NFC South: Sammie Stroughter

Reviewing NFC South free agents

March, 7, 2013
3/07/13
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We’ve shown you the lists of potential NFC South free agents before. But let’s do it again because there have been some minor moves and the free-agency period is getting ready to start Tuesday.

Here’s the list of potential free agents for all four NFC South teams:

Atlanta Falcons. Tony Gonzalez, Brent Grimes, Sam Baker, William Moore, Will Svitek, Mike Cox, Todd McClure, Luke McCown, Christopher Owens, Mike Peterson, Garrett Reynolds, Lawrence Sidbury and Vance Walker all can become unrestricted free agents. Michael Palmer can become a restricted free agent.

Carolina Panthers. The potential unrestricted free agents are Derek Anderson, Antwan Applewhite, Gary Barnidge, Dwan Edwards, Ben Hartsock, Sherrod Martin, Captain Munnerlyn, Louis Murphy and Mike Pollak. Richie Brockel can become an exclusive-rights free agent. Andre Neblett, Nate Ness and Jason Phillips are scheduled to become restricted free agents.

New Orleans Saints. Jermon Bushrod, Jonathan Casillas, Chase Daniel, Sedrick Ellis, Devery Henderson, Ramon Humber, Elbert Mack, Turk McBride, Will Robinson, Courtney Roby and Scott Shanle can become unrestricted free agents. Brian De La Puente, Justin Drescher, Junior Galette and Chris Ivory are scheduled to become restricted free agents. Eric Olsen and Michael Higgins can become exclusive-rights free agents.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Ronde Barber, Dallas Clark, Michael Bennett, E.J. Biggers, Andrew Economos, Roy Miller, Roscoe Parrish, Sammie Stroughter and Jeremy Trueblood can become unrestricted free agents. LeGarrette Blount, Jacob Cutrera, Corvey Irvin and Daniel Te’o-Nesheim are scheduled to become restricted free agents.

Looking at Bucs' offensive snaps

February, 12, 2013
2/12/13
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When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed Vincent Jackson to a five-year, $55 million contract last offseason, it was clear they expected him to earn the money.

Jackson did that by instantly becoming a true No. 1 wide receiver. But he also put in plenty of time. Jackson was on the field for 93.04 percent of Tampa Bay’s 1,049 offensive plays.

The only other wide receivers with higher playing-time percentages in 2012 were Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald (97.91 percent), Detroit’s Calvin Johnson (96 percent) and Atlanta’s Roddy White (93.21).

Here’s a look at the breakdown of playing-time percentage for the rest of Tampa Bay’s offense:

Looking at Tampa Bay's free agents

February, 11, 2013
2/11/13
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Let’s finish our look at the potential NFC South free agents with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Safety Ronde Barber, tight end Dallas Clark, defensive end Michael Bennett, cornerback E.J. Biggers, long-snapper Andrew Economos, linebacker Geno Hayes, defensive tackle Roy Miller, receiver/return man Roscoe Parrish, receiver Sammie Stroughter and tackle Jeremy Trueblood can become unrestricted free agents. Running back LeGarrette Blount, linebacker Jacob Cutrera, defensive tackle Corvey Irvin and defensive end Daniel Te'o-Nesheim can become restricted free agents.

The good news is the Bucs have enough salary-cap room to bring back any of their own free agents that they want and there likely are several they want to keep.

Let’s start with Barber. He switched from cornerback to safety last season and continued to play at a relatively high level. The common assumption is that the Bucs want Barber back for another season. But it’s unknown at this point if Barber wants to continue playing. If he decides to retire, he needs to let the Bucs know in the next few weeks so they can begin moving in a different direction.

Bennett might be the key player on Tampa Bay’s list of free agents. In his fourth season, Bennett emerged as a decent pass-rusher (nine sacks), despite not having the injured Adrian Clayborn opposite him for most of the season. Tampa Bay has the nucleus for what could become a very good defensive line and that means it is important to re-sign Bennett and Miller.

Clark came in as a free agent last season and gave the team some help at tight end. But he wasn’t the player he was in his prime in Indianapolis and I could see the Bucs looking to bring in another tight end.

Although the Bucs are expected to overhaul the cornerback position, Biggers is one guy they may keep. In an ideal world, Biggers isn’t a guy the Bucs want in a starting role. But he can be decent as a third or fourth cornerback.

Stroughter and Trueblood are underachievers who are likely to walk as free agents.

Bucs, Falcons make most of injuries

December, 4, 2012
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When a team’s season goes bad, one common response is to point to injuries.

Sometimes that holds merit and sometimes it doesn’t. We don’t have to look any further than the Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers to see that.

At least at the moment, the Panthers lead the division with 13 players on injured reserve. They are linebacker Jon Beason, defensive tackle Ron Edwards, cornerback Chris Gamble, center Ryan Kalil, defensive end Thomas Keiser, cornerback Nate Ness, linebacker Kenny Onatolu, receiver Kealoha Pilares, guard Mike Pollak, safety Sherrod Martin, defensive lineman Antwan Applewhite, running back Tauren Poole and tackle Lee Ziemba.

The Buccaneers are right behind them with 10 players on injured reserve. They are receiver Arrelious Benn, linebacker Quincy Black, defensive end Adrian Clayborn, safety Cody Grimm, guard Davin Joseph, guard Carl Nicks, tight end Danny Noble, receiver Sammie Stroughter, tackle Jeremy Trueblood and offensive lineman Desmond Wynn.

Beason, Edwards, Gamble and Kalil were starters and Pilares was the kick returner. No doubt those injuries have hurt the Panthers.

But, guess what? Tampa Bay’s injury situation is virtually the same. Black, Clayborn, Joseph and Nicks were starters and Benn was returning kicks before he went down.

The difference is Tampa Bay has used its next-man-up philosophy, especially on the offensive line, and fared pretty well. The Panthers are 3-9 and I’ve got a hunch their record might be pretty close to the same even if all the injured guys were healthy.

Injuries matter but they’re not a cover-it-all excuse. We can look to the other two NFC South teams for proof of that. The Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints each have eight players on injured reserve.

Atlanta’s injured players are fullback Bradie Ewing, tight end Tommy Gallarda, receiver Kerry Meier, tight end Adam Nissley, guard Garrett Reynolds, safety Shann Schillinger and tackle Will Svitek.

New Orleans’ injured reserve list includes linebacker Chris Chamberlain, receiver Chris Givens, tackle Bryce Harris, tackle Marcel Jones, defensive end Greg Romeus, guard Andrew Tiller, receiver Nick Toon and tackle Fenuki Tupou.

Grimes was a starter for the Falcons and Ewing might have been. Reynolds was starting up until his injury, but I think there’s a chance the Falcons still might have put rookie Peter Konz into the lineup. Chamberlain might have been a full-time starter for the Saints, but none of the rest of their injured guys would have been key players.

You could make a case the Falcons were hit harder than the Saints by injuries. But the Falcons are 11-1 and the Saints are 5-7.

Bucs capitalize on veteran benefit

September, 27, 2012
9/27/12
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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are a team that prides itself on building through the draft. But the Bucs stepped out of character a bit this week by signing veterans Roscoe Parrish and Jeff Charleston.

But these moves were exceptions and came due to necessity. The Bucs needed to add defensive end depth after losing Adrian Clayborn to a season-ending injury, so they went out and signed Charleston. Sammie Stroughter, who was supposed to be the punt returner, got hurt. The Bucs then signed Jordan Shipley, but he had trouble fielding punts and the Bucs released him and went out and signed Parrish.

What’s important to note here is that the Bucs didn’t panic and pay big money for short-term fill-ins. In fact, they invested as little as possible on Parrish and Charleston.

The Bucs took advantage of the veteran minimum salary benefit when signing both players to identical contracts. Officially, Parrish and Charleston signed one-year contracts worth $700,000 and no signing bonus. But subtract the first three game checks and Parrish and Charleston each will earn $576,470 over the rest of the season.

But the Bucs won’t be charged the full amount toward the salary cap. The veteran minimum benefit is designed to help keep veteran players in the league, by making the affordable under the salary cap and it allows their cap figure to be less than their actual salary.

Charleston and Parrish each will count only $444,705 toward this year’s cap.

That leaves the Bucs with $12.8 million (sixth most in the NFL) for this year. They still may have to make more moves this year. But by signing veterans like Charleston and Parrish, they’ve kept a lot of cap room available. That’s significant because the Bucs can carry some of that space over to next year and they already have a lot of money committed toward the 2013 cap.

Carolina is the only other NFC South team with a chance to carry over much money to next year’s cap. The Panthers currently are $5.25 million under this year’s cap. New Orleans is $3.2 million under and Atlanta is $1.15 million under.

Around the NFC South

September, 27, 2012
9/27/12
9:17
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Time for a team-by-team look at the Thursday morning headlines from around the division:

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Dory LeBlanc writes that the Tampa Bay front four is looking for a performance similar to what it had against Dallas when it plays Washington this week. The Bucs did a good job putting pressure on Tony Romo, but they’re going to face a different style quarterback in Robert Griffin III. He’s a big-time running threat and stopping him won’t be easy, especially after losing defensive end Adrian Clayborn to a season-ending injury.

The Bucs will turn to veteran Roscoe Parrish as their third punt returner after Sammie Stroughter was injured and replacement Jordan Shipley struggled to field punts. Parrish had a lengthy and successful run in Buffalo. At this stage of his career, he might not be dynamic as he once was. But he should at least be able to field punts.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

With the team off to an 0-3 start, interim coach Aaron Kromer acknowledged that maybe the Saints were impacted by all the offseason distractions and didn’t prepare properly. I’m starting to think there’s some truth in that. But it’s still a bit surprising because this is a veteran team and coaching staff that should have simply been able to follow the system built by suspended coach Sean Payton.

As the regular NFL officials head back to work, New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees refused to blame the replacement officials for the team’s slow start. Brees has been critical of the replacement officials, but said they were placed in a tough spot. I don’t think the whole saga was good for anyone, but I don’t think any calls by the replacement officials cost the Saints victories. The team was responsible for creating its own problems.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Former Carolina defensive tackle Terrell McClain has landed with New England. A third-round pick in 2011, McClain got lots of playing time as a rookie. But, in a mysterious move, McClain was cut in the preseason. I strongly suspect something was going on behind the scenes and the move was about more than football ability. The guy has some potential and New England coach Bill Belichick has had some success with reclamation projects in the past.

Linebacker Thomas Davis said the Panthers still believe they can make good on center Ryan Kalil’s promise of a Super Bowl championship. That may sound a little shaky after a 1-2 start. Carolina still has a lot of talent, but the Panthers better start turning things around soon if they’re even going to have a chance at the playoffs.

The Panthers are turning back to Kealoha Pilares as their main kickoff returner. That’s a good move because rookie Joe Adams had some issues with fumbles. Adams still has plenty of upside, but I think a little time on the sideline and some more work in practice might be the best thing for him at the moment.

ATLANTA FALCONS

Former Tampa Bay safety and current Fox analyst John Lynch says Atlanta safeties William Moore and Thomas DeCoud have gone from being “just guys’’ to taking their play to the next level. He’s right. Moore and DeCoud are off to great starts under new coordinator Mike Nolan. If they continue on their current pace, both could be candidates for the Pro Bowl.

Fullback Lousaka Polite missed Wednesday’s practice with a hamstring injury. This injury is worth keeping an eye on because the Falcons figure to test a Carolina run defense that hasn’t been very good on Sunday. If Polite is out, the Falcons likely will have to use running back Jason Snelling as a blocker in some situations.

More shuffling at WR for Buccaneers

September, 21, 2012
9/21/12
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The revolving door at wide receiver continues for the Buccaneers.

The team just announced it has placed receiver Sammie Stroughter on injured reserve and signed receiver Chris Owusu.

That comes in a week in which the team signed receivers Tiquan Underwood and Jordan Shipley and released Preston Parker. Stroughter was used as a backup receiver and punt returner in the first two games, but suffered a foot injury.

Owusu comes from San Diego’s practice squad after spending the preseason with San Francisco. Owusu was an undrafted free agent out of Stanford this year.

The Bucs are set with Mike Williams and Vincent Jackson as their starters and are hoping Arrelious Benn can stay healthy and be the third receiver, but the Bucs need some of the new guys to step up and provide depth.

Buccaneers shuffling wide receivers

September, 20, 2012
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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers continue to fiddle with their wide receiver corps.

The team just announced it has re-signed Tiquan Underwood and released Preston Parker.

That comes on the heels of the Bucs signing Jordan Shipley. Coach Greg Schiano has indicated that Sammie Stroughter’s foot injury could keep the receiver out for a substantial period.

With Underwood and Shipley, the Bucs appear to be attempting to beef up their depth behind Vincent Jackson, Mike Williams and Arrelious Benn.

Underwood, who played for Schiano at Rutgers, was with the Bucs in the preseason and gave a strong showing. Many were surprised when he was released. Underwood showed some big-play capability and the Bucs could use some of that from someone other than Jackson.

NFC South evening update

September, 19, 2012
9/19/12
6:43
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Time for a look at the Wednesday afternoon headlines from around the NFL.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Let’s start this one off with a fantasy-football alert. Carolina running back Jonathan Stewart could miss Thursday night’s game due to a toe injury. Stewart hasn’t practiced all week. If he can’t play, expect more carries for DeAngelo Williams and fullback Mike Tolbert also could get some time at tailback.

The Panthers may be catching a bit of a break because the Giants are banged up. The Giants said running back Ahmad Bradshaw, receiver Domenik Hixon and tackle David Diehl will not play in Thursday night’s game due to injuries. Andre Brown is expected to take over most of Bradshaw’s duties.

ATLANTA FALCONS

Running back Michael Turner apologized to ownership, coaches and fans for being charged with DUI. Turner said he expects to play Sunday against the Chargers, the team he began his career with. Turner could face discipline at some point, but I think that’s down the road, after his case moves through the legal system.

Coach Mike Smith is pleased with what he’s seen from left tackle Sam Baker so far this season. While fans were spending the offseason screaming for Baker to be released, the Falcons stood by him, saying they believe he’s a competent player when healthy. So far, he’s been healthy, so maybe the Falcons knew what they were talking about.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

The Saints are saying all the right things about their 0-2 start. They realize they’ve dug a hole, but keep pointing to how this team has dealt with adversity well in the past. That’s true. But if the Saints don’t win Sunday against Kansas City, this season could be over in a hurry.

You probably saw Drew Brees limping around a bit after hurting his ankle Sunday against Carolina. The Saints listed Brees on the injury report Wednesday, but the good news is it doesn’t sound like anything to worry about. Brees participated fully in Wednesday’s practice.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

The Giants continue to gripe about the Bucs going all out when they were in the victory formation Sunday. The Giants have every right to voice their opinions on this, but they might be wise to move on from this. They’ve got another game coming up in just over 24 hours.

A lot of people thought the Bucs signed receiver Jordan Shipley because they were concerned about an injury to Preston Parker. As it turned out, they’re more concerned about a foot injury to receiver Sammie Stroughter. Coach Greg Schiano said Stroughter’s injury could be "long term." Parker practiced fully Wednesday.

Around the NFC South

September, 5, 2012
9/05/12
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As we count down to the start of the regular season, let's take a look at the Wednesday morning headlines from around the division.

ATLANTA FALCONS

As he gets ready for Sunday’s return to Arrowhead Stadium, tight end Tony Gonzalez reflected on his 12 years in Kansas City. He talked a lot about 1998, which certainly wasn’t his best season. Gonzalez dropped 17 passes that year. That prompted him to start reading inspirational books, seeking advice from veterans and staying after practice to catch passes. The result was the drops stopped and Gonzalez has caught more passes than all but one player (Jerry Rice) in NFL history.

Speaking of Atlanta tight ends, Tommy Gallarda made the roster and is third on the depth chart behind Gonzalez and Michael Palmer. But I think you’ll see a fair amount of Gallarda. He is Atlanta’s best blocking tight end.

Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said his expectations for defensive tackle Peria Jerry were “in limbo’’ entering training camp. Jerry had struggled since suffering a knee injury early in his rookie season (2009). But Nolan said Jerry has had an impressive preseason. That should help, because Jerry is expected to start with Corey Peters out for at least the first six games of the regular season.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Special teams were a problem area last season, so the Panthers made a bunch of changes in the offseason. The results weren’t apparent in the preseason, but coach Ron Rivera said he’s confident the special teams will be better in the regular season. They better be. The Panthers made changes at kicker and punter and plan to play several starters extensively on special teams. If the performance isn’t any better, the Panthers won’t have any excuses.

Although the Panthers arrived in Florida on Tuesday night and will practice in Bradenton starting Wednesday, a team of staff members have stayed back at Bank of America Stadium. Team president Danny Morrison said those staffers are helping behind the scenes with the Democratic National Convention and will join the team in Florida on the weekend.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Mike Triplett caught up with suspended New Orleans coach Sean Payton, who is helping coach his team’s youth-league football team. Payton said he’s kept a close eye on the Saints throughout the preseason, but largely has stayed quiet on the league-imposed suspensions. Payton said he, assistant head coach Joe Vitt and general manager Mickey Loomis are in a different position than the players, because they don’t have a union to challenge the NFL. He said his ultimate goal is to get reinstated at the right time, and he’s received no indications the league would consider reducing his suspension.

The NFL Players Association is making a last-ditch effort to get a temporary restraining order that would stop suspensions for New Orleans defensive end Will Smith and two other former Saints (Scott Fujita and Anthony Hargrove) before the season opens. A similar motion previously was filed for linebacker Jonathan Vilma. The union is arguing irreparable damage will be done to the players if they’re suspended at the start of the season.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

At least according to the latest unofficial depth chart put out by the team, Preston Parker has lost his job as the No. 1 punt and kickoff returner. Sammie Stroughter is listed as the top punt returner and Michael Smith as the top kickoff returner. If the depth chart is accurate, it’s not a huge surprise. Parker has struggled with returns and the Bucs might have been forced to keep Stroughter over receiver Tiquan Underwood because they wanted to make sure they had someone dependable to field punts.

Coach Greg Schiano and co-chairman Bryan Glazer asked fans to help give the Bucs a home-field advantage at Raymond James Stadium. The team has struggled to get good attendance in recent years, and Bucs’ fans are sometimes outnumbered by those of opponents. The Bucs have repeatedly said this offseason that they want to reconnect with their fan base. They’re doing their part so far, but the next step is to win consistently.

NFC South Stock Watch

September, 4, 2012
9/04/12
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Welcome to the first 2012 edition of Stock Watch. We usually have three players falling and three rising. But, since this is the start of the season and there’s a lot to work with, we’re going to expand each category to five -- for this week only.

FALLING

Ted Larsen, guard, Buccaneers. He still may end up as the starting right guard, but the Bucs aren’t handing anything to Larsen. Although Larsen appeared to be the first guy in line when Davin Joseph went down with a season-ending knee injury, the Bucs have been bringing in guys that were released off the street for a look.

Jason Snelling, running back, Falcons. He missed part of the preseason with an injury, but that’s only a small part of why Snelling’s stock is falling. The bigger factor is the Falcons are very serious about using second-year pro Jacquizz Rodgers as their No. 2 back behind Michael Turner. Snelling still may get a few reps at tailback, but I doubt he’ll get many touches there. He also seems destined for duty as the backup fullback.

[+] EnlargeKellen Winslow
John Rieger/US PresswireThis TD catch in Kansas City was one of the few bright spots for Kellen Winslow during the preseason in Seattle.
Kellen Winslow, tight end, formerly with the Bucs and Seahawks. The Bucs traded Winslow to Seattle near the start of camp. The deal was conditional and could have earned the Bucs as much as a sixth-round pick if Winslow played well. It could have earned them a seventh-round pick if Winslow simply made the roster. He did neither, so the Bucs aren’t getting anything in return. The Bucs parted with Winslow in the first place because he wasn’t coach Greg Schiano’s kind of guy. I’d imagine Schiano is even less of a Winslow fan now that the tight end has cost him a draft pick.

Nick Toon, wide receiver, Saints. He’ll spend his rookie season on injured reserve. It’s strange, but New Orleans has a bit of a history with young receivers getting hurt at the start of their careers. It happened with Robert Meachem and he wasn’t much of a factor his first few seasons. It happened with Adrian Arrington and just now might be getting his first real chance to contribute.

Garrett Reynolds or Peter Konz, guards, Falcons. These two have been competing for the starting job at right guard throughout the preseason. The Falcons still haven’t named a starter and I don’t take that as a good sign. If either Reynolds or Konz was running away with the job, I think we already would have gotten an announcement. I think what it’s coming down to is the Falcons are deciding if they’d rather guy with a converted college center that might be having more trouble adjusting than they expected or if they’d rather stay with a guy that was mediocre as the starter last year.

RISING

Travaris Cadet, running back, Saints. He led the NFL in rushing with 246 yards during the preseason. Yeah, preseason stats don’t matter. But Cadet was so impressive that he absolutely forced the Saints, who already had Darren Sproles, Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory, to keep him on the roster. It’s a little tough to get touches for five running backs, but the Saints already were pretty good at distributing the ball. Now, they just need to add one more guy to the equation.

Matt Ryan, quarterback, Falcons. Again, preseason stats don’t matter, but the Falcons led the NFL by averaging 280.2 passing yards in their four exhibition games. Yeah, undrafted rookie Dominique Davis was responsible for a chunk of those yards. But when Ryan did play, he looked as sharp as he ever has. Ryan’s always been focused and he has a fantastic supporting cast. I’m not having much trouble picturing a big season out of Ryan.

Steve Spagnuolo, defensive coordinator, Saints. Although he wasn’t chosen as the interim-interim head coach, Spagnuolo obviously is carrying a lot of clout right now. The Saints made a late roster move that had Spagnuolo’s finger prints all over it. Cornerback Elbert Mack had a nice preseason and initially appeared to have made the team. But the Saints claimed cornerback Jerome Murray off waivers and released Mack. Murphy played for Spagnuolo in St. Louis, so it’s pretty safe to assume he went to the front office, said he wanted his guy and was granted his wish.

Armanti Edwards, receiver/return man. Panthers. A lot of people didn’t think Edwards would make the roster and I was one of them. But Edwards still is with the Panthers, even though they have depth at receiver and plenty of options in the return game. The Panthers didn’t keep Edwards just to have an Appalachian State product on their roster. They sort of did that the last two years as they kept hoping Edwards would develop into something. They’re at a point in their development where every roster spot is precious, so you have to believe Edwards is in their plans.

Arrelious Benn, receiver, Tampa Bay. He missed most of the preseason with an injury and just returned to practice this week. But the Bucs must have a pretty good feeling that Benn is close to being ready to be their third receiver after Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams. They released Tiquan Underwood, who had a very nice preseason and kept Preston Parker and Sammie Stroughter as their only other backups at receiver. I didn’t see anything special from Parker or Stroughter in the preseason and they might have made the roster mainly because they can contribute on special teams. Benn still may have a little work to do to get back into shape, but I don’t think it will be long before he’s established as the third receiver.
Click here for the complete list of Tampa Bay Buccaneers roster moves.

Most significant move: The Bucs released defensive tackle Amobi Okoye, who at one time appeared to be headed for significant playing time in the rotation or maybe even a spot in the starting lineup. Okoye is healthy enough that he reportedly is ready to turn around and sign with the Chicago Bears. But I think this move is another example of what coach Greg Schiano is all about. Okoye missed a lot of time in training camp and the preseason with a knee injury. He might have been one of those guys that could have gotten through the season by taking a lot of days off practice and showing up on Sundays. I don’t think that system is going to fly with Schiano (see Kellen Winslow). Although they might not be former first-round picks like Okoye, I think Schiano would rather have Gary Gibson and Wallace Gilberry, who show up for practice each day, as the starters behind Gerald McCoy and Roy Miller.

Onward and upward: Receiver Tiquan Underwood played for Schiano at Rutgers. Underwood seemed to have a good shot at making the roster with a strong showing in training camp and the preseason. But Underwood was released Friday night as the Bucs decided to keep Preston Parker and Sammie Stroughter for the final roster spots at wide receiver. Underwood likely would be a guy the Bucs would bring back if they have any injuries at receiver. But that will only happen if another team doesn’t scoop Underwood up first.

What’s next: The guys that made the latter parts of the roster shouldn’t get too comfortable. General manager Mark Dominik has a history of bringing in guys that are cut by other teams and I think that trend will only continue this year as he and Schiano try to fine tune a roster that still could use more depth in several areas. I think there still could be movement on the defensive line, at guard and at tight end.
It was a tough day first day of camp practice for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It already has been widely reported that wide receiver Arrelious Benn suffered a knee injury that will sideline him for about a month. But, on top of that, cornerback E.J. Biggers also is going to miss some practice time.

A league source told ESPN.com that Biggers suffered a broken bone in his foot Friday.

Both injuries have the potential to cause problems. Biggers seemed likely to be the No. 3 cornerback behind starters Aqib Talib and Eric Wright. There’s not much depth beyond Biggers, and that opens some possibilities in the nickel package if the injury causes him to miss any regular-season time.

The Bucs have moved veteran cornerback Ronde Barber to free safety. There’s been talk that Barber could slide to nickelback and line up with slot receivers on passing downs and Cody Grimm could take his place at free safety in those situations. If Biggers is healthy for the regular season, he gives the Bucs options. If he’s not ready, the Bucs might have to shuffle Barber and Grimm. The Bucs also claimed cornerback Desmond Marrow off waivers from Houston on Friday, but I don't know if he's a serious threat to make the roster.

Benn’s injury also is significant, even though the Bucs have some depth at wide receiver. Benn was considered to be in the mix to start opposite Vincent Jackson. But the Bucs have several other options with young wide receivers such as Mike Williams, Preston Parker and Sammie Stroughter.

Evening update from Charlotte

June, 11, 2012
6/11/12
4:59
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- I’m settled into Charlotte, where I’ll be covering Panthers minicamp starting Tuesday morning.

The Panthers just announced a couple of minor roster moves. They have signed undrafted rookie wide receivers Michael Avila (San Jose State) and Lamont Bryant (Morgan State). To make room for them, they released receivers Wes Kemp and Chris Manno.

Now, let’s take a look at some other headlines from around the division.
  • Tampa Bay wide receivers coach P.J. Fleck had some high praise for Vincent Jackson's ability as a leader. That should be a real positive for the Buccaneers. They’ve had one of the league’s youngest receiving corps in recent years. Guys like Mike Williams, Arrelious Benn, Sammie Stroughter and Preston Parker. Plus, Jackson isn’t known for being selfish, like some other premier wide receivers. He’s got a reputation for being the kind of guy that will try to help young receivers.
  • Daniel Cox writes about how the Falcons have a chance to be one of the NFL’s best offenses in 2012. There still are a lot of unknowns, but I think the talent is in place for this to happen. New coordinator Dirk Koetter is going to have to be a little bit more creative than predecessor Mike Mularkey, though.
  • Mark Cook writes that Tampa Bay defensive tackle Gerald McCoy is fully healthy after suffering a biceps injury last season. That’s good news about a player that has flashed some promise when he has been able to play in his first two seasons. The Bucs really need McCoy to stay healthy for an entire season for the first time in his career.
  • NFC West colleague Mike Sando has a chart showing how teams fared in games decided by seven or fewer points last season. All four of Tampa Bay’s wins fell into that margin. The Panthers had only one win in a game decided by seven or less points. New Orleans and Atlanta each had four such wins.
The New Orleans Saints had their minicamp last week. This week, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Carolina Panthers will take their turn, starting Tuesday.

We’ll have a preview on the Panthers a bit later and I’ll be arriving in Charlotte later Monday to get in place to cover the minicamp. But first, let’s preview the Buccaneers by taking a look at some of their minicamp hot spots.

Who’s No. 2? The only thing we know for sure is that Vincent Jackson will be the No. 1 wide receiver. You could say that Mike Williams has the inside track to be the No. 2 receiver because he’s been a starter the last two seasons. But I don’t think anything beyond Jackson as No. 1 is a given with the new coaching staff, especially after the coaches watched tape of Williams’ disappointing 2011 season. Maybe Williams will bounce back. But he needs to use the minicamp, training camp and the preseason to stay ahead of Arrelious Benn, Preston Parker and Sammie Stroughter.

The linebacker lineup: There’s been a little conspiracy theory flying among some fans because rookie Lavonte David hasn’t been working with the first team through the early stages of minicamp. Adam Hayward had been getting some first-team work, but David was with the starters (Mason Foster in the middle and Quincy Black on the strong side) when practice was open to the media last week. Unless David performs horribly from now right through the preseason, I don’t see how he’s not in the starting lineup on opening day. The Bucs didn’t trade back into the second round to get a guy that they plan to sit on the bench. I think the real competition for a starting job could come down to Black and Hayward.

The Ronde Barber experiment: At this point, it’s tempting to say that the move of the veteran cornerback to safety is permanent. That’s because Barber has been working at safety throughout the offseason and it looks like he and rookie Mark Barron will be the starters. But I don’t think anything is locked in just yet. That’s because cornerback Aqib Talib will face trial on an assault charge in Texas later in June. He could face prison time or punishment by the NFL. Other than Eric Wright, it’s not like the Bucs have a bunch of other quality cornerbacks. The Bucs know what Barber can do at cornerback and he easily can move back there if needed. If Talib stays with the Bucs and isn’t going to miss any time, then Barber might be more useful to the team as a safety. He also could play safety on early downs and line up against the slot receiver in passing situations, with Cody Grimm coming in at safety.

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