NFC South: Mike Jenkins

Pass rush missing for Buccaneers

September, 7, 2014
Sep 7
8:58
PM ET
TAMPA, Fla. -- Some quick highlights from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' locker room after Sunday’s 20-14 loss to the Carolina Panthers.
  • Much of the talk was about how dismal Tampa Bay was on offense through the first three quarters. The Bucs trailed by as much as 17-0 before they rallied for two late touchdowns. The Bucs said they were disappointed and frustrated by a running game that never really got on track.
  • Despite the loss, coach Lovie Smith said he was pleased with how his team fought back after falling so far behind.
  • Smith prides himself on generating a pass rush from the front four. The Bucs didn’t do a very good job getting pressure on backup Derek Anderson, who was playing for an injured Cam Newton. Tampa Bay finished with one sack.
  • There was no official word on injuries, but guard Logan Mankins and cornerback Mike Jenkins left the game with knee injuries. Mankins was brought in late in the preseason to solidify the offensive line. If he’s lost for an extended period of time, the offensive line could be in big trouble.
TAMPA, Fla. – Although he missed nearly a month with an injured hamstring, Mike Jenkins still is listed as a starting cornerback on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ depth chart.

That’s not just a courtesy for a veteran. The Bucs are serious about Jenkins playing in Sunday’s season opener with Carolina. Jenkins returned to practice this week, but the Bucs think he’s ready to contribute.

Jenkins
“It’s not an ideal world for him to miss all that time," coach Lovie Smith said. “But, conditioning-wise, Mike has been conditioning. We took our time with him. We made sure he was pretty much 100 percent before we put him out there. He’s been running. As Mike said, ‘Hey, I’ve lived in Florida for a long time.’ He’s looked good in practice. I don’t think there are any issues. It’s not like we’re going to play him 60 reps this week. We’ll ease him into the mix."

That probably means Jenkins will split time with second-year pro Johnthan Banks at the cornerback spot opposite Alterraun Verner.

The Bucs also issued their first injury report of the season Wednesday. Defensive end Da'Quan Bowers, defensive end William Gholston, safety Bradley McDougald, cornerback Rashaan Melvin and receiver Louis Murphy were held out of Wednesday’s practice.
TAMPA, Fla. -- One of the things the Tampa Bay Buccaneers haven’t seen much of this preseason is their top cornerback.

That’s Alterraun Verner, who injured his hamstring on the third day of camp and missed an extended period. Verner began taking part in individual drills last week, but he’s going to take a bigger step in Tuesday’s practice. Verner is expected to take part in team drills, coach Lovie Smith said.

Smith also expressed some optimism that Verner might be able to play in the third preseason game at Buffalo on Saturday.

Verner
“This is the week that we’re gearing towards,’’ Smith said. “First off, the guys that line up with the first group, there’s a reason why they’re there. It’s not like we’re going to do an awful lot that last preseason game. So, for our players, if they’re going to play against Carolina [in the regular-season opener], we need to see them right now. If they’re not out there, we’re in a hole a little bit. Alterraun Verner, it’s important that he get out there and starts playing our defense and seeing his role and getting comfortable. That’s why we’re excited about getting him on the football field.’’

The Bucs have had their share of cornerbacks with injuries this preseason. In addition to Verner, Mike Jenkins and Rashaan Melvin have missed extended periods. Jenkins still isn’t practicing.

But getting Verner back should be good for the chemistry of the secondary. Second-year pro Johnthan Banks has been working as a starter and Leonard Johnson has been the nickelback. Smith said he has been happy with what he has seen out of Banks. That could mean Jenkins is headed for a backup role.

Buccaneers Camp Report: Day 15

August, 14, 2014
Aug 14
8:01
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TAMPA, Fla. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Tampa Bay Buccaneers training camp:
  • Training camp ended for the Buccaneers the exact same way it started -- with electricity in the air. No, really, there was electricity in the air. Lightning first interrupted practice for an hour and then brought it to a premature end. The same thing happened on the first day. Between the first day and the last day of camp, the Bucs had no other interruptions or cancellations. They broke camp Thursday and coach Lovie Smith said he was pleased with how things went. But Smith also said he's looking for an improved performance in the second preseason game, Saturday night against Miami. "The rain cooperated with us throughout camp," Smith said. "I think every day there's been a threat of thunderstorms and lightning. But, for the most part, we've been able to get everything in. I feel like we've had a good camp. We realize what's at stake this week. We want to play a lot better. Any time you get to start off in front of your fans at home, that's kind of special." While they still were able to practice, the Bucs worked in shorts and shells and did some game planning for Miami.
  • Smith said cornerback Alterraun Verner, cornerback Mike Jenkins and running back Charles Sims have been ruled out for Saturday night. Verner and Jenkins are recovering from hamstring injuries. Smith said Sims has an ankle injury and the running back was wearing a boot on the sidelines.
  • The Bucs took a bit of a low-risk gamble by signing defensive end Larry English. Coming out of Northern Illinois in 2009, English was the 16th overall pick in the 2009 draft. But English never has lived up to his potential. The Bucs have nothing to lose by taking a look at English. "You can never have too may pass-rushers," Smith said. "We talk about getting pressure with a four-man rush. I remember Larry when he played at NIU. A good football player. Injuries have kind of held him up a little bit. But he's what we're looking for, a speed, edge rusher. We feel like he might be able to give us something." The Bucs released Jibreel Black to make room for English.
  • Smith said the starters will play into the second quarter Saturday night. He said it's likely the starters will get double the amount of snaps they did in the preseason opener against Jacksonville.
TAMPA, Fla. – On a day near the middle of training camp, Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith walked into his post-practice news conference and delivered a message.

"There's nothing really I can give you today," Smith said.

Smith wasn't being condescending or rude to the media. He simply was being truthful. Tampa Bay's camp hasn't had any major news or controversies. It has been downright boring at times -- but it beats the alternative.

We saw the other side of things last year, and it wasn't pretty. There was plenty of news and a ton of distractions. Former coach Greg Schiano and quarterback Josh Freeman were in the early stages of a feud that would end in divorce one month into the season. And it wasn't just Freeman who was having issues with Schiano's style. Numerous players had problems with Schiano's rigid ways and never fully bought into the coach.

That quickly caught up to Schiano, who was fired after two lackluster seasons. Enter Smith, who is the anti-Schiano in just about every way. Smith is calm and treats his players like adults, and you already can see the results of that. There have been no controversies.

Amid the tranquility, players are singing the praises of Smith. The coach brings back memories of Tony Dungy, who guided the Bucs to their first era of sustained success. That's no coincidence. Smith was the linebackers coach in Dungy's early years in Tampa Bay and has an approach similar to Dungy's.

People already are comparing defensive tackle Gerald McCoy to Warren Sapp and linebacker Lavonte David to Derrick Brooks. Smith's hiring has brought enthusiasm to a fan base that hasn't had much to be excited about in recent years. But that fan base has pleasant memories of what things were like in the Bucs' glory days.

On several occasions, Smith has said that one of his goals is to make the Bucs relevant again. If things go according to Smith's plans, the Bucs might be boring, but they'll be good.

THREE REASONS FOR OPTIMISM

1. Smith is known for being a defensive coach, and he has some good ingredients to start with. McCoy and David were All-Pros last year, and they play two of the most important positions in the Tampa 2 defense Smith is bringing back to the Bucs. McCoy and David give Tampa Bay a nice start, but some other players are going to have to come through. The coaching staff believes strong safety Mark Barron is ready to be a star. If some role players come through, this could be a very good defense.

[+] EnlargeDoug Martin
Hannah Foslien/Getty ImagesDoug Martin is back from a shoulder injury, but he shouldn't have to shoulder all of the load in a deep backfield.
2. Doug Martin is back from a shoulder injury that kept him out for about half of last season. That should provide a huge lift for the offense. Martin rushed for more than 1,400 yards as a rookie in 2012, and he has looked sharp in training camp. Under Schiano, the Bucs often overused Martin. That’s not going to be the case with Smith. The Bucs have made it clear that Martin will remain as the feature back but that they’ll rotate in some other backs to keep him fresh. Rookie Charles Sims, Bobby Rainey and Mike James could be in the mix for playing time.

3. After using their first two draft picks on wide receiver Mike Evans and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, the Bucs have one of the biggest receiving corps in the league. Williams, Seferian-Jenkins and Vincent Jackson each are at least 6-foot-5. They're going to present coverage challenges for defensive backs.

THREE REASONS FOR PESSIMISM

1. The offensive line hasn't looked very good in the preseason, and that's a huge cause for concern. The Bucs are especially thin at guard. All-Pro Carl Nicks left the team after not being able to recover from a toe injury. That leaves four guys without a lot of experience vying for two starting spots. Oniel Cousins, Jace Daniels, Patrick Omameh and rookie Kadeem Edwards have been rotating at the guard spots, and two of them will emerge as starters, unless the Bucs bring in some help from the outside.

2. Smith went out on a limb when he signed quarterback Josh McCown as a free agent and immediately named him the starter. McCown, 35, has been a backup most of his career, but he did play well in Chicago last year when Jay Cutler went out with an injury. McCown threw 13 touchdowns with just one interception. It's too much to expect him to keep up that kind of pace, especially with an unsteady offensive line. Smith, who coached McCown in Chicago, believes he can be successful over the course of a full season. But that's something McCown has never done.

3. Smith's philosophy is to play great defense and be efficient on offense. That worked well enough to get Smith to a Super Bowl with the Chicago Bears. But that philosophy might be antiquated. The league has become quarterback-driven. The Bucs are in the same division as New Orleans' Drew Brees, Carolina's Cam Newton and Atlanta's Matt Ryan. McCown and this offense might not have enough firepower to stay competitive in the division.

OBSERVATION DECK

  • McCoy has had an outstanding training camp. He consistently has gotten into the backfield as a pass-rusher and has been stuffing running plays. But it remains to be seen whether McCoy's excellent play is simply the byproduct of the weakness at the guard spots.
    [+] EnlargeVincent Jackson
    AP Photo/Bill KostrounVincent Jackson, in his third season with the Bucs, will have a third starting QB throwing to him.

  • The chemistry between McCown and Jackson has been noticeable. In addition to the offseason program, the two spent a lot of time in the spring and summer working out at a local high school.

  • The Bucs have gotten almost nothing out of defensive end Da'Quan Bowers since taking him in the second round in 2011. But they are trying something new with Bowers this year. They're going to use him inside at defensive tackle in obvious passing situations.

  • The Bucs have high hopes for sixth-round draft pick Robert Herron. But don't look for the receiver/return man to get a lot of playing time early on. Herron has had ball-security issues in camp. He needs to hold on to the ball if he's going to earn playing time.

  • Herron will make the 53-man roster. So will Jackson, Evans and Chris Owusu. Eric Page also probably will stick thanks to his return skills. That probably leaves one spot to be filled from a group of receivers who have shown promise in training camp. Tommy Streeter, Louis Murphy, Lavelle Hawkins and Solomon Patton all have shown flashes, but at least a couple of them won't make the roster.

  • Hamstring injuries have kept cornerbacks Alterraun Verner and Mike Jenkins out for a big chunk of training camp. But there's a flip side to that, and it's positive. Second-year pro Johnthan Banks has gotten a ton of work with the first team and has looked good. Banks didn't have a great rookie year. But his performance in camp probably will keep him in the starting lineup.

Buccaneers Camp Report: Day 14

August, 12, 2014
Aug 12
8:58
PM ET
TAMPA, Fla. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Tampa Bay Buccaneers training camp:
  • Coach Lovie Smith pulled a bit of a surprise and put an unexpected end to the training camp portion of the preseason Tuesday. The Bucs are off Wednesday. When they return Thursday, they’ll be practicing without pads and preparing for Saturday night’s preseason game with Miami. Smith said he was pleased with camp overall. “I thought it was good," Smith said. “We practiced in the heat of the day most of the time. It’s draining. It’s draining just going through a walk through in Tampa. But the guys got through it. We haven’t had any major injuries. We felt we got about the proper amount of physical contact that we need to get ourselves in position to play the game. I like the work that we’ve done. Most of the guys have made a lot of progress throughout. We just need to kind of take steps now. We want to see improvement in the games."
  • Smith singled out several under-the-radar players that have given themselves a chance to make the roster with strong training camps. He mentioned fullback Jorvorskie Lane, linebacker Danny Lansanah and defensive lineman Scott Solomon. Smith also said rookie receiver Robert Herron has come on strong in recent days after having some problems holding onto the ball earlier in camp.
  • Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy was given most of the practice off. Smith said that was a coach’s decision and a reward for a strong camp by McCoy. Nose tackles Clinton McDonald and Akeem Spence each got some work at McCoy’s three-technique position.
  • Tuesday was “legends" day. The Bucs welcomed 50 former players to watch practice. That was a nice gesture and a change from former coach Greg Schiano, who didn’t always welcome former players. “I think we’ve made it known that they’re welcome," Smith said. “Not just on legends day, but any day coming back to their football team. What we’re doing, we hope that they see, is we’re trying to get it back. Most of the guys that came here had success while they were here, and that’s what we plan to do."
  • The Bucs signed defensive end T.J. Fatinikun.
  • There is no practice Wednesday. The Bucs are scheduled to practice Thursday at 2 p.m. Although Smith isn’t calling it training camp anymore, the practice still will be open to the public, team officials said. This will be the last open practice of the preseason.

Bucs put emphasis on nickelback

August, 6, 2014
Aug 6
12:58
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TAMPA, Fla. – Johnthan Banks and Mike Jenkins are competing for a starting cornerback job. Ordinarily, logic would say the loser of that battle automatically becomes the nickelback.

But the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are following some different logic in this situation. Coach Lovie Smith treats the nickelback position differently than most coaches. He views nickelback as a starting position and is so serious about it that he listed it that way on the team’s first depth chart.

Grimes
Johnson
Leonard Johnson was listed as the starting nickelback, and he already might have the job locked up. Johnson has been working as the first-team nickelback throughout camp and has done a good job against slot receivers.

Smith is right to put such an emphasis on nickelback. Most teams use five defensive backs about half of the time. The nickelback covers whoever lines up in the slot, and that could be anyone from Harry Douglas to Calvin Johnson.

Smith has taken the emphasis on nickelback one step further than most. He has an assistant coach (Larry Marmie) who is assigned to work exclusively with the nickelbacks.

There has been some movement at the other two cornerback positions in camp as Alterraun Verner and Jenkins have dealt with injuries. But there hasn’t been any change at nickelback. Johnson has been getting all the first-team reps.

Verner will be the starter at one cornerback spot. Johnson will be the starter at nickelback. Either Banks or Jenkins will start at the other cornerback spot. The loser of that competition will end up as the fourth cornerback.
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.
TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have put out an unofficial depth chart in advance of Friday's preseason game. I emphasize that it's unofficial and should be used only as a starting point, but the depth chart does provide some interesting items.

Let's start with the offense. Oniel Cousins and Jamon Meredith are listed as the starting guards. I think those names are written in pencil because Patrick Omameh and Kadeem Edwards remain in the mix.

The other item of note on the starting offense is that Chris Owusu is listed as a starting wide receiver. I think that's simply a courtesy to a veteran. There's almost no doubt rookie Mike Evans will be starting when the regular season gets here.

On defense, there are no surprises among the starters, but it's worth noting that first-team cornerbacks Alterraun Verner and Mike Jenkins both have been out with injuries. Coach Lovie Smith considers nickelback a starting position and the depth chart features Leonard Johnson as the starting nickelback.

Another item of note on the defense is that Da'Quan Bowers, who has spent his career at defensive end, is listed as a second-team defensive tackle.

On special teams, Eric Page is listed as the first-team kickoff and punt returner, but the Bucs are going to use the preseason to take a look at some other candidates.

Buccaneers Camp Report: Day 9

August, 4, 2014
Aug 4
10:16
PM ET
TAMPA, Fla. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Tampa Bay Buccaneers training camp:
  • The Bucs continue to experiment with their defensive linemen. They've been giving defensive end Adrian Clayborn some work at defensive tackle. “He's been taking reps all throughout,'' coach Lovie Smith said. “We want to see what players can do. Sometimes a defensive end is a lot quicker and you can get him inside and get a lot of plays when they get against some of the bigger, slower interior lineman. We're a new staff and we want to give guys a chance to show what they can do at as many positions as possible.''
  • The Buccaneers worked on something they didn't have a chance to do much of last season Monday night. They worked on having a lead late in the game. The offense worked on running out the clock. At the same time, the defense worked on trying to get the ball back.
  • Linebacker Brandon Magee drew the wrath of wide Vincent Jackson. Magee hit running back Mike James after he was clearly out of bounds. Jackson, a captain last year, got in Magee's face and gave him an earful.
  • With Verner and Jenkins out, Danny Gorrer has been getting a lot of first-team work at cornerback. Gorrer also is a candidate for the nickelback job.
  • The play of the day was a pass that Josh McCown drilled to Vincent Jackson in traffic.
  • The Bucs waived wide receiver David Gettis with an injury settlement and signed former University of South Florida safety Mark Joyce.
  • The Bucs are scheduled to practice at 4:30 p.m. ET Tuesday.

Buccaneers Camp Report: Day 8

August, 3, 2014
Aug 3
8:42
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TAMPA, Fla. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Tampa Bay Buccaneers training camp:
  • The offense was having a pretty strong practice Sunday evening. But that changed when the Bucs worked on goal-line situations at the end of practice. It was the first time the Bucs have worked on those situations and the defense clearly won. Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy had two stuffs and strong safety Mark Barron had a big stop. “Once you get down to the red zone, speaking offensively, you’ve got to get touchdowns,’’ coach Lovie Smith said. “The ball’s on the 2-yard line, you’ve got to get a touchdown every time. For the defense to hold them out, it shifts momentum quite a bit. I saw the defense pick it up. You can hide a little bit, but down on the goal line you can’t hide. You show your true colors down there. I liked some of the things I saw.’’
  • Cornerback Alterraun Verner was one of Tampa Bay’s biggest signings in free agency. But he has yet to practice this camp due to a hamstring injury. “It’s not an ideal situation,’’ Smith said. “You come in new, we want him out there every snap, especially a day like today -- those are the times when the defense really becomes one when you’re down on the goal line with your backs up against the wall like that. We brought Alterraun in to do what he’s been doing for a long time. That’s the reason we signed him to a contract. It’s not an ideal situation. It puts us back a little bit, but that’s a part of it. You have injuries. He’ll be back out there. We still have a little bit of time.’’
  • Smith attended Derrick Brooks’ Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Canton, Ohio, on Saturday night. Smith’s flight arrived back in Tampa at about 4 a.m. Sunday and he came straight to One Buc Place to get ready for Sunday’s work. “We set up our schedule,’’ Smith said. “We knew it would be a quick turnaround. We got plenty of sleep. We slept on the plane all the way back.’’
  • Rookie Robert Herron continues to struggle on punt returns. Herron dropped another punt Sunday. But Smith isn’t overly concerned about that. “He’s a rookie,’’ Smith said. “He’s not our returner that we plan on opening the season with, but you start the process. I’ve seen improvement from him. You hate whenever they drop them, but they do from time to time. He is getting better.’’
  • The Bucs are scheduled to practice at 4:30 p.m. ET on Monday.

Buccaneers Camp Report: Day 7

August, 1, 2014
Aug 1
10:38
PM ET
TAMPA, Fla. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Tampa Bay Buccaneers training camp:
  • Early in camp, the defense clearly was ahead of the offense. That’s not the case anymore. The offense had a good showing at Friday night’s practice at Raymond James Stadium. The first- and second-team offenses each drove for successful field goals in the two-minute drill. “It’s about scoring points, and that’s what the offense was able to do," coach Lovie Smith said. “Somebody can’t look good in that situation. Most games come down to that two-minute drive at the end of the game. (Quarterbacks) Josh [McCown] and Mike [Glennon] both did a great job with us."
  • Many fans had to be pleasantly surprised by their first look at coordinator Jeff Tedford’s offense. It didn’t look nearly as conservative as what the Bucs have run in recent years. The play of the night was a trick play. Running back Mike James took a pitchout and threw a touchdown pass to Vincent Jackson. The deep passing game also looked good, with Chris Owusu catching a long touchdown from Glennon in an 11-on-11 drill.
  • Center Evan Dietrich-Smith missed practice with a foot injury, and his absence was obvious. The one blemish for the offense was that three snaps between center and quarterback were botched. “One time on the ground is too many," Smith said.
  • The practice drew just under 15,000 fans, according team officials. “It’s a fanbase that deserves to see a good football team on the field, and we plan on giving them that," Smith said.
  • The Buccaneers have the day off from practice Saturday. Smith and many team employees will travel to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, to attend the induction ceremony for Derrick Brooks. The team will return to practice Sunday at 4:30 p.m. “All week, I’ve been thinking about Derrrick going in," Smith said. “I can’t wait to get up there tomorrow. A special day for him. You know Derrick Brooks. Who deserves to be in the Hall more than him? It’s a special time for his family, and we can’t wait to get there.’’

Buccaneers Camp Report: Day 6

July, 31, 2014
Jul 31
6:18
PM ET
TAMPA, Fla. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Tampa Bay Buccaneers training camp:
  • There might not be a player on the roster who has been more maligned than defensive end Da'Quan Bowers. A second-round pick in 2011, Bowers has contributed very little in his first three seasons. But it sounds like Bowers is making the most of a fresh start with a new coaching staff. Coach Lovie Smith continues to sing Bowers' praises. Smith isn't saying Bowers is going to suddenly turn into a superstar. But he is saying Bowers can be a valuable role player as a guy who can play defensive end and defensive tackle. "As a general rule, we'll normally carry three inside guy and three outside guys (on the game-day roster)," Smith said. "That's six. You'd like that seventh guy to be able to do both. That's what you have in a player like Da'Quan. He's big enough to rush inside on third downs and a good anchor outside on first down. It gives us some flexibility."
  • The Bucs worked the 2-minute drill for the first time this camp Thursday. "That's always fun," Smith said. "About half the games come down to what you do at the end of the game in a 2-minute situation, that last drive determining the outcome of the game. It's important that we convert on the offensive side and on the defensive side play smart ball. There's no better time to take the ball away. We did some good things on both sides of the ball."
  • Smith had the line of the day when asked if Thursday's practice didn't seem as intense as Wednesday's. "Sometimes it's not your wedding night," Smith said. "It's just a normal day that you go through. It was business at hand today. There wasn't as much false chatter. But, still, we got good work. Some days, you just have to keep grinding one play at a time and that was the case today. We'll pick it back up tomorrow."
  • The Bucs continue to be banged up at cornerback. Mike Jenkins was added to the injury list Thursday. Jenkins sat out practice with a leg injury. Fellow cornerbacks Alterraun Verner and Rashaan Melvin have missed the last several days.
  • Rookie Robert Herron got some work with the first team as a slot receiver. But Herron had a drop, which isn't going to help his chances of significant playing time.
  • The Bucs will hold their first -- and only -- camp practice at Raymond James Stadium on Friday. The practice will start at 7:30 p.m and is open to the public at no charge. "I'm looking forward to tomorrow night," Smith said. "It's one thing to practice on the practice field. When you go to the stadium, it's a different feel. Our players are excited about getting the feel for Raymond James Stadium. For a lot of them, it will be the first time going out there."
Lovie Smith’s Chicago Bears were a consistent contender because they played strong defense. The coach will try to get the same result with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the ingredients are there for that to happen.

David
McCoy
McCoy
Smith inherited some special talent in defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and linebacker Lavonte David. Both are just reaching their prime. Smith has compared McCoy to Warren Sapp and David to Derrick Brooks. Sapp and Brooks were the keys to the defense during Tampa Bay’s glory days. The Bucs believe McCoy and David can fill the same roles in the new generation and that a strong defense will help make the franchise relevant again.

McCoy and David are going to be good for years to come and they form a strong foundation. But the Bucs will need some complementary players to come through for this defense to be really good. Defensive end Michael Johnson was brought in as a free agent because the Bucs believe he can bring pressure from the outside. If he does, that’s only going to help McCoy and Clinton McDonald in the middle.

A strong pass rush will only help a secondary that has good potential, but hasn’t hit it yet. Alterraun Verner was brought in to be the No. 1 cornerback, but the Bucs need Johnthan Banks and Mike Jenkins to step up as the other cornerback and nickelback. Safeties Dashon Goldson and Mark Barron have talent and can form a nice tandem.

Middle linebacker Mason Foster is going to get a chance to play a more significant role than he has in the past. Foster will call the defensive plays and be asked to drop into coverage more than he did in his first three seasons.

This defense will be the key factor in determining if Smith’s regime will succeed. The offense can be average, but the defense has to be special.

Best Bucs camp competitions

June, 20, 2014
Jun 20
8:11
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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.

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