NFC South: Jeff Demps

Demps
TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers apparently have given up on one of their biggest projects.

Former Olympic sprinter Jeff Demps was released from the practice squad Monday. Coach Lovie Smith had repeatedly called Demps "the fastest man in the NFL" and the Bucs had visions of him filling a role, like Darren Sproles. While Demps' legs were his strength, his hands might have been his downfall. He struggled to catch passes in the preseason. Apparently, he wasn't showing any improvement.

The Bucs also released wide receiver Kevin Cone from the practice squad. The Bucs filled the two spots on the practice squad by signing fullback Lonnie Pryor and defensive end George Uko.
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.

Buccaneers Camp Report: Day 10

August, 5, 2014
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TAMPA, Fla. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Tampa Bay Buccaneers training camp:
  • The camp with no controversy finally had a little bit Tuesday; just a little. It came during a goal-line drill at the end of practice. There was a play where running back Doug Martin ended up very near the goal line. Martin and the rest of the offensive players signaled it was a touchdown. But the team was divided. The defensive players said Martin came up short. “There’s no replay," coach Lovie Smith said. “I have final say and I thought it was good." Smith said he was pleased with the offense’s showing in the goal-line drill. “Last time we went goal line I thought the defense kind of got the better of it," Smith said. “I thought the offense came back out there strong today down there. We’ve got to get touchdowns when we get down there. We say we want to have balance. We’ve got to be able to run the ball, especially in those types of situations."
  • Although cornerback Alterraun Verner (hamstring) has missed most of training camp and been ruled out of Friday’s preseason opener at Jacksonville, Smith said he’s not all that concerned about the veteran missing so much practice time. “You can’t do much about it," Smith said. “I’ve seen too many good football players miss time in training camp. I think it has very little bearing on what happens later on. He’s been through a lot of work with us. We feel pretty confident that he’ll be able to get our defense down and be able to play at a high level."
  • The first unofficial depth chart of the year came out Tuesday, but Smith had some words of caution. “Don’t put too much into the depth chart," Smith said. “The league says we have to put out a depth chart today, so we put out a depth chart today. The depth chart will mean a little bit more once we play a football game against someone else." The initial depth chart was generous to the veterans and sold some rookies short. Receiver Mike Evans and Austin Seferian-Jenkins continue to get some work with the first team, but they were listed as backups on the depth chart.
  • A couple of guys that have had trouble catching the ball came up with nice catches Tuesday. Rookie Robert Herron had a nice catch in traffic. Running back Jeff Demps made a nice catch on a deep pass from Mike Glennon. Demps also had a nice run.
  • The Bucs signed defensive ends Ryne Giddins and James Ruffin. Linebacker Jeremy Grable and safety Mycal Swaim were waived.
  • The Bucs will practice at 2 p.m. Wednesday. The session is closed to the public.
Let’s conclude our fact-or-fiction series with coaching and special teams.

1. The arrival of coach Lovie Smith makes the Buccaneers an instant playoff team.

Our take: Fiction.

Justify it: There's little doubt Smith will be better than predecessor Greg Schiano. Smith is a proven winner in the NFL. Players like working for him and he commands respect. All that being said, Smith still faces a tough job. This team was 4-12 last season. The Bucs were very aggressive in free agency and that will help. But turning this team completely around might be more than a one-year project.

Frazier
2. Leslie Frazier is the luckiest defensive coordinator in the NFL.

Our take: Fact.

Justify it: Frazier inherits defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and linebacker Lavonte David. They're among the best in the league at their respective positions and they give Frazier a couple of solid building blocks. David and McCoy have been compared to Derrick Brooks and Warren Sapp, who were the central figures of the defense in Tampa Bay's glory days. If Frazier can get solid production from some other role players, the Bucs could have an elite defense.

3. Jeff Tedford's offense is going to bring excitement to Tampa Bay.

Our take: Fact.

Justify it: For the most part, the Bucs have been very quiet about what Tedford's offense will look like. Several players have used the phrase "up tempo" to describe it. That would be a nice twist for an offense that's been boring in recent years. This offense has enough tools to be potent if Tedford can put things together the right way. Doug Martin gives the team a solid runner and Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans will be one of the league's biggest receiving tandems. But the real key will be quarterback Josh McCown. If he can thrive in Tedford's offense, this team suddenly can be good.

4. Smith had strong return games in Chicago, so he should bring the same thing to Tampa Bay.

Our take: Fiction.

Justify it: Smith had a strong return game in Chicago mostly because he had Devin Hester. At the moment, the Bucs don't have anyone to compare with Hester. Eric Page handled returns last season and he was ordinary. The Bucs will look at several other possible returners, including Jeff Demps and Charles Sims. Someone could emerge as a strong returner, but the Bucs don't have anyone that's proven yet.

Barth
5. Connor Barth is back, so the kicking game will be fine.

Our take: Fact.

Justify it: Barth missed all of last season with a torn Achilles tendon. He's healthy now and that's great news for the kicking game. Barth is one of the better young kickers in the NFL.

Best Bucs camp competitions

June, 20, 2014
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With the start of training camp a little more than a month away, it’s time to look ahead to the best battles.

Tight end. Rookie Austin Seferian-Jenkins might be the long-term answer. But he might not get a lot of playing time in the short term. Seferian-Jenkins wasn’t allowed to take part in the offseason program and that could put him behind the competition. Brandon Myers, Tim Wright and Luke Stocker all have more experience.

Right guard. Patrick Omameh worked with the first team through most of the offseason program. But he still needs a good camp to win the starting job. Oniel Cousins and Jamon Meredith also could be candidates to start.

Third wide receiver. This one is far from settled. Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans will be the starters, but the Bucs need production out of some more receivers. Veterans Chris Owusu and Louis Murphy looked good in the offseason program and the team has high hopes for rookie Robert Herron.

Cornerback. Alterraun Verner is set as one starter. But the other spot figures to be a strong competition between Johnthan Banks and Mike Jenkins.

Backup running back. Doug Martin is the starter, but the Bucs want to use a rotation. Bobby Rainey, Mike James, Charles Sims and Jeff Demps will all be vying for carries.
NFC wrap-ups: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South


TAMPA, Fla. -- A wrap-up of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' draft. Click here for a full list of Buccaneers draftees.

[+] EnlargeMike Evans
Thomas B. Shea/Getty ImagesMike Evans can begin his career as Tampa Bay's
No. 2 receiver opposite Vincent Jackson.
Best move: There was a lot of smoke about the Buccaneers possibly drafting quarterback Johnny Manziel. But Tampa Bay’s top target all along was wide receiver Mike Evans. The Bucs got him with the seventh overall pick. Evans projects as an immediate starter opposite Vincent Jackson. At 6-foot-4, Evans has a frame similar to Jackson, and this duo is going to cause matchup problems for opposing defenses. Evans can begin his career as the No. 2 receiver, but Jackson already is in his 30s. It might not be long before Evans takes over as the No. 1 receiver. By resisting the urge to take Manziel, the Bucs made it very clear they view Josh McCown as their short-term starter and Mike Glennon as their quarterback of the future. Evans’ arrival makes both McCown and Glennon better.

Riskiest move: The Bucs began the draft without a clear-cut starter at right guard. They still don’t have one. They did take guard Kadeem Edwards out of Tennessee State and Purdue's Kevin Pamphile, who projects as a tackle, in the fifth round. But it’s a lot to expect a fifth-round pick to be an immediate starter. The Bucs might have to keep an eye on the free-agent market to get their starting right guard. There also are health concerns with left guard Carl Nicks, so Tampa Bay doesn't have a lot of depth at guard.

Most surprising move: The selection of running back Charles Sims in the third round. The team already had a deep stable of running backs with Doug Martin, Mike James, Bobby Rainey and Jeff Demps. It wasn’t really necessary to add another back to the mix. But Sims isn’t a typical back. He was used extensively as a receiver out of the backfield in college, and it’s likely the Bucs want to take advantage of those skills. We don’t know what coordinator Jeff Tedford’s offense will look like just yet. But, with the addition of Sims, it probably is fair to say the Bucs want to throw some passes to a running back.

File it away: You generally don’t expect a sixth-round pick to get playing time early, but Wyoming wide receiver Robert Herron has a shot. The Bucs have an opening for a slot receiver, and Herron has speed to spare. He’ll get a chance to compete for the slot receiver spot. Herron also has return skills and could factor in on special teams.
Austin Seferian-JenkinsOtto Greule Jr/Getty ImagesThe Bucs began their Day 2 of the draft by taking Washington tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins.

TAMPA, Fla. -- Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith has repeatedly talked about how his year off from coaching gave him new perspective. Apparently, that's no exaggeration.

Back in his days with the Chicago Bears, Smith was known as a coach who was focused almost solely on defense, often to the detriment of his offense and the bottom line. But Smith's Tampa Bay tenure is off to an offensive start.

A day after taking wide receiver Mike Evans with a first-round pick, the Bucs selected University of Washington tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins in the second round (38th overall). They followed that up by taking West Virginia running back Charles Sims in the third round (69th overall).

[+] EnlargeCharles Sims
Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY SportsThe Bucs took West Virginia running back Charles Sims in the third round.
It might appear as if offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford was calling the shots in the draft room, but Smith has final say over personnel matters and he has signed off on three offensive players so far.

"We had a plan and that was to get great football players," general manager Jason Licht said. "It wasn't necessarily we're just going to address the offense, but it just so happened the way it fell, I've always talked about having the best player available versus need and where they converge."

They converged on offense, largely because that side of the ball was a weakness for the Bucs last season. That helped cost coach Greg Schiano and GM Mark Dominik their jobs and brought Smith and Licht to town.

The selection of Evans was no surprise at all. The addition of Seferian-Jenkins addressed a very underrated need. The Bucs had a stockpile of tight ends already, but none of them stood out. Seferian-Jenkins will likely get a chance to start right away.

"We didn't go into the draft thinking we had to get a tight end," Licht said. "But when a guy is sticking out like a sore thumb, you pounce."

Seferian-Jenkins had 36 catches for 450 yards and eight touchdowns in his final season of college. He also played basketball early in his career and he said he can give the Bucs a complete tight end.

"I'm going to bring explosiveness," Seferian-Jenkins said. "I'm going to bring playmaking ability. I'm going to bring blocking. I'm going to bring an all-around tight end that can play on all three downs and a guy that's going to work hard and chase Super Bowls and try to win as many games as possible for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers organization."

The selection of Sims, who excelled as a receiver out of the backfield, was more of a surprise because the Bucs already had Doug Martin, Mike James, Bobby Rainey and Jeff Demps on the roster.

"It may seem to the outside that running back was a pretty strong position, and we felt that way, but this one kind of stood out like the tight end did," Licht said. "We have a chance to get a back that has a versatile skill set that can score points for us, and we didn't want to turn it down."

Bucs pick Charles Sims in 3rd

May, 9, 2014
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TAMPA, Fla. -- The pick: Charles Sims, running back, West Virginia.

My take: This wasn't a position of need for the Buccaneers, who already have a crowded backfield with Doug Martin, Mike James, Bobby Rainey and Jeff Demps. But the team had Sims highly rated and made the move. The Bucs have said they want a backfield rotation this year, but they could end up having to part ways with a talented back or two.

Good hands: The Bucs took Sims largely because they felt he was the best receiver among the running backs. Sims spent the first three years of his career at Houston before transferring to West Virginia. He’s been productive as a runner and a receiver.

What's next: The Bucs currently don’t have a fourth-round pick (it went to the New York Jets in last year’s trade for Darrelle Revis). They’ve done a nice job filling some needs, but there still is a glaring need at guard, where there’s no clear-cut starter on the right side and there are health concerns with left guard Carl Nicks.

Bucs need to upgrade return game

February, 7, 2014
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TAMPA, Fla. -- I listed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' five biggest offseason needs this week, but there is one more position I’d like to touch on.

Hester
That is return man, because it could be an area where the Bucs make a significant move. It might not seem like an area of desperate need since Eric Page did an adequate job last season and Jeff Demps has great potential.

But, after hearing Lovie Smith talk several times about how much emphasis he puts on special teams, I don’t think adequate is good enough. And I don’t think Smith is going to be patient enough to wait on potential.

Smith has made it clear that he thinks special teams are extremely important, and there might not be a more important position on special teams than return man. This is where you start connecting the dots.

There are strong indications out of Chicago that Devin Hester might not be back with the Bears. Hester just might be the best return man in history. And, oh yeah, Smith used to coach him in Chicago.

This move is logical on many fronts, including the fact that Hester, 31, probably wouldn’t command a large salary, which is important when you’re talking about a guy whose only role might be returns.

Even if Hester doesn’t end up in Tampa Bay, I would expect the Bucs to look to upgrade their return game in free agency or the draft.
TAMPA, Fla. -- Go ahead and say it. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers never should have given up on LeGarrette Blount.

Williams
Blount
I know that opinion has plenty of backers after Blount rushed for 166 yards and four touchdowns for the New England Patriots in their Saturday night victory against Indianapolis. I see the logic.

But the fact is, even after Saturday night, I still believe the Bucs made the right move when they traded Blount to the Patriots for Olympic sprinter Jeff Demps and a seventh-round pick last April.

Yeah, I know some will say the Bucs sure could have used Blount after starter Doug Martin got hurt early last season. But Mike James and Bobby Rainey filled in adequately for Martin.

The bottom line is that former coach Greg Schiano never was sold on Blount. The running back had fumbling issues, problems getting to practice and meetings on time and he was one-dimensional. Blount wasn’t much of a receiver and he failed to pick up blocking assignments.

Blount’s only real strength is running straight ahead and it’s not like he has great vision. Blount was more of a headache than he was worth. New coach Lovie Smith likely wouldn’t have wanted someone like Blount around.

Maybe Schiano did the Patriots a favor by trading Blount to them. But Schiano did the Bucs an even bigger favor by getting Blount out of Tampa Bay.

Upon Further Review: Buccaneers Week 10

November, 12, 2013
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TAMPA, Fla. -- An examination of four hot issues from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 22-19 victory against the Miami Dolphins on Monday night:

[+] EnlargeBrian Leonard
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsBrian Leonard rushed for 57 yards on 20 carries after Mike James was injured.
The depleted backfield. The Bucs lost rookie running back Mike James to a fractured ankle early in the fourth quarter. Backups Brian Leonard and Bobby Rainey did a nice job filling in, but can they do it for the rest of the season? The Bucs don’t have much choice besides Leonard and Rainey because Doug Martin and Jeff Demps already are on injured reserve.

The run defense. Tampa Bay’s run defense, which was ranked No. 1 in the league last season, was ordinary in the first eight games of this season. But that changed Monday night. The Bucs held the Dolphins to two yards of net rushing (a franchise record).

Schiano Watch. One win isn’t enough to take coach Greg Schiano off the hot seat, but it does provide some hope that he might keep his job for next season. If the Bucs can build off this game and win the majority of their games in the second half of the season, Schiano could have a chance of sticking around.

Revis is ready. The Bucs didn’t unveil the full Darrelle Revis in the early stages of the season because he wasn’t fully recovered from the knee injury he suffered last year. But the Bucs have been taking the reins off Revis gradually in recent weeks and that trend continued. Revis helped limit Mike Wallace to four catches for 15 yards. Revis also recorded an interception.

RB depth comes through for Bucs

November, 12, 2013
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TAMPA, Fla. -- In a little over one week, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have put running backs Doug Martin and Jeff Demps on injured reserve. Very soon, Mike James will join them.

James suffered a fractured ankle early in the first quarter of Monday night’s 22-19 victory against the Miami Dolphins. But the Bucs didn’t run out of running backs.

That’s because veteran Brian Leonard and the recently-signed Bobby Rainey stepped up in a big way.

Leonard carried 20 times for 57 yards and caught two passes for 16 yards. Rainey gained 45 yards on eight carries.

The Tampa Bay coaching staff has history with Leonard and a sudden confidence in Rainey. Leonard went to Rutgers, where Tampa Bay’s Greg Schiano and a bunch of his assistants, used to coach.

“When we acquired Brian, we knew what kind of young man he is and the character and the toughness and all those things,’’ Schiano said. “He certainly stepped up.’’

Leonard did what was expected of him, but it was Rainey who stepped up in more spectacular fashion. In the fourth quarter, Rainey broke off a 31-yard run, which set up his own 1-yard touchdown run that put the Bucs ahead to stay.

“To do what he did, shows that he’s a real special player,’’ quarterback Mike Glennon said.

“I thought the best thing he did was ball security,’’ Schiano said. “Sometimes you get a guy in there that hasn’t played lately and that ball gets all over the place.’’

The Bucs are going to have to be secure with Leonard and Rainey as their running backs for the rest of the season.

“That’s probably how we’ll have to go -- ham and egging with those two guys and see what we can do,’’ Schiano said.

The Bucs are a run-first team and that’s not going to change. Leonard and Rainey are going to get a lot more chances to do what they did against the Dolphins.

Buccaneers add RB Bobby Rainey

October, 21, 2013
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TAMPA, Fla. -- With Doug Martin out for at least the short term, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have added some depth at running back.

The Bucs announced Monday afternoon that they claimed Bobby Rainey off waivers from Cleveland.

Rookie Mike James is likely to start in Martin’s place and Brian Leonard probably will be used as a third-round back. Running back return man Jeff Demps has been sidelined with a groin injury. Rainey could fill Demps’ role as a change-of-pace back and also could be a factor in the return game.

To make room for Rainey, the Bucs waived wide receiver Skye Dawson.
TAMPA, Fla. -- Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano doesn’t usually flash his sense of humor to the media, but that changed a bit Friday.

Schiano
Talking about the challenge of playing in a noisy Georgia Dome, Schiano fired off a one liner.

“If it’s any louder than it is today it will be an OSHA [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] restriction and they’ll probably have to call the game,’’ Schiano said.

Going into the Georgia Dome is always a challenge, but it might be even more significant for the Bucs because this will be the first road start for rookie quarterback Mike Glennon.

“I don’t think many people are comfortable in the Georgia Dome with the noise and all those things,’’ Schiano said. “Our confidence always comes from preparation and I think we’ve had a good week of preparation. It’s not done yet. I think our guys have practiced well and they should be confident in that.’’

In injury news, wide receiver Mike Williams (hamstring) and guard Davin Joseph (knee) both took part in practice. Williams said he fully expects to play Sunday. Schiano said running back/return man Jeff Demps, who had groin surgery earlier this week, should be able to return later this season.

The Bucs also worked out several free-agent wide receivers, including former New York Giants player Ramses Barden. Schiano said the team just was doing due diligence on some prospects.
TAMPA, Fla. -- Very quietly, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have changed the vantage point of offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan.

Previously, Sullivan had worked from the field during games. But Sullivan moved to the press box for Sunday’s loss to Philadelphia and apparently will stay there.

“In the bye week, we talked about everything,’’ coach Greg Schiano said. “That was one of the subjects we talked about. I think the ability to be able to see everything was something that we thought would give us a chance to be better. I liked it.’’

Sullivan said he worked out of the press box in previous stops with the Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Giants.

“I know from all those years being up in the press box, there’s a perspective and a vantage point that you get that I felt that would be beneficial,’’ Sullivan said. “I just switched with John McNulty who is the quarterback coach. He’s now on the field so I was relaying the calls into him. It’s something that gives an added vantage point that I think is helpful from the standpoint of not seeing it ground level but having that bird’s eye view, so to speak.’’

In other news, Schiano said that running back/return man Jeff Demps had surgery on his groin Thursday. Schiano said it’s too early to tell how long Demps will be out for. Wide receiver Mike Williams (hamstring) and guard Davin Joseph (knee) took part in Thursday’s practice.

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