NFC South: Frank Okam

Buccaneers could be thin at DT

August, 31, 2012
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers went to great extremes this offseason to build up their depth at defensive tackle so they don’t face a situation like last season, when they became so desperate they had to bring in Albert Haynesworth.

It doesn’t look like things are working out quite as planned. According to multiple reports, defensive tackle Amobi Okoye has been released by the Bucs and the Chicago Bears already are working to finalize a contract with the veteran. That’s ironic, because Brian Price, who once seemed to factor into Tampa Bay’s interior-line plans, was traded to Chicago this summer.

The Bucs spent decent money ($2 million) to bring in Okoye, a former first-round draft pick by Houston. The thinking was he could at least be a rotational player behind Gerald McCoy and could end up as a starter if McCoy’s injury woes continued. Instead, Okoye was the one with the injury problem. A knee issue forced Okoye to miss a lot of time in training camp and the preseason. The Bucs are off the hook for Okoye's $1.8 million base, but his $200,000 workout bonus still will count against their salary cap.

Roy Miller appears to have earned the starting job next to McCoy. Okoye’s release would leave Gary Gibson and Wallace Gilberry as the apparent top backups at defensive tackle. Gibson played for coach Greg Schiano at Rutgers and has bounced around the NFL. Gilberry also has NFL experience. But, given McCoy’s history of injury problems, I don’t see how the Bucs can feel too great about their depth at defensive tackle. I think there’s a decent chance they could end up with another defensive tackle off the waiver wire.

There also are reports that the Bucs have released defensive tackle Frank Okam, but the team hasn’t made any official announcements yet.

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.

Bucs unload DT John McCargo

May, 2, 2012
Here’s a sign of just how far the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have come since January: They now are releasing the guys they grabbed off the streets to help them get through last season.

Adam Schefter reports the Bucs released defensive tackle John McCargo on Wednesday. The Bucs were so beat up at defensive tackle last season that they had to go out and sign McCargo and Albert Haynesworth, just to help them finish last season. The Bucs already parted ways with Haynesworth soon after new coach Greg Schiano took over. Now, McCargo, who appeared in four games and made five tackles, is gone.

That’s because Gerald McCoy and Brian Price are expected to be healthy after having their seasons cut short by injuries. The Bucs also added free-agent Amobi Okoye. They also have Roy Miller and Frank Okam and rookie Donte’e Nicholls also could compete for a job.
The NFC South is a division without a dominant defensive tackle.

But I think it’s fair to say Atlanta’s Corey Peters and Jonathan Babineaux, New Orleans’ Sedrick Ellis and Tampa Bay’s Brian Price were the best the NFC South had to offer in 2011. Apparently, their coaches agreed.

According to playing-time numbers obtained by, Ellis led all NFC South tackles by taking part in 66.3 percent of New Orleans’ 1,061 defensive plays. That percentage ranked Ellis No. 16 in the NFL and he was the only NFC South player in the top 20.

Peters was next at 60.4 percent, which ranked No. 23 in the league. Babineaux was No. 30 at 54.1 percent. Price, who was somewhat limited by injuries and was sent home early from one game by former coach Raheem Morris, took part in 47.1 percent of Tampa Bay’s defensive plays. That tied him at No. 37 in the league with teammate Roy Miller.

Carolina rookie Terrell McClain was one spot behind them, taking part in 46 percent of his team’s defensive plays. After that, there was a big drop off among the rest of the division’s tackles and we should note that Tampa Bay’s Gerald McCoy probably would have finished in the top four or five in the NFC South if he hadn’t suffered a season-ending injury.

Let’s take a look at the percentage of playing time for the rest of the NFC South defensive tackles:

Bucs thin at defensive tackle

December, 24, 2011
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have struggled against the run most of the year, particularly after losing defensive tackle Gerald McCoy to a season-ending injury.

That could be even more of a problem Saturday as the Bucs play the Carolina Panthers with a very thin group of defensive linemen.

Defensive tackles Brian Price and Albert Haynesworth have been declared inactive for this game. Price has been dealing with an ankle injury. Haynesworth has been listed with a knee injury, but the fact he’s inactive comes as a bit of a surprise. The Bucs had been listing Haynesworth on the injury report since acquiring him. They frequently give him days off from practice, but he had always been active for games.

That leaves the Bucs with Roy Miller and Frank Okam as their only two defensive tackles. Like most teams, the Bucs like to rotate defensive tackles. That means they’ll have to get creative.

Defensive ends Michael Bennett and Jovan Haye also can play inside. The Bucs also may elect to abandon their 4-3 front at times and go with a 3-4 defense.

NFC South players not signed for 2012

December, 22, 2011
A lot can change between now and the start of free agency and I sure don’t see any way the New Orleans Saints let quarterback/King Drew Brees walk away. I also think there’s a pretty good chance tight end Tony Gonzalez can return to the Atlanta Falcons if he chooses. Same for cornerback Ronde Barber with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and maybe even Jeremy Shockey with the Carolina Panthers.

But all we know about those guys at the moment is they’re not under contract for 2012. We’ll do much more on free agency as it gets closer but I’ve got the complete list of every NFC South player presently not under contract for 2012.

I’ll list them by team here and we’ll only go with the guys who have at least four years of service and can become unrestricted free agents. We’ll deal with restricted and exclusive-rights free agents at another time.

Atlanta Falcons: Tony Gonzalez, tight end; Reggie Kelly, tight end; Todd McClure, center; Mike Peterson, linebacker; John Abraham, defensive end; Joe Zelenka, long-snapper; Chris Redman, quarterback; Kirk Chambers, offensive line; Kelvin Hayden, cornerback; Brett Romberg, offensive line; James Sanders, safety; Jason Snelling, running back; Kroy Biermann, defensive end; Thomas DeCoud, safety; Harry Douglas, receiver; Brent Grimes, cornerback; Curtis Lofton, linebacker; Eric Weems, receiver.

Carolina Panthers: Jeremy Shockey, tight end; Reggie Wells, offensive line; Derek Anderson, quarterback; Geoff Hangartner, center/guard; Omar Gaither, linebacker; Cletis Gordon, cornerback; Legedu Naanee, receiver; Antwan Applewhite, linebacker; Mackenzy Beranadeau, offensive line; Dan Connor, linebacker; J.J. Jansen, long-snapper; Jerome Felton, fullback; Jordan Senn, linebacker.

New Orleans Saints: John Kasay, kicker; Drew Brees, quarterback; Shaun Rogers, defensive tackle; John Gilmore, tight end; Aubrayo Franklin, defensive tackle; Marques Colston, receiver; Pat McQuistan, offensive line; Courtney Roby, receiver; Leigh Torrence, cornerback; Jeff Charleston, defensive end; Turk McBride, defensive end; Robert Meachem, receiver; Jo-Lonn Dunbar, linebacker; Carl Nicks, guard; Tracy Porter, cornerback.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Ronde Barber, cornerback; Earnest Graham, running back; Sean Jones, safety; Connor Barth, kicker; Geno Hayes, linebacker; Josh Johnson, quarterback; James Lee, offensive line; Corey Lynch, safety; Elbert Mack, cornerback; Frank Okam, defensive tackle; Micheal Spurlock, receiver; Jeremy Zuttah, offensive line.

Buccaneers adjust roster

December, 13, 2011
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have made a series of roster moves in the past 24 hours. Let’s bring you up to speed.

The latest news came just a few minutes ago as the Bucs announced they have signed defensive end Nick Reed. He spent part of this season with Chicago, before getting released Nov. 14. The Bucs also announced Monday that they had promoted defensive tackle Frank Okam to the 53-man roster from the practice squad.

The Bucs have placed linebacker Jacob Cutrera and defensive tackle John McCargo on injured reserve.

The Bucs also have signed defensive tackle Lamar Divens, offensive lineman Mike Ingersoll and fullback Austin Sylvester to the practice squad. They released running back Nic Grigsby from the practice squad.

Checking injuries that matter most

November, 11, 2011
We’re at the midway point of the season and guys are getting banged up. I guess that’s why we have what looks to be the most significant Friday injury report so far this season.

Some things already have been decided and some are still hanging out there. For the game-time decisions, be sure to check the blog about 90 minutes before kickoff Sunday. That’s when we start to get the game-day inactives.

Let’s start with the New Orleans Saints because they’ve got some very definitive news. Linebacker Jonathan Vilma (knee) will miss his second straight game. Vilma is the heart and soul of the New Orleans defense and this one is going to hurt. Jo-Lonn Dunbar likely will start in Vilma’s place at middle linebacker. Defensive end Turk McBride (ankle) also has been declared out.

The rest of the New Orleans injury report isn’t quite as clear. Cornerback Patrick Robinson (stomach) is listed as questionable, but the good news is Tracy Porter (chest/neck) is listed as probable. Receiver Lance Moore (hamstring) and running back Chris Ivory (hamstring) are questionable.

There’s mixed news out of Atlanta. Safety William Moore (quadriceps) is listed as doubtful. That likely means veteran James Sanders will start in Moore’s place. On the bright side, rookie receiver Julio Jones (hamstring) is probable after practicing on a limited basis Friday.

Carolina linebacker James Anderson (ankle) did not practice Friday and is listed as questionable. The Panthers already lost their other two initial starting linebackers (Jon Beason) and Thomas Davis) to season-ending injuries.

Tampa Bay left guard Jeremy Zuttah, who missed last week’s game with a knee injury, is expected to be back in the starting lineup Sunday. Defensive tackle Frank Okam (calf) is questionable. That means it’s likely that newly-acquired Albert Haynesworth probably will get some playing time Sunday.

Checking the injuries that matter most

November, 10, 2011
Let’s take a look at the most significant injuries around the NFC South.

The Saints got a bit of good news as Tracy Porter (neck/chest) returned to practice on a limited basis. If Porter can play Sunday, that could help a secondary that may be a little short on depth. Cornerback Patrick Robinson (stomach) missed another day of practice. Linebacker Jonathan Vilma (knee) also missed another practice and could miss his second straight game. The Saints also added receiver Lance Moore (hamstring) to the injury report. Moore did not practice Thursday.

Atlanta safety William Moore (quadriceps) missed his second straight day of practice. If Moore is unable to play Sunday, veteran James Sanders likely would start in his place. Atlanta receiver Julio Jones (hamstring) was added to Thursday's injury report and practiced on a limited basis. Jones missed two games with a hamstring injury before returning Sunday. Stay tuned on this one. Friday's injury report should give us a much better idea if Jones will play against the Saints.

Carolina linebacker James Anderson suffered an ankle injury during Thursday’s practice and left the field. Coach Ron Rivera later said he expects Anderson to be fine and able to play Sunday.

Tampa Bay defensive tackle Frank Okam (calf) missed another day of practice. That makes it more likely new addition Albert Haynesworth will play some role Sunday because Brian Price and Roy Miller are the only healthy defensive tackles. Linebacker Dekoda Watson (groin) was added to the injury report Thursday.
As he met with the Tampa Bay media Thursday, defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth said he should have signed with the Buccaneers when he was a free agent back in 2009.

“This is where I should have been like three years ago,’’ Haynesworth said. “But I think all good things come to somebody that waits.’’

Instead of signing with the Bucs, Haynesworth signed with the Redskins. Haynesworth previously has said the Bucs’ offer was greater than Washington’s. When things didn’t work out with the Redskins, Haynesworth signed with the New England Patriots, who waived him Tuesday. The Bucs claimed Haynesworth off waviers Wednesday, and he went through his first Tampa Bay practice Thursday.

Haynesworth gave a pretty interesting answer when he was asked why he didn’t sign with the Bucs in 2009.

“You want to know the truth on that one?’’ Haynesworth said. “It was too pretty, it was too much water, too much sun here. I had just bought a nice, big boat, a good fast boat, and I really thought like if I came here I’d mix my time in with football and boating. When I was at Tennessee, during the offseason then I’d do the boating and do all my toys and playing around and all that. I figured with the water and the sun being here all year round, I was a little afraid of myself on a Tuesday going for a boat ride or something like that. I should have trusted myself and known, but I was kind of scared of that.’’

Haynesworth isn’t scared of Tampa Bay’s recreational opportunities this time around. Haynesworth said he felt he wasn’t getting enough playing time in New England. That shouldn’t be a problem with Tampa Bay.

The Bucs lost defensive tackle Gerald McCoy to a season-ending injury Sunday. They had to finish the loss to New Orleans with only two healthy defensive tackles (Brian Price and Roy Miller) because reserve Frank Okam was out with an injury. Haynesworth said Tampa Bay’s 4-3 defense is similar to what Tennessee used when he played for the Titans during the best seasons of his career.

“I think I can be pretty effective,’’ Haynesworth said. “I’m an older guy and I think they brought me in here to play hard and also to teach some of the younger guys how to play. I’ll be somewhat of, I guess, a mentor. … Get off the ball and disrupt and show them really how good it is that the grass ain’t greener on the other side always.’’

Bucs take plunge on Haynesworth

November, 9, 2011
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who have made it very clear the last two years that they intend to build through the draft, veered slightly off course Wednesday, by claiming veteran defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth off waivers from the New England Patriots.

Ironically, the Buccaneers tried to sign Haynesworth as a free agent in 2009. But Haynesworth signed with the Washington Redskins. He later said the Buccaneers offered more money, but he didn’t want to have “distractions’’ in Florida.

The move comes at a time when the Bucs are thin at defensive tackle. Gerald McCoy went on injured reserve after injuring his arm in Sunday’s loss to New Orleans. The Bucs were left with Brian Price and Roy Miller as their only healthy defensive tackles because reserve Frank Okam was out with an injury. The Bucs also signed John McCargo on Tuesday.

But Haynesworth could vault quickly past Okam and McCargo. If he’s healthy and focused, Haynesworth could even provide a temporary upgrade from McCoy.

Buccaneers shore up DT position

November, 8, 2011
After losing defensive tackle Gerald McCoy to a season-ending injury, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers announced they have re-signed John McCargo, who was with the team in the preseason.

A first-round pick by Buffalo in 2006, McCargo never really panned out. In five seasons, he played in 39 games with just one start and 2.5 sacks.

But he can add some depth behind defensive tackles Brian Price, Roy Miller and Frank Okam. There’s one other scenario that’s at least worth pondering at the moment.

That’s Albert Haynesworth. He was waived by the New England Patriots on Tuesday and will go on the waiver wire at 4 p.m. ET Tuesday. Teams will have until 4 p.m. ET Wednesday to claim Haynesworth.

It’s worth remembering that the Buccaneers tried to sign Haynesworth in 2009, soon after coach Raheem Morris and general manager Mark Dominik came to power. Haynesworth later said that Tampa Bay’s offer was financially larger, but he elected to sign with the Washington Redskins, saying that there were too many distractions in Florida.

Would the Bucs put in a claim on Haynesworth now?

It’s possible, but I doubt it. Since 2010, Tampa Bay has been hesitant to bring in high-profile players. The Bucs constantly remind us that they’re building through the draft and punter Michael Koenen was their only free-agent pickup of any consequence this year.

Plus, Haynesworth comes with lots of baggage. The Bucs are pretty conscious of their public image these days. If you’re thinking there’s a big move on the horizon, I’m thinking you probably will be disappointed. McCargo might have been the big move.
NEW ORLEANS – The Tampa Bay Buccaneers might have to finish a second consecutive season without defensive tackle Gerald McCoy.

He suffered an arm injury in Sunday’s loss to the Saints and early reports out of the locker room suggest McCoy could be out for the rest of the season. McCoy had just returned from missing two games with an ankle injury. He missed the final three games of last season with an arm injury.

If the Bucs are without McCoy, the No. 3 overall pick in 2010, their depth on the defensive line will be tested. McCoy had been starting next to Brian Price, a second-round draft pick from last year. Price has been playing well and Roy Miller likely would slide in next to him in the starting lineup.

Reserve defensive tackle Frank Okam sat out Sunday’s game with a calf injury. Rookie defensive end Da’Quan Bowers also can slide inside in certain situations, but the Bucs likely will have to sign a defensive tackle if McCoy is lost for the season.

Inactives for the Buccaneers

November, 6, 2011
NEW ORLEANS – No major surprises among Tampa Bay’s inactives for Sunday’s game with the Saints.

Here they are: Receiver Sammie Stroughter, cornerback Myron Lewis, linebacker Zac Diles, guard Jeremy Zuttah, tackle James Lee, defensive end Tim Crowder and defensive tackle Frank Okam.

Checking injuries that don't matter

November, 4, 2011
Usually, we use this time on Friday’s to tell you about the injuries that matter most across the NFC South. We’ll do that in a moment. But, first, let’s tell you about the injuries that don’t matter, because that’s kind of become a bigger story when it comes to the New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who play each other on Sunday.

New Orleans coach Sean Payton admitted the Saints called the NFL to ask why Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman wasn’t on the injury report after he was spotted with something on his right thumb in an interview with NFL Network. The league called the Buccaneers, who went ahead and put Freeman and safety Tanard Jackson on the injury report Thursday.

Soon after the Bucs did that, the Saints went ahead and added right tackle Zach Strief to their injury report. All three remained on Friday’s injury report. They all practiced fully Friday.

Here’s the deal: Freeman, Jackson and Strief are going to play Sunday. The Saints and Bucs were just involved in what Payton called a bit of “gamesmanship’’.

Beyond the games, there are some real injury issues on the reports for the Saints and the Bucs. The Saints declared running back Mark Ingram (heel) out for the second straight game. Presumably, they’ll use the backfield rotation of Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles and Chris Ivory.

New Orleans linebacker Jonathan Vilma (knee) has not practiced all week. He’s listed as questionable and Payton said Vilma will be a game-time decision.

The Bucs have ruled out guard/center Jeremy Zuttah (knee), but the good news is center Jeff Faine (biceps) is probable. The Bucs also ruled out reserve defensive tackle Frank Okam (calf).

Atlanta’s injury report is a lot less complicated. Left tackle Sam Baker is out and the team previously said he’ll miss three or four games. Everyone else is listed as probable.

The Carolina Panthers have a bye, so they don't have an injury report.