NFC South: Peyton Hillis

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.

Projecting the Buccaneers roster

August, 30, 2013
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Roster cuts don’t have to be made until 6 p.m. Saturday. But let’s have a little fun in the meantime.

Let’s take a look at my best guess as to how the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 53-man roster will shape up:

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

Analysis: A rough outing by Glennon in the preseason finale might have convinced the Bucs it’s best to keep Orlovsky around.

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

Analysis: Hillis is very much on the bubble. The fact he doesn't play special teams could hurt him. But he also could stick around because he has the size to be a backup for Lorig at fullback and could be a valuable short-yardage rusher.

Tight ends (3): Luke Stocker, Tom Crabtree and Nate Byham

Analysis: The Bucs may have to keep Danny Noble if Crabtree’s ankle injury is going to keep him out for an extended period.

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

Analysis: Page has emerged as the return man and that should earn him the final roster spot.

Offensive line (9): Davin Joseph, Carl Nicks, Donald Penn, Demar Dotson, Jeremy Zuttah, Gabe Carimi, Ted Larsen, Jamon Meredith and Cody Wallace

Analysis: The Bucs could carry an extra lineman if it looks like Nicks will be out for an extended period.

Defensive line (10): Gerald McCoy, Akeem Spence, Adrian Clayborn, Daniel Te’o-Nesheim, Da’Quan Bowers, Gary Gibson, Trevor Scott, William Gholston, Steven Means and Derek Landri

Analysis: The last few spots are very competitive and the Bucs could look to bring in a defensive tackle from the waiver wire.

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

This position is pretty clear-cut unless the Bucs bring in someone off waivers.

Defensive backs (9): Darrelle Revis, Johnthan Banks, Dashon Goldson, Mark Barron, Leonard Johnson, Danny Gorrer, Michael Adams, Rashaan Melvin and Ahmad Black.

Analysis: Melvin is very much on the bubble.

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

Analysis: Kicker Lawrence Tynes still is recovering from a staph infection and could end up on injured reserve.
TAMPA, Fla. -- Most of the starters aren’t expected to play in Thursday night’s game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Washington Redskins. But there still are plenty of important decisions that could be impacted by what happens in this game.

Let’s take a look at three things to keep an eye on for the Bucs:

1. The backup running backs. Brian Leonard, Mike James and Peyton Hillis all have looked good in the preseason. They’re all competing to be the top backup to Doug Martin, but I don’t think anyone has pulled away from the pack just yet. This game could be a final opportunity to do that. The Bucs also face a tough decision on if they want to keep three or four running backs. If they go with three, Hillis could be the odd man out.

2. The offensive line. The starters won’t play, but the Bucs still need to set the tone for better pass protection. In the first three preseason games, the Bucs have allowed 12 sacks. Guard Carl Nicks hasn’t played at all in the preseason, and guard Davin Joseph appeared in only one game. You can put some of the blame for the offensive line’s play on the absence of Nicks and Joseph. But, still, the linemen have to do a better job in pass protection.

3. Mike Glennon. The rookie will get the start at quarterback as starter Josh Freeman gets ready for the regular season. Glennon has played extensively this preseason and has shown some good things at times. But he also has completed only 48 percent of his passes. He needs to show he can be more accurate. The Bucs also need to decide if they want to go with just Freeman and Glennon on the roster or if they want to keep veteran Dan Orlovsky around as insurance.

Around the NFC South

August, 28, 2013
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Let's take our morning run through some news and notes from around the division:

ATLANTA FALCONS

Jay Adams writes that wide receiver Darius Johnson is looking forward to extended playing time in the preseason finale. Johnson had a big second half against the Titans, and a strong showing in the preseason finale could earn him a roster spot.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Joesph Person writes that the Panthers have been talking to the agent for defensive end Greg Hardy about a new contract. Hardy is headed into the final year of his deal, and it would make sense to lock him up before he has a chance to drive up his price tag even more.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Bradley Handwerger projects the 53-man roster and doesn’t have linebacker Jonathan Vilma on it. Instead, Handwerger speculates that Vilma will end up on injured reserve. Vilma is coming off knee surgery, so that remains a possibility. Even if Vilma can get healthy, I’m not sure his role will be all that significant.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Gil Arcia writes that the Bucs face a tough decision on who will be the backup for running back Doug Martin. But that’s a good problem to have. Brian Leonard, Mike James and Peyton Hillis all have looked good in the preseason.

All throughout the preseason, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been waiting for quarterback Josh Freeman and the first-team offense to get into a rhythm.

They’re still waiting.

Freeman, who played deep into the third quarter, was far from effective Saturday night in his longest stint of the preseason. He completed 6 of 16 passes for 59 yards in the Bucs' 17-16 victory against the Miami Dolphins.

Sacks, penalties, dropped passes, a lost fumble and inaccurate throws were the story for Freeman and the first unit. The only touchdown by the first team came on a Brian Leonard run after the special teams gave the Bucs good field position when a punt bounced off a Miami blocker.

I never like to read too much into what happens. But I think the Bucs should be concerned about Freeman and the offense.

Some other quick observations on the Bucs:
  • Despite Freeman's struggles, I don't think it's time to declare a quarterback controversy in Tampa Bay just yet. Rookie backup Mike Glennon did lead the Bucs to the game-winning touchdown after safety Sean Baker handed them good field position with a long return of a fumble recovery. But Glennon didn't have a good night overall.
  • The punt team came up with two turnovers that were converted into 10 points. Adam Hayward recovered two Miami fumbles.
  • The unsung story of the night was defensive end Trevor Scott, who recently was signed by the Bucs. Scott was in on three sacks. The Bucs haven’t been thrilled with the development of Da’Quan Bowers, and Scott could end up moving ahead of him.
  • Guard Davin Joseph, who is coming off a major knee injury, made his first appearance of the preseason. Gabe Carimi started at the other guard position in place of Carl Nicks, who is out with a staph infection.
  • Running back Doug Martin sat out, and that gave Leonard more playing time. Leonard continued to look good. He could end up as the top backup to Martin. The Bucs brought in veteran Peyton Hillis, but Leonard and rookie Mike James appear to be ahead of Hillis on the depth chart.
  • Kicker Rian Lindell, who was signed this week, made a 38-yard field goal.
  • Rookie defensive tackle Akeem Spence appears to have locked up a starting spot. He had several tackles for loss against the run.
  • Tampa Bay’s first-team defense gave up some yardage but tightened up twice and made the Dolphins settle for two field goals.

Around the NFC South

August, 20, 2013
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Time to catch up on some news and notes from around the division:

ATLANTA FALCONS

The Falcons are game planning for their exhibition with Tennessee. That’s something the team didn’t do for the first two preseason games. The starters are likely to get extended playing time. Last year, the starters played into the third quarter of the third preseason game and I think you can expect a similar scenario this time around.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Jon Beason has returned to practice and is making the transition from middle linebacker to the weak side. But coach Ron Rivera said the Panthers want to be creative in how they use Beason. His versatility could allow the Panthers to mix things up at linebacker and keep offenses off balance.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

It appears as if wide receiver Marques Colston is getting healthy. He practiced for the first time since Aug. 8.

Although the release of Seneca Wallace means that Luke McCown is the backup quarterback, McCown said he still feels like he has more to prove. McCown has had a strong preseason and he’s a veteran. The Saints are better off at backup quarterback than they have been in a long time.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Ira Kaufman writes that backup running backs Mike James, Brian Leonard and Peyton Hillis all have been impressive in the preseason. The Bucs are going to face a big decision here because it’s likely they’ll only keep two of those three behind starter Doug Martin. Hillis is the most experienced of the bunch, but he could be hurt by the fact that he doesn’t play special teams.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers pushed Tom Brady around in a joint practice Wednesday. On Friday night, the New England quarterback hit back, carving up Tampa Bay’s first-team defense in a 25-21 New England win.

Brady had to leave Wednesday’s practice when Tampa Bay defensive end Adrian Clayborn pushed New England tackle Nate Solder into Brady’s knee. Brady had to leave practice, but it quickly was discovered that no damage was done.

Solder and the rest of New England’s offensive line protected Brady to a near-perfect night. At one point, New England had run 23 offensive plays while the Bucs had run only three. Brady finished 11-of-12 for 107 yards and one touchdown before leaving at the end of the first quarter.

Granted, the Bucs were without cornerback Darrelle Revis. But this defense has to improve dramatically for Tampa Bay to have a chance when these teams meet again in the third week of the regular season.

Some other quick observations on the Bucs:
  • As I mentioned above, Brady was well protected. That’s not good news for a Tampa Bay defense that wasn’t able to generate anything close to a pass rush. Coach Greg Schiano has been challenging Da’Quan Bowers to be an every-down player, and the Bucs have some other good young players on the defensive line. But the pass rush has to improve by the start of the regular season if Tampa Bay’s defense is going to be any good.
  • Speaking of pass rushes, the Patriots had one. They sacked Josh Freeman three times before he left the game at the end of the first quarter. Freeman completed 2-of-3 passes for 8 yards. Freeman didn’t have much of a chance, but he could have avoided the second sack if he hadn’t held on to the ball so long. Freeman never got into any sort of rhythm as the Bucs failed to move the ball while he was in the game.
  • Rookie Mike Glennon took over when Freeman left the game, and he had a little more success. Glennon completed 12-of-22 passes for 121 yards and two touchdowns, but he also had an interception returned for a touchdown in the third quarter.
  • Running back Doug Martin got banged up in the first quarter and left the game with an unspecified injury. Rookie Mike James looked good at times after replacing Martin. The Bucs brought in veteran Peyton Hillis as insurance, and he showed he may have something left, meaning the Bucs have some quality depth in the backfield.
TAMPA, Fla. -- There’s a perception out there that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers can’t wait to let quarterback Josh Freeman walk away after this season.

Trace it to coach Greg Schiano’s hesitance to firmly endorse Freeman at the end of last season or chalk it up to the quarterback’s lack of consistency or look at the fact that the Bucs are letting Freeman go into the last year of his contract without an extension. But nothing could be further from the truth.

“I have a lot of confidence in Josh," general manager Mark Dominik said. “I know Coach has a lot of confidence. That position is the position in the National Football League. Win or lose, regardless of if you get too much blame or not enough kudos when you do win and people take it for granted, the more time you have to evaluate that player at that position, the more of a chance you have to be correct. I think Josh is looking at it with a confidence and saying he believes in himself and there were some parts of last year he wasn’t happy with, but there were good parts last year. We’ve talked to Josh and his agent, and we feel like we’re at a good spot. Everybody feels comfortable with where we’re at."

Even though they used a third-round draft pick on Mike Glennon, the Bucs desperately want Freeman to succeed. If he plays well, that probably means the team will be in the playoffs for the first time since the 2007 season. That would give Dominik and Schiano job security.

It also would give Freeman job security, because the Bucs probably would turn around and reward him with a big contract before free agency starts. That would fit the team’s plan of building from within. (If things go as expected, 18 of Tampa Bay’s 22 starters this year will have come through the draft, off the practice squad or through free agency.)

But it will all come down to Freeman’s performance. He needs to avoid slumps like the three-game stretch late last season when he threw 10 interceptions. He needs to play the way he did when the Bucs got off to a 6-4 start.

“He knows it," Dominik said. “We know it. But I think the thing that’s kind of been lost is some of the great things he did last year. Some of the big games where he played really well and showed he can do it. I think what he’s doing in camp right now is playing really smart with the football. You can’t underestimate the second year in a system. Continuity is so important. If you keep it together, that gives you a chance to have more success."

If Freeman plays well the Bucs will wrap him up, and they’ll have continuity at quarterback. If consistency continues to be an issue, the Bucs will have to start from scratch next year and Freeman will be playing for another team.

THREE HOT ISSUES

[+] EnlargeDashon Goldson
Mike Carlson/AP PhotoVeteran Dashon Goldson, who was signed as a free agent this offseason, should provide some depth at safety for the Bucs.
1. Secondary matters. The Bucs poured a ton of resources into their secondary in the offseason. They traded for cornerback Darrelle Revis, signed safety Dashon Goldson as a free agent and used a second-round draft pick on cornerback Johnthan Banks. Those are the types of things you have to do when you’re coming off a season in which your pass defense ranked last in the league.

That should be enough to bring about some dramatic changes. All indications are that Revis is healthy and, if he is, he’s the best cornerback in the league. Banks could start immediately and, if he doesn’t, will be the third cornerback. Goldson’s arrival at free safety means strong safety Mark Barron, last year’s top draft pick, should be able to concentrate on playing more in the box -- where he’s at his best.

The Bucs believe in building from within. But they went outside to patch up the team’s biggest weakness.

2. The pass rush. This goes hand in hand with the secondary. If the defensive backfield really is going to shine, it’s going to need some help from the pass rush.

The Bucs let defensive end Michael Bennett, last year’s leading sacker, walk away in free agency. But that was a calculated move. The Bucs believed Bennett already had hit his full upside. But the team thinks third-year pros Da’Quan Bowers and Adrian Clayborn are ready to blossom to heights that Bennett never approached.

That’s a leap of faith, because Clayborn is coming off a knee injury and Bowers wasn’t a full-time player in his first two seasons. However, if the Bucs are right about Bowers and Clayborn, the pass defense is going to rank a lot better than No. 32 in the league.

3. The tight ends have to come through. The Bucs have done a nice job of surrounding Freeman with plenty of talent at running back, receiver and offensive line. But at tight end, the cupboard looks close to bare. The team didn’t re-sign last year’s starter, Dallas Clark. Luke Stocker, who seemed to have the inside track to the starting job, has missed a lot of camp with a calf injury.

But the Bucs are quietly optimistic about Tom Crabtree, whom they brought in from Green Bay. The Bucs aren’t going to throw to their tight ends as much as Atlanta and New Orleans do, but they need Stocker or Crabtree to be a threat in the passing game to take some coverage away from the wide receivers.

REASON FOR OPTIMISM

[+] EnlargeDoug Martin
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsThe Bucs have done well stockpiling young talent such as running back Doug Martin.
The team has a surprising amount of individual talent. Revis, Goldson, guard Carl Nicks, guard Davin Joseph, defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, running back Doug Martin and receiver Vincent Jackson have been to the Pro Bowl. Plus, the Bucs have plenty of other young talent -- guys like Freeman, Barron, linebackers Lavonte David and Mason Foster, and receiver Mike Williams.

Tampa Bay has been rebuilding ever since coach Jon Gruden was fired following the 2008 season. There’s no such thing as a finished product, because you’re always looking to upgrade your roster. But the Bucs no longer are in rebuilding mode.

They have enough talent to get to the playoffs.

REASON FOR PESSIMISM

Schiano still is somewhat new to the NFL and to his players. His hard-edged approach drew all sorts of attention last year, and he has said he’s relaxing things a bit now that he has changed the culture of the locker room.

But this team isn’t completely past the culture shock that came with Schiano. That’s why it’s critical for the Bucs to get off to a fast start. If they do, the players will fully embrace Schiano’s ways.

If the Bucs start poorly, players won’t buy into Schiano and things could fall apart in a hurry.

OBSERVATION DECK

  • The Bucs are ecstatic with what they’ve seen from McCoy this offseason. He earned a Pro Bowl trip last year, and that seems to have taken his motivation to another level. He worked out harder than ever and came to camp about 10 pounds lighter than last season. He’s emerging as a leader of the defense, and the Bucs think he can become one of the league’s most dominant interior linemen.
  • When the Bucs brought in Gabe Carimi, some fans thought he might end up starting ahead of Demar Dotson at right tackle. That’s not going to happen. Carimi is being looked at as an insurance policy behind Dotson and Penn at left tackle. Dotson is having one of the best camps of any Tampa Bay player, and the Bucs believe he’s only starting to scratch the surface of his potential.
  • Martin had a phenomenal rookie season, but I’m expecting him to be even better this year. Martin rushed for 1,454 yards with Joseph missing the entire season and Nicks missing half of it. With the two guards back, Martin should be an even better runner. Martin also caught 49 passes as a rookie, and I can see that number going up because the Bucs have been throwing to him a lot in camp.
  • The Bucs brought in veteran Peyton Hillis as insurance behind Martin. But Hillis, who hasn’t done much the past two seasons, isn’t a lock to make the roster. Veteran Brian Leonard looked good in the preseason opener, and the Bucs believe sixth-round draft pick Mike James has the potential to be an all-around back.
  • Strongside linebacker was expected to be one of the more competitive spots in camp. But veteran Dekoda Watson has taken the mystery out of that battle. He started off ahead of free-agent pickup Jonathan Casillas and has widened the gap with a strong performance in camp.
  • Kevin Ogletree appears to have the lead over Tiquan Underwood and Chris Owusu in the competition for the third receiver spot. But Underwood and Owusu have had strong showings that could earn them some playing time. Without a lot of certainty at tight end, the Bucs could resort to some four-receiver sets.
  • The addition of veteran Spencer Larsen made me wonder if fullback Erik Lorig's job was in jeopardy. But that’s not the case. Lorig is safe as the starter. The Bucs were very impressed with Larsen’s workout and view him as a quality backup and special-teams player.

Film of the NFC South chat

August, 10, 2013
8/10/13
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Let's take a look at some team-by-team highlights from Friday's NFC South chat:

ATLANTA FALCONS

Van (Georgia): Pat, do you see the Falcons increasing their search for a veteran backup QB given how Dominique Davis still struggled a bit last night?

Pat Yasinskas: Think they'll take another long look at DD next week. If he doesn't perform better, then I see them bringing in a veteran once teams start making roster cuts.

Luis (Albuquerque): Hey Pat, Liked what I saw from Matt Ryan and Co. Want to see the line get more of a push on 3rd and short, but a few more games to get that fixed. My concern is still Mobile QB's. Josh Johnson put on a clinic with his legs, continuing drives, long gainers. Any concern from you?

PY: Yep, the mobile QB thing was what I led my post with last night. They've got to get that fixed because they face several mobile QBs on this year's schedule.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Brent S (Raleigh, NC): What have you heard/seen about Shulas offense? Will it be similar to Chuds? Hopefully they will not run the read option to much.

PY: Think it will be similar to what they did the last eight games or so of last season. Think there will be less read option.

AP (Charlotte): Which is more likely in Carolina? Armanti Edwards finally putting it together with the lights on this year or David Gettis recreating his rookie success?

PY: Shocked I'm saying this, but I'll go with Edwards.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

ramon (mexico city): yeah sure. i have one...why are my saints front office not looking for an outside verteran option at QB..Seneca Wallace? Luke McCown? I mean, god forbid but if Brees goes down...i see neither of them carrying the complex Peyton offense.

PY: They went with Chase Daniel as backup the last few years. McCown and Wallace are better than Daniel ever was.

Daniel (Nashville): How did Hicks look when you were in NOLA for training camp? Do you think he will end up benefiting the most with Coleman out for the year?

PY: Thought Hicks looked very good. Saw him make some nice plays against the run and swatted down a couple of passes. I think he'll start in Coleman's place.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Darin (Louisville, Ky): Hey Pat. If Hillis can stay healthy, u think the Bucs could have the best RB tandom in the division?

PY: Not sure they'd be looking to use Hillis in tandem. More like insurance. They want Martin to be a work horse.

David (Raleigh): Mike Glennon looked pretty decent last night for the Bucs. Will he start at some point this year?

PY: Didn't think he looked good enough that we'd be getting this question already. Freeman would have to really bomb for Glennon to start this year.

Here’s the complete transcript of Friday’s NFC South chat.

Observations on the Buccaneers

August, 8, 2013
8/08/13
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TAMPA, Fla. -- When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers get back to work Saturday, the special teams meeting isn’t going to be much fun.

Three bad plays on special teams in the second quarter handed Baltimore 17 points as the Ravens defeated the Bucs 44-16 in the preseason opener for both teams on Thursday night at Raymond James Stadium.

The chaotic string started when Chris Owusu failed to catch a punt and the Ravens recovered at Tampa Bay’s 20-yard line with 10:42 left in the second quarter. One play later, the Ravens scored a touchdown to take a 7-6 lead.

The woes on special teams continued when Moe Lee returned a kickoff 58 yards and kicker Derek Dimke was flagged for making a horse-collar tackle. That led to a Baltimore field goal.

But the worst was yet to come. With 13 seconds left in the first half Chas Henry had a punt blocked and the Ravens recovered it for a touchdown to take a 24-13 lead into halftime.

Some other observations on the Bucs:
  • There is no quarterback controversy. Josh Freeman led the Bucs to one field goal in limited action and made no major mistakes. Mike Glennon might have gotten the hopes up of some fans when his first NFL pass (to Tom Crabtree) went for 61 yards. But Glennon wasn’t as effective the rest of the way. He completed 11 of 23 passes for 169 yards and one interception. Glennon is not a threat to unseat Freeman as the starter. In fact, Glennon needs to play better than he did to hold off veteran Dan Orlovsky for the backup job.
  • Owusu, who has been performing well in camp, had a tough night. In addition to the muffed punt, he also dropped a pass as a receiver and later left the game with an ankle injury.
  • Backup running back Brian Leonard had a nice 13-yard run in the first quarter. He appears to be ahead of veteran Peyton Hillis on the depth chart. Hillis had to leave the game with a knee injury.
  • Second-year linebacker Lavonte David had a sack on Baltimore’s first drive. David had a strong rookie year, but he can make himself into a Pro Bowl player if he can produce more big plays.
  • Cornerback Danny Gorrer made a nice play and came up with a first-quarter interception. But Gorrer had to leave the game with a groin injury.

Around the NFC South

July, 25, 2013
7/25/13
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FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers begin practicing Thursday and the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers report to training camp. That means there’s a lot going on around the division. Let’s take a look:

ATLANTA FALCONS

D. Orlando Ledbetter reports that the contract signed by first-round pick Desmond Trufant is a four-year deal worth $8.16 million and includes a $4.31 million signing bonus.

Running back Steven Jackson said he left money on the table with the St. Louis Rams to join the Falcons because he thinks Atlanta has a chance at a Super Bowl. You can’t blame Jackson for that. He played on plenty of mediocre teams in St. Louis and it’s only natural he wants to be part of a winner.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

The status of running back Jonathan Stewart, who had surgery on both ankles in the offseason, won’t be determined until he arrives at camp and has an extensive physical. It’s possible Stewart could be held out of the start of camp or limited in his participation. The Panthers are optimistic linebacker Jon Beason, who also is coming back from injury, will be ready for the start of camp.

Although the Panthers have used the combination of black jerseys, black pants and blue socks just once in franchise history, that combination won NFL.com’s “Greatest Uniform in NFL History’’ contest. Equipment manager Jackie Miles told Scott Fowler the team plans to wear that combination at least five times this year.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Mike Triplett has an overview of the situation at offensive tackle. Zach Strief appears set at right tackle, but the job at left tackle is wide open. Veterans Charles Brown and Jason Smith will compete with rookie Terron Armstead. There does not appear to be a clear-cut favorite.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

General manager Mark Dominik described wide receiver Mike Williams as a “football junkie." That’s a big part of the reason the Bucs went ahead and gave Williams a six-year, $40.5 million contract. Coach Greg Schiano likes guys who are all about football and that’s why the Bucs were willing to invest in Williams.

Schiano said newly signed running back Peyton Hillis will also get some practice time at fullback. The Bucs can use a backup behind Erik Lorig.
On the eve of training camp, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have added some veteran insurance behind running back Doug Martin.

Hillis
Hillis
The team agreed to contract terms with Peyton Hillis after working him out at One Buccaneer Place.

Hillis has some wear and tear on his body. But, if he’s healthy, he gives the Bucs a solid runner behind Martin. That was an area of concern because it remains to be seen if rookie Mike James will be much of a factor and the only other option was Brian Leonard, who may be best suited as a third-down back.

At one time, Hillis appeared to be emerging as one of the league’s top running backs. In 2010, he rushed for 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns and caught 61 passes for 477 yards and two touchdowns. But injuries have derailed his career since then.

In 2011, Hillis ran for 587 yards and three touchdowns for the Browns. He went to Kansas City last season and rushed for 309 yards and one touchdown.
TAMPA, Fla. -- Add another name to the list of veterans who worked out for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Tuesday.

Defensive tackle Tommie Harris worked out for the club, according to a league source.

Harris did not play in 2012. He was with San Diego in 2011 and spent seven seasons before that with Chicago.

As previously reported, the Bucs also worked out running back Peyton Hillis and tight end Visanthe Shiancoe.

The Bucs appear ready to start rookie Akeem Spence next to Gerald McCoy at defensive tackle. But Harris could bring some much-needed depth to the middle of the defensive line.
I've been wondering if the Tampa Bay Buccaneers really were content with their situation at tight end.

It now appears they might still be looking for answers. Veteran tight end Visanthe Shiancoe will work out for the Bucs today, according to National Football Post.

The Bucs did not re-sign last year’s starter, Dallas Clark, and it had been looking like they would go to camp with Luke Stocker and Tom Crabtree as the top two tight ends. But Shiancoe -- who has played for the Giants, Vikings and Patriots -- could bring some experience to the position.

National Football Post also reports that the Bucs will work out veteran running back Peyton Hillis. That makes a lot of sense because the Bucs could use some more depth behind Doug Martin.

Buccaneers' win by the numbers

October, 4, 2011
10/04/11
10:21
AM ET
With some help from ESPN Stats & Information and Dan Berglund of Tampa Bay’s media relations department, let’s take a look at some notes on the Buccaneers 24-17 victory against Indianapolis on “Monday Night Football."
  • Tampa Bay is on a three-game winning streak. This marks the first time the Bucs have won three straight since coach Raheem Morris took over.
  • LeGarrette Blount rushed for 127 yards. That’s his first 100-yard game of the season and the fifth of his career.
  • Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman now has nine career game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime, including seven since the start of the 2010 season. That ties him with Atlanta’s Matt Ryan for the league lead in that span.
  • Blount’s rushing yards looked exactly like what you would want from a power back who can wear down a defense. Blount had 17 yards in the first quarter and 15 in the second. In the third quarter, he had 33. In the fourth, he had 62.
  • Of those 62 fourth-quarter yards by Blount, 24 came after contact by defenders. For the season, Blount ranks third in the league in average yards after contact in the fourth quarter. Blount is averaging 2.7 yards after contact in the fourth quarter. Peyton Hillis (3.7) leads and Adrian Peterson (2.8) is second.
  • The Bucs had success when sending five or more rushers at Indianapolis quarterback Curtis Painter. In those situations, he completed only two of 11 attempts for 26 yards. Six of those incompletions were underthrown.
  • The Bucs trailed by 10 points before rallying. That marked the ninth time Tampa Bay has rallied from a double-digit deficit since 2008. That’s the most in the NFL during that span. Houston, Indianapolis and Chicago are tied for second with six.
  • The Bucs had 466 yards of total offense. That’s the most in franchise history for a home game.
  • Freeman is only four games into his second full season as the starting quarterback, but he already has moved into sixth place in Tampa Bay history with 6,275 passing yards. Vinny Testaverde has the lead with 14,820.
  • The Bucs recorded four sacks and held the opposing team to fewer than 100 rushing yards for the second straight week. Anybody else think Tampa Bay’s young defensive line is starting to come together?
  • The Bucs didn’t commit a turnover against the Colts. Since 2002, Tampa Bay is 23-4 in games in which it did not have a turnover.

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