NFC South: Erik Lorig

METAIRIE, La. -- Austin Johnson went undrafted out of Tennessee in 2012, when he signed as a linebacker with the Baltimore Ravens.

So needless to say, it’s a bit of a surprise that Johnson now stands as the New Orleans Saints’ likely starting fullback heading into this season. But that is indeed the case after the 6-foot-2, 240-pounder has taken advantage of his opportunity to replace injured starter Erik Lorig during training camp.

[+] EnlargeAustin Johnson
AP Photo/Sam RicheAustin Johnson helped his cause to start for the Saints with a TD in last Saturday's preseason game.
Johnson’s 3-yard touchdown reception last Saturday night against the Indianapolis Colts showed off his versatility as an agile pass-catcher and a powerful hitter. Johnson drove through linebacker Erik Walden to reach the goal line.

"I like to show that I can do it all and that I'm not like a stiff, not-able-to-move fullback,” Johnson said. “You know, I can run, I can catch and I can also block. So I try to show that throughout my game."

Johnson played fullback early in his career at Tennessee before switching to linebacker. So teams looked at him in both roles as he came out of college. When he didn’t make the Ravens’ roster, the Saints later signed him the following January with the intention of switching him to fullback. He spent most of last season on New Orleans’ practice squad.

Johnson figured his best chance to crack the Saints’ roster this year would be through special teams. But when Lorig suffered a leg injury a week into practice, he became the No. 1 fullback.

The extent of Lorig’s injury is still unknown, though he hasn’t even appeared on the sidelines during practice yet. And Johnson will still have to fend off 13-year veteran fullback Greg Jones, whom the Saints signed in the wake of Lorig’s injury.

But so far, Johnson has done his best to make the decision easy for the Saints’ coaches.

"I knew nothing was going to be easy. I knew that I was going to have competition, and when they brought in Greg, I just knew I needed to keep playing well. I knew they weren’t just going to give me the starting spot,” Johnson said. “We’re still competing for that spot. And I’m just trying to go out there and show them what I can do and hopefully give them enough confidence that I can play.”

Coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees certainly had enough trust in Johnson to target him on that touchdown play Saturday -- which is no small thing, considering it was Brees’ first drive of the preseason, and he was no doubt eager to cap it off with a touchdown.

"He’s done a great job all camp. Obviously Erik Lorig going down was tough, but Austin has stepped in and done a great job whenever called upon in whatever role, whether that be the fullback position or special teams, you name it," Brees said. "He's one of those lunch-pail guys, comes to work, ready to do whatever's asked of him. He’s done that very, very well."
METAIRIE, La. -- The New Orleans Saints have never specified the nature of fullback Erik Lorig’s leg injury. But clearly it’s not a minor issue, since Lorig hasn’t even watched a practice in street clothes since first suffering the injury during a scrimmage on Aug. 2.

Jones
The fact that the Saints immediately went out and signed veteran fullback Greg Jones was another indicator that they didn’t expect Lorig back quickly.

It’s still unknown when or if Lorig is expected back this season. But coach Sean Payton said the team will prepare as if he’s not going to be ready for Week 1, with Jones and third-year pro Austin Johnson competing to serve as Lorig’s replacement.

"Our preparation's got to be with the idea that, as Erik's rehabbing, we've got to be ready to have a fullback Week 1, with the chance it's not going to be Erik," Payton said. "And so both of those guys are competing.

“Greg’s a veteran player. Austin's been with us now for the better part of a year and a half. And so I think, No. 1, Austin's had a good camp. Greg's been here for two weeks. Both of them will play a lot again this weekend [Saturday night at Indianapolis].”

Payton later added that Johnson is “doing real well.” The 6-foot-2, 240-pounder spent most of last season on the Saints’ practice squad after signing with the team in January 2013. Johnson was actually a linebacker in college at Tennessee, and he signed with the Baltimore Ravens as an undrafted free agent in 2012. But he didn’t find a permanent home that season.

Johnson has shown potential as a blocker and receiver out of the backfield, and he could also be used on special teams.

Meanwhile Jones, 33, is a 10-year veteran who spent last season with the Houston Texans and his first nine years with the Jacksonville Jaguars. The 6-1, 251-pounder has primarily served as a lead blocker in 131 career games played. He also has a total of 272 carries for 913 yards and 10 touchdowns in his career, plus 73 receptions for 471 yards and three touchdowns.

Last season, Jones played in all 16 games for the Texans with five starts, with a total of two rushes for 2 yards and five receptions for 34 yards.

The Saints could also use their tight ends as fullbacks in certain situations. Second-year tight end Josh Hill has made some cameos in that role.
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- Drew Brees took yet another small step toward returning to action Wednesday when he participated in some individual passing drills with the quarterbacks and receivers for the first time. But it still seems extremely unlikely that the New Orleans Saints quarterback will play in Friday’s preseason game against the Tennessee Titans.

Brees
Saints coach Sean Payton declined to say whether Brees will play. But Payton has consistently said the team will be smart and cautious with Brees, who strained his oblique on Aug. 1.

Either way, Brees definitely appears as though he’ll be healthy in plenty of time for the start of the regular season. He has increased his workload on a daily basis, including a return to the lineup during the team’s afternoon walk-through on Tuesday, followed by his appearance in individual drills on Wednesday.

Plus, Brees showed some impressive agility while sliding across a makeshift slip-and-slide during his ALS ice-bucket challenge Tuesday.

In other Saints injury news:
  • Guard Ben Grubbs returned to live team drills for the first time Wednesday -- and he dove right in during a spirited set of live goal-line drills. Grubbs said it was a lower back issue that caused him to miss more than a week of training camp practices, but he feels good now and is blessed to have enough time to fully recover before the regular season.
  • Rookie linebacker Ronald Powell left the field with the trainers after hobbling off the field during a play. The details of his apparent injury are unknown. UPDATE: Powell reportedly returned to the field Wednesday afternoon and participated in walkthrough.
  • There was still no sign of fullback Erik Lorig or linebacker Victor Butler at practice. Both players have been sidelined for nearly two weeks, though the Saints have not offered any details on the severity of their injuries.
  • Guard Jahri Evans and cornerback Patrick Robinson made brief appearances on the sideline Wednesday but did not participate in practice. Also not practicing Wednesday: receiver Kenny Stills, linebacker David Hawthorne, tight end Je’Ron Hamm, offensive tackle Ty Nsekhe, cornerback Rod Sweeting and safety Ty Zimmerman.
  • UPDATE: Cornerback Champ Bailey participated in individual drills and the morning walk-through during Wednesday's practice but was reportedly absent from the afternoon walk-through.
METAIRIE, La. -- Erik Lorig's most defining trait? His versatility.

The New Orleans Saints' new fullback actually began his career as a defensive end with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after playing both defensive end and tight end at Stanford. The 6-foot-4, 250-pounder is also a special teams asset.

Lorig
But what will be most intriguing is to see how creative Saints coach Sean Payton decides to use Lorig as a chess piece in the New Orleans' versatile offense.

With Lorig's bigger frame, he could potentially shift from fullback to tight end or vice versa in different formations to try and create mismatches -- something Payton loves to do.

When asked what he feels is his "niche," Lorig said, "I think I can block. I think I can catch. I think I can pass protect. I can do a little bit of everything, and I want to do it at a high level. …

"In this offense, any type of versatility you can offer whether it is playing different positions on the field ... being wide or being in the backfield, all of that is definitely applicable."

So far, the Saints haven't gotten too exotic with their formations during organized team activities and minicamp. But we have seen a few glimpses of Lorig catching passes in the flat out of the backfield and showing fluidity while turning upfield to run. That's something the Saints did on occasion with former fullback Jed Collins, as well.

Lorig's taller frame and versatility are likely big reasons why the Saints decided to sign Lorig and part ways with Collins in free agency. But Payton stressed it was Lorig's skill set as a blocking fullback, first and foremost, that attracted the Saints to him.

Payton said the Saints' scouts and coaches saw Lorig quite a bit last year because they watched a lot of Tampa Bay film while scouting their upcoming opponents during the season.

"It just seemed like we were following Tampa either a week later or two to three weeks later. Nonetheless, they were in the cut-ups (that we watched). And the last half of the season, they ran the ball as well as anyone in the NFL,” Payton said. "I don't know statistically what their numbers were, but we felt like every time we put their offensive tape on, we saw a quarterback that was getting better, an offensive line, and a fullback.

"We really didn't know much about him. We did our offseason homework like we would in free agency, and then you start going back and seeing that he was (a defensive end) converted to fullback. He's a little bigger in stature, so when you watch him play he's very physical. I don't want to say there was a wish list, but it was (a thought that), ‘Let's pay attention and let's see if we can get him on a visit.'

"He and I share the same agent (Don Yee), which was just coincidence. It was interesting how the process worked out, and we are real pleased with how he's progressed. He's big, he's physical, he can catch the football. He's an interesting player, and when you look at his size and some of the production he had last year ... and he's young.”

In four seasons with Tampa Bay -- three of them as a full-time fullback -- Lorig has no rushing attempts and a total of 30 receptions for 193 yards and one touchdown. He played in 37 percent of the Buccaneers' offensive snaps last year, which is almost the exact same ratio as Collins' playing time in New Orleans.
METAIRIE, La. -- Once again, the two players who stood out most to me during the New Orleans Saints' minicamp practice on Tuesday were receiver Nick Toon and running back Travaris Cadet.

Toon
Cadet
Toon did drop one pass, but he made a series of nice catches throughout the day -- including a deep ball from Drew Brees when Toon got behind cornerback Rod Sweeting.

Cadet, meanwhile, showed an impressive combination of speed and elusiveness while being used as both a runner and receiver out of the backfield.

Two disclaimers must be added when it comes to both of these players. For one thing, this is the stage of camp where there is still no live contact or tackling allowed, so it's easier for them to shine. For another thing, both of these players have stood out similarly during the past two offseasons without yet making significant contributions in the regular season.

However, it's noteworthy that both players are still being given a lot of opportunities to work their way into the Saints' rotation -- and so far, they're both taking advantage.

Open competitions:
  • Center Jonathan Goodwin took some snaps with the first-string offense at one point during full-team drills, though Tim Lelito spent most of the practice in that role. That's expected to be an open competition lasting deep into training camp.
  • Cornerback Patrick Robinson again spent some time with the first-string defense in certain drills. Champ Bailey and Corey White also spent time with the first string. All three will get looks at the No. 2 cornerback job across from No. 1 corner Keenan Lewis.
  • I consider veteran Shayne Graham to be a strong front-runner for the kicker job. But he'll have to out-duel young challenger Derek Dimke, who has performed well in the past two preseasons without cracking a roster yet. The media consensus was that Graham went 2-for-3 and Dimke 3-for-3 on filed-goal attempts Tuesday. That battle will likely be based heavily on how they perform in preseason games.
Other highlights:
  • Receiver Kenny Stills made the play of the day, reeling in a pass from Brees with one hand while being blanketed in coverage by safety Kenny Vaccaro. Brees might have been sacked on the play if it was a real game situation. But in this case, he was able to throw the ball up for grabs, and Stills came down with it.
  • The defense won its share of battles, too. Safety Rafael Bush intercepted Brees during 7-on-7 passing drills. The way Bush shot up toward the ball uncontested in the middle of the field, it almost looked like he was the intended receiver. … Vaccaro and Lewis also aggressively broke up passes by Brees.
  • Second-year quarterback Ryan Griffin had some highs and lows as the backup quarterback competition appears to be wide open between him and veteran Luke McCown. Griffin connected on three consecutive TD passes in those 7-on-7 drills. Later, however, he overthrew a pass that was intercepted by safety Marcus Ball in full-team drills.
  • Fullback Erik Lorig looked fluid while running out of the backfield, catching a pass in the flat and turning upfield. That's something fullbacks have always done in the Saints' offense, and Lorig looks like he'll continue that trend -- especially with his bigger size at 6-foot-4.
  • Rookie receiver Brandon Coleman continued to show some inconsistency with at least two drops Tuesday. But he did make his most impressive catch that I've seen yet when he reached to reel in a deep ball near the sideline. It wasn't clear if the ball had sailed too far out of bounds, though.

Saints mull change at fullback

March, 16, 2014
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The New Orleans Saints brought in free-agent fullback Erik Lorig for a visit on Friday, a league source confirmed. Lorig, 27, has spent the past four years with the division-rival Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Saints are considering their options at fullback after they opted not to make a qualifying tender to restricted-free agent Jed Collins. However, New Orleans hasn’t ruled out the idea of bringing Collins back.

Lorig is a very similar player to Collins. He’s a bit taller at 6-foot-4, 250 pounds. (Collins, 28, is 6-1, 255). And both of them have played similar roles -- part-time starters who serve as solid lead-blockers in the run game and occasional receivers out of the backfield.

Lorig has played in all but one game over the past three years, with a total of 23 starts. He has 30 receptions for 193 yards and a touchdown in his career. He was drafted in the seventh round in 2010 as a defensive end before making the position switch midway through his rookie season.
The top two free agents (Jimmy Graham and Greg Hardy) in the NFC South have been hit with the franchise tag. But plenty of division talent is on the market -- and that doesn't even include Darren Sproles, who will be either traded or released by the Saints. The four writers who cover the NFC South (Pat Yasinskas in Tampa Bay, Mike Triplett in New Orleans, David Newton in Carolina and Vaughn McClure in Atlanta) got together and picked the top 15 free agents in the division.

1. Jimmy Graham, Saints TE: Whether he's a tight end or receiver, he has been one of the most dynamic playmakers in the NFL, leading the league with 36 TD catches over the past three years.

2. Greg Hardy, Panthers DE: The Panthers had no choice but to place the franchise tag on Hardy. He played both defensive end spots, tackle and dropped into coverage. He led the team in sacks and quarterback hurries.

3. Jonathan Babineaux, Falcons DT: Aging veteran Babineaux still has a knack for getting in the backfield, although he would admit his sack numbers need to be better.

[+] EnlargeZach Strief
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsZach Strief, a seventh-round pick in 2006, has spent his entire eight-year career in New Orleans.
4. Mike Mitchell, Panthers S: He brought an attitude to the league's second-ranked defense with his aggressiveness.

5. Zach Strief, Saints OT: Strief is a solid veteran starter coming off his best season to date. He's not a dominator, but versatile and experienced enough to start for just about any NFL team.

6. Brian de la Puente, Saints C: He has been another solid starter over the past three years and finished strong in 2013 after a slow start.

7. Lance Moore, Saints WR: Moore's role diminished in the Saints' offense last year, but the sure-handed slot receiver is one year removed from a 1,000-yard season and can still be an asset at age 30.

8. Malcolm Jenkins, Saints S: He is a full-time starter who shows flashes of big-play potential every year, but the former first-round pick has never consistently met lofty expectations.

9. Captain Munnerlyn, Panthers CB: He may be undersized at 5-foot-9, but he proved he could be an every-down corner for the first time in his career.

10. Ted Ginn Jr., Panthers WR: Not only did he give quarterback Cam Newton the deep threat that he needed, he led the team in kickoff and punt returns.

11. Jabari Greer, Saints CB: Greer was one of the most underrated corners in the NFL over the past five years, but now he’s 32 and recovering from a major knee injury.

12. Peria Jerry, Falcons DT: The former first-round pick hasn't lived up to expectations in part due to injury, but he has shown a few flashes.

13. Erik Lorig, Buccaneers FB: Lorig is a versatile fullback who can make an impact as a lead blocker in the running game and also has some ability as a receiver out of the backfield.

14. Bruce Campbell, Panthers OT: With the retirement of left tackle Jordan Gross there's at least an opportunity for Campbell to be in the mix for a starting position.

15. Adam Hayward, Buccaneers LB: Hayward is one of the league’s better players on special teams. He also has value as a backup because he can play inside and outside linebacker.
» AFC Free-Agency Primer: East | West | North | South » NFC: East | West | North | South

Key free agents: LB Adam Hayward, FB Erik Lorig, LB Jonathan Casillas and WR Tiquan Underwood.

Where they stand: The Buccaneers don't have any huge names among their own free agents, but they'd like to keep some of them as role players. Hayward is a key special-teams player and Lorig is important as the lead blocker for Doug Martin in the running game. If Casillas returns, he's a candidate to start at strongside linebacker. The major need on defense is for a pass-rusher. On offense, the team may look to overhaul its offensive line. Tight end and depth at wide receiver also are big needs.

What to expect: The Bucs were 4-12 last season and they have a new coaching staff and general manager. That means there will be significant changes. The Bucs have $18 million in cap room, so they’re going to be active in free agency, even though they've stated their goal is to build through the draft. Look for connections to the new regime to play into free-agent signings. Return man Devin Hester and cornerback Charles Tillman played for coach Lovie Smith in Chicago and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier worked with defensive end Jared Allen in Minnesota. All of those players could be prime targets. A veteran quarterback also could be added to the mix, with Josh McCown and Michael Vick as possibilities.

Looking at Buccaneers' playing time

December, 10, 2013
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TAMPA, Fla. -- It's time for our weekly look at how the Tampa Bay Buccaneers distributed playing time.

In a 27-6 victory against the Buffalo Bills, the Bucs ran 66 offensive plays and were on the field for 67 defensive snaps. Here's a look at the individual playing time from Sunday.

OFFENSE

Donald Penn 66
Jamon Meredith 66
Demar Dotson 66
Mike Glennon 66
Tim Wright 59
Vincent Jackson 57
Jeremy Zuttah 51
Tiquan Underwood 45
Davin Joseph 43
Erik Lorig 42
Bobby Rainey 37
Ted Larsen 36
Brian Leonard 25
Chris Owusu 21
Gabe Carimi 16
Russell Shepard 14
Kyle Adams 11
Skye Dawson 7
Mike Hill 5
Spencer Larsen 2
Eric Page 1

DEFENSE

Dashon Goldson 66
Johnthan Banks 66
Mark Barron 66
Gerald McCoy 66
Darrelle Revis 66
Lavonte David 59
Leonard Johnson 58
Adrian Clayborn 56
Mason Foster 53
Akeem Spence 43
Daniel Te'o-Nesheim 39
William Gholston 23
Keith Tandy 15
Da'Quan Bowers 14
Adam Hayward 12
Steven Means 11
Derek Landri 11
Dekoda Watson 10
Danny Gorrer 1
Ka'Lial Glaud 1
Kelcie McCray 1

Upon Further Review: Buccaneers Week 1

September, 9, 2013
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A review of four hot issues from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 18-17 loss to the New York Jets on Sunday.

[+] EnlargeJosh Freeman
Brad Penner/USA TODAY SportsThe Jets sacked Josh Freeman three times in the Bucs' loss on Sunday.
Freeman's future: We’re not yet to the point at which the Bucs have a full-fledged quarterback controversy, but let’s be totally honest: Josh Freeman did not look good Sunday. When he didn’t look good in the preseason, it was easy to shrug off, but this was the real deal, and it’s time to start getting concerned. Freeman completed 15 of 31 passes for 210 yards with a touchdown and an interception in a game in which the offense never got into anything close to a rhythm. Undoubtedly, some fans will already be calling for rookie Mike Glennon. I still think Freeman is Tampa Bay’s best option to win, but my opinion on that could change with a few more performances like this one.

Sophomore slump? After a stellar rookie season, running back Doug Martin had a dud of a game. Martin averaged only 2.7 yards per carry. He gained 65 yards on 24 carries. But don’t go cutting Martin from your fantasy team just yet. Keep in mind the Bucs were without guard Carl Nicks and fullback Erik Lorig, who are two of Martin’s most important blockers.

The overaggressive defense: Lavonte David's late hit on rookie quarterback Geno Smith set up the game-winning field goal for the Jets. Safeties Mark Barron and Dashon Goldson were also flagged for 15-yard penalties that turned out to be very costly. You want a defense to be aggressive, but you also want it to be smart. The Bucs have to be smarter on defense.

The bright spot: There was at least one for the Bucs. That was a pass rush that produced five sacks. Two came from linebacker Mason Foster, and David and linebacker Dekoda Watson each produced one sack. Daniel Te’o-Nesheim was the only defensive lineman to record a sack. The fact the Bucs came up with five sacks was encouraging, but they’ll need more pressure out of their front four if they’re going to have a chance against New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees next week.

Buccaneers had no offensive rhythm

September, 8, 2013
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Guard Carl Nicks was out with a MRSA staph infection. Fullback Erik Lorig sat out with a calf injury. Even the radio system used to call the offensive plays wasn’t working at times.

[+] EnlargeTampa Bay's Doug Martin
Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY SportsDoug Martin averaged just 2.7 yards per carry against the Jets.
But the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have no legitimate excuse for how their offense performed in Sunday’s 18-17 loss to the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium.

Yes, there were two touchdowns, but one of them was a gift -- a 5-yard run that came after the defense recovered a fumble. Oh, and there was that 37-yard pass from Josh Freeman to Vincent Jackson that set up what could have ended up being a game-winning field goal.

But that’s where the highlights ended for the Bucs, which was more than a little surprising. Say what you want about Freeman, who is a mystery to many. But the Bucs appear to be loaded at the other offensive skill positions.

“It’s frustrating to everyone because we have good players and we will find a rhythm with this offense but we certainly haven’t found it yet,’’ coach Greg Schiano said.

The Bucs never got into anything close to a rhythm as they managed only 250 yards of total offense. Freeman’s been known to struggle at times, but the fact that the running game was ineffective is far more troubling.

Doug Martin, who had such a big rookie year, averaged only 2.7 yards per carry while rushing 24 times for 65 yards.

“We have a special talent in Doug,’’ Freeman said.

But the Bucs didn’t get as much as they should out of Martin’s talent or the rest of their talent on offense.

“I’d say the next 24 hours (are) going to be rough on everyone,’’ Freeman said. Everybody’s going to be going back, watching the film and critiquing everything they did.’’

The offensive meeting rooms at One Buccaneer Place aren’t going to be a pleasant place on Monday.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers' injury update

September, 6, 2013
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TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers just announced guard Carl Nicks is out for Sunday’s season opener against the New York Jets.

That’s not a surprise because Nicks, who is recovering from a staph infection, hasn’t practiced all week. But, as recently as early Friday afternoon, coach Greg Schiano said he wasn’t ready to rule Nicks out. Reserve tackle Gabe Carimi has gotten most of the first-team work at Nicks’ left guard spot.

The Bucs also are listing tight end Tom Crabtree (ankle) as out and cornerback Rashaan Melvin (hamstring) as doubtful. Running back Mike James (eye) and fullback Erik Lorig (calf) are questionable and cornerback Darrelle Revis (knee) and tackle Demar Dotson (back) are listed as probable.

Looking at Buccaneers' cap situation

September, 5, 2013
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Wednesday was a key day for salary-cap purposes. Each team’s cap commitment switched from the top 51 players to all players that count against the cap, including dead money.

With that in mind, let’s check out the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' cap situation.

They now are $10.2 million under this year’s cap. They might have to tap into that room if they have some injuries, but I wouldn’t expect any major signings.

The Bucs will do one of two things with the cap space they have remaining for this year. They’ll either carry it over to next season, a maneuver they’ve used in the past. Or they’ll eat up cap space for this year by restructuring the contracts of cornerback Darrelle Revis and safety Dashon Goldson to lower their cap figures for next season. The Bucs made a similar move last year when they restructured Vincent Jackson's and Carl Nicks' contracts of at the end of the season.

Either way, the Bucs are likely to free up somewhere close to $10 million for next year’s cap. As it stands right now, the Bucs have $114.5 million committed to 40 players toward the 2014 cap, which is likely to be around $123 million.

That means the Bucs will have plenty of flexibility if they decide to lock up quarterback Josh Freeman for the long term. The good news is the Bucs don’t have a lot of other key players headed toward free agency.

Of the projected starters for this season, linebacker Dekoda Watson and fullback Erik Lorig are the only players besides Freeman that can become free agents in 2014.

Injury check on the Buccaneers

September, 4, 2013
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TAMPA, Fla. – The Tampa Bay Buccaneers just issued their first official injury report of the season, and there were no major surprises.

Cornerback Darrelle Revis, who is coming off knee surgery, participated fully in Wednesday’s practice, and is expected to play Sunday against his former team, the New York Jets. Running back Mike James (eye) and fullback Erik Lorig (calf) participated on a limited basis.

Tight end Tom Crabtree (ankle) and guard Carl Nicks (staph infection) were the only players who did not participate in practice. Coach Greg Schiano said it’s too early to rule out Nicks for the game with the Jets.

Surveying the Buccaneers' roster

September, 1, 2013
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After making their cuts Saturday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a roster that looks a lot like what I projected Friday.

I hit on 51 of 53 roster spots. Defensive tackle Gary Gibson and offensive lineman Cody Wallace were the two guys I had making the team who didn’t make the final cut. I didn’t have tight end Tim Wright and safety Keith Tandy making the roster, but they did.

Let’s take a brief overview of the composition of Tampa Bay’s roster:

QB (3): Josh Freeman, Mike Glennon and Dan Orlovsky

Comment: The question is whether Glennon or Orlovsky will be the No. 2 quarterback. My thinking is the Bucs wouldn’t have held onto Orlovsky if he’s going to be No. 3.

RB (5): Doug Martin, Erik Lorig, Brian Leonard, Mike James and Peyton Hillis

Comment: Leonard, James and Hillis all looked good in the preseason. They all can be used to help keep Martin fresh.

WR (5): Vincent Jackson, Mike Williams, Kevin Ogletree, Tiquan Underwood and Eric Page

Comment: The first four were pretty much set in stone. Page made the roster mostly because he’s going to be the return man.

TE (4): Luke Stocker, Tom Crabtree, Nate Byham and Tim Wright

Comment: Presumably, the Bucs kept Wright around because they expect Crabtree to miss some time with an ankle injury.

OL (8): Donald Penn, Carl Nicks, Jeremy Zuttah, Davin Joseph, Demar Dotson, Gabe Carimi, Ted Larsen and Jamon Meredith

Comment: By carrying only three backups, the Bucs appear to be optimistic that Nicks won’t miss too much time due to a staph infection.

DL (9): Adrian Clayborn, Da'Quan Bowers, Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, Trevor Scott, William Gholston, Steven Means, Gerald McCoy, Akeem Spence and Derek Landri

Comment: McCoy, Spence and Landri are the only true defensive tackles. The Bucs must be planning to use at least one of their ends on the inside at times.

LB (6): Lavonte David, Mason Foster, Jonathan Casillas, Dekoda Watson, Najee Goode and Adam Hayward

Comment: The starters have a chance to be one of the league’s best units, and the backups aren’t bad either.

DB (10): Darrelle Revis, Johnthan Banks, Leonard Johnson, Danny Gorrer, Rashaan Melvin, Michael Adams, Dashon Goldson, Mark Barron, Ahmad Black and Keith Tandy

Comment: This should be the most improved area on the team.

Specialists (3): Rian Lindell, Andrew Economos and Michael Koenen.

Comment: Lindell is the third projected kicker the Bucs have had. Connor Barth and Lawrence Tynes both are out with injuries.

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