NFL Nation: Alterraun Verner

TAMPA, Fla. -- If you're wondering why the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been so quiet in free agency this year, all you have to do is look at last year.

That's when the Bucs splurged on free agents in the first year with coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jason Licht. They made some decent moves, such as signing Alterraun Verner and Clinton McDonald. But the team made three moves that turned out to be disastrous.

They signed defensive end Michael Johnson, offensive tackle Anthony Collins and quarterback Josh McCown to contracts that were worth a combined $83 million.

So what did the Bucs get out of all that?

Virtually nothing. Johnson recorded just four sacks. Collins was benched by the end of the season. And McCown led the Bucs to precisely one win (Mike Glennon led the other victory).

One year later, all three of those players are gone. Johnson's release Wednesday completed the trifecta.

There's a lesson to be learned here. Championships aren't won in March. The Bucs found that out the hard way during a 2-14 season.

It's pretty obvious the Bucs are using last year as a cautionary tale. Their approach to free agency this year has been totally different. They've stayed out of the bidding for high-priced players and focused more on midlevel free agents.

That's the smart approach. This team has a lot of holes. Filling them without overspending is crucial. The Bucs have a long road ahead of them as they try to reverse course.

They have the first pick in the draft and likely will use it on a quarterback, either Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota. The draft is where good teams form their nucleus. Free agency should be used to add complementary players.

The experience has been painful, but at least the Bucs are getting it right this time around.

Lavonte David out for Buccaneers

November, 23, 2014
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CHICAGO -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be without All-Pro linebacker Lavonte David against the Bears on Sunday.

David has a hamstring injury and didn’t practice Thursday or Friday.

It’s likely that Brandon Magee or Orie Lemon will start in David’s place. Running back Doug Martin and cornerback Alterraun Verner were listed as questionable but are expected to play.

Buccaneers missing four starters

November, 9, 2014
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TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be without four injured starters for Sunday’s game against Atlanta.

Cornerback Alterraun Verner (hamstring), running back Doug Martin (ankle), left tackle Anthony Collins (foot) and defensive end Michael Johnson (ankle) have been declared inactive.

Crezdon Butler will start in Verner’s spot. Bobby Rainey will start in Martin’s place. Jacquies Smith will start in Johnson’s place and Oniel Cousins will start in Collins’ place.

The other inactives for the Bucs are wide receiver Robert Herron, guard Kadeem Edwards and tight end Luke Stocker.
CLEVELAND -- Seen and heard in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' locker room after Sunday's 22-17 loss to the Cleveland Browns.

Evans
Rookie wide receiver Mike Evans said he was having fun with Johnny Manziel when he mimicked Manziel's money sign after one of his two touchdown catches. "It just came to my mind," Evans said. "That's one of my best buds. I just wanted to give him a hard time." Evans and Manziel, Cleveland's backup quarterback, were college teammates. They met on the field after the game, exchanged jerseys and talked about getting together in the offseason.

Coach Lovie Smith rarely is critical of his players. But he made an exception for the special teams. The Bucs had a field goal and a punt blocked. They also were called for an offside penalty on a Cleveland field goal attempt. The penalty gave the Browns a first down, and they ended up scoring a touchdown.

Cornerback Alterraun Verner said the Bucs were in three-deep coverage on Cleveland’s game-winning touchdown pass. Verner put the blame on himself for letting Taylor Gabriel get behind him.

The Film Don't Lie: Buccaneers

September, 23, 2014
9/23/14
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A weekly look at what the Tampa Bay Buccaneers must fix:

Back in the Buccaneers’ glory days, the Tampa Two defense was the root of success.

These days, it’s not nearly the same. As the Bucs get ready to play at Pittsburgh on Sunday, they can be secure in the knowledge that the Steelers have analyzed the tape of Tampa Bay’s Thursday night loss to Atlanta. It's safe to assume Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is excited about facing the Bucs.

You can bet the Steelers noticed you can throw deep on the Buccaneers. The Falcons were playing without injured receiver Roddy White, yet they still managed to shred Tampa Bay’s secondary. Julio Jones caught five passes for 120 yards on balls that were thrown at least 15 yards downfield. Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan completed six of eight passes for 139 yards and a touchdown on throws of at least 15 yards.

Atlanta showed Tampa Bay’s secondary is vulnerable. Cornerback Alterraun Verner is the only member of the starting secondary who has played well.

But the problems with the deep ball stem from more than just the secondary. More help from the pass rush would be a big boost for the defensive backs. But the Bucs, who had just one sack against Atlanta, haven’t shown many signs they can rush the passer with any consistency.

Until the Bucs can pressure the quarterback, this defense is going to have problems stopping the deep ball.

Buccaneers Camp Report: Day 15

August, 14, 2014
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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.

Buccaneers Camp Report: Day 10

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

Buccaneers Camp Report: Day 9

August, 4, 2014
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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
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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
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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
7/31/14
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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."

Buccaneers Camp Report: Day 5

July, 30, 2014
7/30/14
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TAMPA, Fla. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Tampa Bay Buccaneers training camp:
  • The defense dominated the first few days of camp, but Wednesday was the best showing by the offense so far. There were two players in particular that stood out. Quarterback Josh McCown and wide receiver Vincent Jackson showed they’ve developed some chemistry. They hooked up on a pass play of about 50 yards and connected for back-to-back touchdowns in red-zone drills. “They have to have good chemistry," coach Lovie Smith said. “Vincent’s our No. 1 receiver. We’re banking on him making a lot of plays. The chemistry or whatever you want to call it between he and Josh has to be good. Vince is a playmaker. You get down there, you have to get the ball into your playmaker’s hands. We did that today on more than one occasion, which is great." McCown had his best practice by far. I only saw him make one bad throw, and that was intercepted in the end zone by strong safety Mark Barron.
  • Wednesday was the most physical practice of camp so far. There were at least four minor altercations. “We don’t want a lot of fights," Smith said. “In a game, they throw you out of the game and that’s not good. Getting ready for the season, we want it to be as game like as possible. If you do feel you have to mix it up with a guy, fight him the way you would fight your brother. No cheap shots or anything like that."
  • There’s been some concern among fans about whether or not Mason Foster can handle the increased amount of pass coverage the Bucs are going to ask out of their middle linebacker in the Cover Two defense. Foster dropped some weight in the offseason to increase his quickness and has made a good early impression on Smith. “He’s growing into the position," Smith said. “He couldn’t have a better tutor than (linebackers coach and former Bucs middle linebacker) Hardy Nickerson."
  • Starter Doug Martin has looked very good at running back, but he’s not the only one. Third-round draft pick Charles Sims has made some nice cuts in the last few practices and also has shown he can catch the ball out of the backfield. I think Sims might have a shot to be the top backup to Martin. “He’s a scholarship player, looking at it in college terms," Smith said. “He’s not a walk-on. He got his scholarship for a reason."
  • There hasn’t been much talk about the fullback position. For the record, Jorvorskie Lane has been running with the first team.
  • The Bucs signed cornerback Kip Edwards to fill the roster spot that was created when guard Carl Nicks departed from the team. The team officially released Nicks on Wednesday.
  • Cornerback Alterraun Verner missed another day of practice with a hamstring injury, but Smith said Verner is getting closer to being able to return.
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
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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.

Buccaneers offseason wrap-up

May, 22, 2014
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» NFC Wrap: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South » Grades

 With free agency and the draft in the rearview mirror and training camp just a couple of months away, we assess the Buccaneers' offseason moves.

Johnson
Best move: Signing defensive end Michael Johnson as a free agent from Cincinnati. Johnson has posted double-digit sacks before and he should be a pass-rushing force on the outside. That’s something the Bucs lacked last season. With defensive tackle Gerald McCoy on the inside and Johnson on the outside, the pass rush should be much better. That’s going to help the entire defense, particularly the secondary.

Riskiest move: The Bucs quickly signed veteran quarterback Josh McCown and named him the starter. For a team that clearly is in a win-now mode, this is a risky move. McCown has been a backup most of his career and has made only 38 starts. He played well in relief of an injured Jay Cutler in Chicago last season. But there’s nothing in McCown’s track record to suggest that he can win consistently over the long haul. Coach Lovie Smith has history with McCown and is comfortable with the veteran quarterback. But the Bucs were in a position to get a potential franchise quarterback in the draft and they passed. Smith has gone out on a limb with McCown and second-year pro Mike Glennon is the only safety net.

Most surprising move: The Bucs had perhaps the best cornerback in football in Darrelle Revis. But one of the new regime’s first moves was to unload Revis as quickly as possible. That freed up a large chunk of salary-cap space that was used to address other positions. The Bucs did a nice job of replacing Revis with Alterraun Verner. The Bucs got Verner at a reasonable price and he’s in the prime of his career. But you still have to question the decision to part ways with a player with Revis' skills.

The bigger, the better: McCown had success with an oversized receiving corps in Chicago last year and the Bucs are trying to duplicate that. They already had 6-foot-5 receiver Vincent Jackson and they used their first two draft picks on wide receiver Mike Evans (6-4) and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins (6-5). That trio is going to create some major matchup problems for opposing defensive backs.

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