgers can be more than a change-of-pace back. The Falcons aren’t ready to move him ahead of Michael Turner as their feature back, but it’s pretty obvious the Falcons want to work Rodgers into the rotation a significant amount this season. If he does well, he could end up being the feature back in 2013.

Bucs will ponder options at guard

August, 25, 2012
As expected, Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano delivered some bad news when he met with the media Saturday afternoon.

Pro Bowl guard Davin Joseph suffered a season-ending injury in Friday night’s preseason victory against New England, Schiano said. Joseph tore the patellar tendon in his right knee. Schiano said Joseph is scheduled for surgery Monday and will be placed on injured reserve.

This is a huge blow because the Bucs thought they had the potential to have one of the league’s better offensive lines. A big part of their logic was that they were pairing Joseph with free-agent pickup Carl Nicks, who had been an All-Pro with New Orleans. The thinking was that the Bucs could have the league’s best guard tandem.

Now, they have to look at other alternatives -- and it’s not likely any of them are on a par with Joseph.

“It’s part of what we do,’’ Schiano said. “You mourn and you move on.’’

Schiano said the Bucs will monitor guards that are available and come available as teams trim their rosters. But he also said it’s likely Joseph’s replacement in the starting lineup will come from within the existing roster.

Ted Larsen seems to be the leading candidate. He replaced Joseph on Friday night. But Derek Hardman, who has had a solid preseason, also could get a look.
TAMPA, Fla. -- The starting offense and defense of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers played about as well as anyone could have hoped for in the first half of Friday night’s 30-28 preseason victory against the New England Patriots. But they also might have suffered a big loss.

With 1 minute, 5 seconds left in the second quarter and the Bucs leading 17-7, Pro Bowl guard Davin Joseph went down with a right knee injury. Joseph was carted off the field.

Coach Greg Schiano said Joseph's injury "doesn't look good'' after the game. He said the team will get a full evaluation Saturday when more tests are performed.

If Joseph is lost for an extended period, it could have big consequences on a Tampa Bay offensive line that has the potential to be a big strength. The Bucs brought in All-Pro Carl Nicks and the hope is that he and Joseph could form the league’s best guard tandem. If the Bucs have to use Ted Larsen or Derek Hardman in Joseph’s place, there’s a big drop off.

Some other observations on the Bucs:
  • In what may have been a sign of things to come, the Bucs started rookie Doug Martin at running back. LeGarrette Blount had started the first two preseason games. Blount sustained a minor injury in the last preseason game, but didn’t miss any practice time. I think this was a case of the Bucs wanting to get an extended look at Martin with the first-team offense because that might be where he’s at in the regular season. Martin had 13 carries for 53 yards and a touchdown. He also caught three passes for 12 yards. Blount carried seven times for 22 yards and didn’t get his first carry until the second quarter.
  • Speaking of first-round picks, the Bucs had two of them score first-quarter touchdowns. Safety Mark Barron, the seventh overall pick in the draft, returned an interception 22 yards for a touchdown near the end of the first quarter. Credit veteran defensive back Ronde Barber for deflecting the Tom Brady pass.
  • Quarterback Josh Freeman's overall stats (10-of-19 for 102 yards) weren’t that spectacular. But the first drive of the night was extremely encouraging. Freeman seemed in rhythm with Vincent Jackson, who the Bucs added as a free agent to be their No. 1 receiver. On the opening drive, the Bucs drove 68 yards on eight plays and 49 of those yards came on three completions from Freeman to Jackson.
  • Left tackle Donald Penn, who missed all of training camp with a calf injury, got the start and his first playing time of the preseason.
  • Tampa Bay’s defensive line got some decent pressure on Brady. Defensive end Michael Bennett had an early sack and George Johnson batted down a Brady pass.
  • Speaking of the pass rush, I think linebacker Adam Hayward is, at very least, earning himself some playing time as a situational pass-rusher. Hayward sacked Brady with a little more than six minutes left in the second quarter.
  • Tampa Bay’s kickers had an excellent night. Connor Barth made a 56-yard field goal. Kai Forbath connected on attempts from 55 and 51 yards. The job belongs to Barth, but Forbath might be helping his chances of landing with another team.

Benn, Trueblood out for Bucs

January, 1, 2012
ATLANTA -- As expected, the Buccaneers will be without injured receiver Arrelious Benn and right tackle Jeremy Trueblood in Sunday’s game with the Falcons.

Both players have been declared inactive. Preston Parker and Dezmon Briscoe will get more playing time with Benn out. James Lee is expected to start in Trueblood’s place.

Also inactive for the Bucs are quarterback Rudy Carpenter, receiver Sammie Stroughter, cornerback Anthony Gaitor, defensive end Daniel Te’o-Nesheim and offensive tackle Derek Hardman.

Inactives for the Buccaneers

December, 17, 2011
TAMPA, Fla. -- As expected, Tampa Bay receiver Arrelious Benn (concussion) is inactive for Saturday night’s game with the Dallas Cowboys.

That likely means more playing time for Dezmon Briscoe and Preston Parker.

The other inactives for the Buccaneers are quarterback Rudy Carpenter, receiver Sammie Stroughter, safety Larry Asante, cornerback Myron Lewis, offensive lineman Derek Hardman and offensive tackle James Lee.

Inactives for the Buccaneers

October, 16, 2011
TAMPA, Fla. -- No big surprise here, but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be without two injured starters for Sunday’s game with New Orleans.

Running back LeGarrette Blount (foot) and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (ankle) are inactive. Earnest Graham and Kregg Lumpkin are expected to share Blount’s work load. Frank Okam and Da’Quan Bowers are expected to rotate at McCoy’s spot.

The other inactives are receiver Sammie Stroughter, linebacker Zac Diles, offensive tackle Derek Hardman, offensive tackle James Lee and tight end Luke Stocker.

Inactives for the Buccaneers

October, 3, 2011
TAMPA, Fla. – We just got the inactives for the Buccaneers for their game with the Indianapolis Colts.

No major surprises. Receiver Sammie Stroughter, running back Allen Bradford, cornerback Anthony Gaitor, tackle Derek Hardman, tackle James Lee, tight end Zach Pianalto and defensive tackle Frank Okam are inactive.