NFL Nation: Amobi Okoye

Dallas Cowboys' projected roster

July, 18, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- Examining the Dallas Cowboys' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (2)

The Kyle Orton watch is over now that the Cowboys released the veteran backup. The timing of it is a surprise, and Jason Garrett spoke optimistically all offseason about Orton’s return. Now the Cowboys turn their attention to Weeden as Romo’s backup. Weeden had a productive spring, running the first-team offense as Romo recovered from back surgery. The Cowboys haven’t kept a third quarterback since 2011, and Caleb Hanie and Dustin Vaughan will have work to do to crack the 53-man roster

RUNNING BACKS (4)


The last two spots could be up in the air. Randle, a fifth-round choice, will be pushed by free-agent pickup Ryan Williams in the preseason. Williams, a former second-round pick, was not able to stay healthy in Arizona. The Cowboys have given him a chance to win a backup job. Clutts did a nice job as a late-season pickup in 2013. He is more versatile than undrafted rookie J.C. Copeland, but I don’t think having a fullback on the 53-man roster is set in stone.

WIDE RECEIVERS (5)


I debated whether to go with a sixth, but later on you will see why I stuck with five. It is possible the Cowboys will look for a veteran in the final cuts if they feel limited by their depth because of injury, but I think they like the overall group. They will work their No. 3 receiver role on a rotation basis, but Beasley could emerge as a bigger threat on third down. There will be a lot of eyes on Williams, who takes over the No. 2 role on a full-time basis. Bryant is set for another Pro Bowl-type season.

TIGHT ENDS (3)


Witten remains near the top of the game at his position. His total catches were down last year, but his touchdowns were up. Escobar’s role figures to expand, especially as a No. 3-type receiver. Hanna has the inside track on the third spot, but I have a feeling the Cowboys will be looking for more of a traditional blocker, especially if they want to get away from the fullback spot to open up a role elsewhere.

OFFENSIVE LINE (9)

The top six are set, with Bernadeau or Leary fighting it out for the left guard position and the loser becoming the top backup on the interior. Parnell is in the final year of his deal, and if Weems develops, I wonder if the Cowboys would look for a trading partner. They have invested a lot in Parnell in time and money for him to be a backup, so it would be a risk, but perhaps one worth taking. Weems had a decent offseason. Clarke gets the nod as the No. 9 guy right now, but veteran Uche Nwaneri could work his way into the mix.

DEFENSIVE LINE (10)

I think the Cowboys will go heavy here, especially considering what happened last year and the numbers they have thrown at the position this year. Four of them are rookies -- Lawrence, Gardner, Bishop and Coleman. I believe Anthony Spencer and possibly Amobi Okoye will start the year on the physically unable to perform list, so they don’t make this 53-man roster with the idea that they join the team after the sixth game of the season. Wilson garnered the last spot over a 2013 starter, Nick Hayden, but there will be a few players in the mix for the final few spots, including Ben Bass.

LINEBACKER (7)

Carrying seven linebackers might be a little heavy, but I have special teams in mind when it comes to Will Smith. He benefits from having only two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster. The Cowboys spent the offseason telling us games are won and lost up front, so carrying an extra offensive or defensive linemen could get in this mix as well. McClain gets a spot only because of his experience. Backups of Holloman, Hitchens and Smith would be tough considering their youth, and I can see the Cowboys looking for veteran backup help around the final cut dates.

CORNERBACK (5)


Carr and Claiborne have to play exceptionally well for this defense to have a chance, and they might have to do it without much help from a consistent pass rush. Scandrick is coming off his best season, and Claiborne will have to beat him out to reclaim the starting spot. Moore can play inside and out. Mitchell showed in his limited offseason work that he can make plays. Last year’s fourth-round pick, B.W. Webb, will have to fight for a spot. Based on his offseason work, he did not make the cut for this roster.

SAFETY (5)

Church is the only player without questions. The Cowboys are projecting the other four with their biggest bet on Wilcox. He enters camp as the starter, but he could be pushed by Heath and Hamilton. Dixon will be more of a special-teams threat if he is to make the roster. Hamilton showed some playmaking in the offseason. No Matt Johnson? Not right now, especially after he couldn’t practice -- again -- for most of the offseason.

SPECIALISTS (3)


Perhaps Cody Mandell can push Jones, but Jones is the more consistent punter and has a good rapport as a holder for Bailey. Ladouceur remains one of the best long-snappers in the game. This group won’t change during the summer unless there is an injury.
IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys' decision to part ways with backup quarterback Kyle Orton has opened up a spot on the 90-man roster for training camp.

Orton
Josh Brent's name has come up as a possible fill-in, but sources say there is nothing new on that front. Brent remains at a treatment facility after he was released from county jail for his involvement in a 2012 car accident that killed his friend and teammate Jerry Brown.

The Cowboys have not ruled out the possibility of re-signing Brent if he wants to re-start his NFL career, but they have more pressing needs to fill with training camp starting next week.

At this point in the summer, finding players is difficult. With teams carrying 90 players, there are only so many available. The pool is not filled with stars. It’s filled mostly with guys you hope can get you through a few days of practice, limit the amount of snaps you give your regulars and perhaps develop into contributors.

Tight end remains a position of need. The Cowboys have Jason Witten, Gavin Escobar, James Hanna and Jordan Najvar. They need more of a blocker in the group, not only on the 90-man roster but perhaps the 53-man roster.

The Cowboys like to carry a high number of receivers and corners because of the amount of running they do in training camp. They have 10 receivers and eight cornerbacks under contract. Again, the idea isn’t to sign a name veteran to make the masses happy at this point. It’s about practice (said in best Allen Iverson voice).

The Cowboys could also gain a spot if Amobi Okoye is not fully cleared for drills. He spent most of the offseason with the team, working out, but he did not take the field as he attempts a return from a personal medical issue. Including Okoye, the Cowboys have 16 defensive linemen on the roster.
IRVING, Texas -- Rod Marinelli likes what he saw from his Dallas Cowboys defense in the spring.

The defensive coordinator liked that he has more players along the defensive line. He likes the linebackers’ “movement skills.” He likes how cornerbacks Brandon Carr, Orlando Scandrick and Morris Claiborne can play man-to-man. He likes the growth J.J. Wilcox made at safety opposite Barry Church.

[+] EnlargeBarry Church and Morris Claiborne
Howard Smith/USA TODAY SportsDallas defensive backs Barry Church and Morris Claiborne didn't have much to celebrate during 2013.
But there’s something else Marinelli likes about the group.

“I think there’s something to prove a little bit,” Marinelli said. “Not something to prove from last year, but there are some guys coming here off the street with something to prove. There are some guys in contract years with something to prove. There are some guys coming out saying, ‘I want to be a better player,’ who have something prove.

“You get that many guys wanting to prove something, then you can become better. Right now what I like is how hard they’re going after their craft.”

Last season was a mess for the Cowboys' defense. It has been referenced so many times this offseason that “32nd-ranked defense” has been tattooed on everybody. The Cowboys gave up 6,279 yards in 2013 a year after giving up a franchise-record 5,687 yards. Five quarterbacks had four-touchdown games against the Cowboys. Two times in a three-week span, they allowed more than 620 yards. The New Orleans Saints had 40 first downs.

“It definitely bothers us,” Church said. “I’m speaking for myself, but it definitely bothers me. But there’s nothing we can really say or prove different. We were 32nd in the league and we weren’t that good on the defensive side of the ball. This year, the only way we can counter that is by playing good and becoming one of the better teams in the league at taking the ball away and against the run and the pass.”

It’s not just the players. The tag falls on the coaches, too.

“Nobody wants to look at last year and take ownership of that, but we have to,” secondary coach Jerome Henderson said. “And we’ve got to get better from there, and we cannot let that happen again.”

Oh, and now the Cowboys have to show they can be better in 2014 without the franchise’s all-time leader in sacks, DeMarcus Ware, who was cut, last year’s leader in sacks, Jason Hatcher, who signed as a free agent with the Washington Redskins, and their best playmaker, Sean Lee, who suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in organized team activities.

But the sense is that Marinelli likes it this way. He had ubertalented defenses with the Chicago Bears with guys like Brian Urlacher, Julius Peppers, Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman. He won a Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with guys like Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, Simeon Rice, John Lynch and Ronde Barber.

He doesn’t have an Urlacher, Sapp, Brooks, Briggs, Rice or Lynch with this group.

He has Henry Melton, whom he coached to the Pro Bowl with the Bears, trying to prove he can come back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament. He has Bruce Carter trying to prove he is a big-time player in a contract year. He has Claiborne, a former sixth overall pick in the draft, trying to prove he is not a bust. He has Carr trying to prove he is worth the five-year, $50 million contract he received in 2012. He has George Selvie trying to prove he was not a one-year wonder after putting up seven sacks last season. He has Tyrone Crawford trying to prove he can come back from a torn Achilles.

He has low-cost free agents such as Terrell McClain, Jeremy Mincey and Amobi Okoye trying to prove they can be prime-time players. He has Justin Durant trying to prove he can be a middle linebacker and Kyle Wilber trying to prove he can be a strongside linebacker. He has Rolando McClain trying to prove that a player who has retired twice in the past year has the desire to keep playing. He has DeMarcus Lawrence trying to prove that a second-rounder can make an impact as a rookie. He has Wilcox trying to prove he can play strong safety.

He has guys like Church and Scandrick trying to prove that they can put up solid seasons in back-to-back years.

So much to prove. So much to forget.

“The first thing you do is you take it as coaches and players and you take accountability for it,” Marinelli said. “And no excuses. Now we look forward. Now it’s about the expectations of this group and with expectations you have to execute. It’s that simple. That simple, yet that hard.”

IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys' search for a possible replacement for Sean Lee has led them to Rolando McClain.

In 2010, the Oakland Raiders made McClain the eighth pick of the NFL draft. It never worked out for him with the Raiders for a variety of reasons, including some of his misdeeds. It never worked out for him in two short stints with the Baltimore Ravens that led to him retiring twice.

But he doesn't turn 25 until July 14.

The Cowboys are looking at a low-risk chance for a high-ceiling talent.

“He sounds as excited about football as I've ever heard him,” said McClain's agent, Pat Dye.

McClain
If that holds up, then the Cowboys might have found the guy to man the middle linebacker spot that opened when Lee tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in May. The Cowboys mostly worked veteran Justin Durant at Lee's spot in the organized team activities and minicamp, but dabbled with rookie Anthony Hitchens and second-year linebacker DeVonte Holloman at the spot.

Durant is an outside linebacker masking as a middle linebacker even if the coaches believe he can play all three linebacker positions. Holloman started two games at middle linebacker last year as a rookie out of desperation. Hitchens, a fourth-round pick, has a lot to learn.

McClain comes with a better resume than any of them, but his off-field issues -- a number of arrests since being drafted -- are a concern. The fact that he retired twice is a concern, but Dye's words offer encouragement that McClain, who ended Jason Witten's preseason in 2012 with a hit in a exhibition game that led to a lacerated spleen, knows this might be his last chance.

“I see, and Rolando sees, the Dallas situation as a great opportunity given Sean's injury, and you're talking about a great franchise and a great organization,” Dye said. “I've described to any of the clients we've had through the years there -- Emmitt Smith, Dexter Coakley, DeMarcus Ware, Marcus Spears, Keith Brooking, DeMarco Murray -- that playing for the Cowboys in football is kind of like playing for the Yankees in baseball. Just an iconic franchise. With kind of what he's done going back to his time with the Raiders, I think that all of this has led him to a point where he feels like the game is too important to him to give up. He's just 24 years old. He's very talented. He's very bright. Tough. Competitive. There's a reason he was a top-10 pick at a position that is almost impossible to be a top-10 pick. Hopefully this situation will go smoothly.”

Patience will be required. McClain has not played in a game since November 2012, after he was suspended for two games for conduct detrimental to the team. He has not taken part in a full offseason program. He will have to learn a new defense and a new team.

The Cowboys have taken these sorts of chances on former high draft picks before. In 2005, they signed Marc Colombo, who was the Chicago Bears' first-round pick in 2002, after he suffered a serious knee injury. In 2006, Colombo became the Cowboys' starting right tackle and held the spot through 2010.

Asking that of McClain is too much. He's on just a one-year deal and the Cowboys believe Lee will be 100 percent in 2015, but this is a chance worth taking.

And it falls in line with how the Cowboys have conducted their offseason business, spending wisely if not exorbitantly on guys such as Henry Melton, Terrell McClain, Jeremy Mincey, Anthony Spencer and Amobi Okoye.
IRVING, Texas -- Jerry Jones is the eternal optimist, as we all know.

The Dallas Cowboys defense will be without DeMarcus Ware (offseason release), Jason Hatcher (free-agent defection) and Sean Lee (torn anterior cruciate ligament), but the owner and general manager sees a defense that will be better in 2014 than it was in 2013 when it finished last in the league in yards allowed.

Jones
Jones
Why?

"Because we were so bad last year, there's no place but up," Jones said.

So there is that. The Cowboys made modest moves in free agency with the signings of Henry Melton, Jeremy Mincey, Terrell McClain and Amobi Okoye. They re-signed Anthony Spencer, who is not likely to be ready to start training camp as he recovers from microfracture knee surgery. They drafted DeMarcus Lawrence in the second round.

Mostly they are hoping for serious improvement from within.

The Cowboys finished 19th overall in defense in 2012. Injuries ravaged the defense by the end of the season, but that did not save Rob Ryan's job.

Last year the Cowboys made a scheme change, switching from the 3-4 under Ryan to the 4-3 scheme under Monte Kiffin. They did not make serious personnel additions (Will Allen, Justin Durant) and were hoping not only for improvement from within but scheme flexibility from players drafted to play in Bill Parcells' or Wade Phillips' 3-4.

It seemed as if the Cowboys thought 2013 would be better because it could not be worse than it was at the end of 2012, but Jones disagreed with the assessment.

"I can say it this year, we are better right now," Jones said. "And I think better on the field. We're certainly better on paper than we were at the end of the season last year. Not on paper at the beginning of the season last year, but on paper right now relative to how we ended up last year."
IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys have not had a flashy offseason by any stretch. Saying goodbye to the franchise’s all-time leader in sacks, DeMarcus Ware, has been the headliner, and the team did not make a real bid to keep last year’s leader in sacks, Jason Hatcher.

I offered up an offseason wrap-up on Thursday, and the ESPN Insiders have put their touches on the offseason. While Mike Sando, Bill Polian, Matt Williamson, Louis Riddick and Field Yates combined to give the Cowboys a passing grade, only two teams did worse: the Carolina Panthers (C-minus) and Indianapolis Colts (D).

To read the league-wide grades Insider, you have to be an Insider, but here is what Sando wrote about the Cowboys’ offseason:

Analysis: The Cowboys had very little salary-cap flexibility through questionable long-term planning. They lost Ware as a result and appear to be no better off on defense, which could keep Dallas in a category with Washington among teams forced to win high-scoring games to contend.

[+] EnlargeAnthony Spencer
AP Photo/James D SmithThe Cowboys need a healthy season from pass-rusher Anthony Spencer.
"They really did not do enough to aid a defense that is just bereft of playmakers, especially on the front," Polian said.

Yates gave the Cowboys a B grade and lauded their discipline, but he did not offer an enthusiastic endorsement. The other graders weren't as positive. The GM consulted for this piece gave the Cowboys a C and lamented their lack of an edge pass-rusher. The GM pointed to Anthony Spencer's suspect health and said he thought Dallas would have preferred using its first-round pick on Ryan Shazier, who came off the board one spot earlier.

"They will have to outscore people with a 34-year-old quarterback coming off back surgery," the GM said.

The Cowboys' decision to draft an offensive lineman in the first round went over well. Williamson called Zack Martin the last piece of the offensive puzzle for Dallas. Riddick also loved that pick, but he still gave the Cowboys a C-minus.

"They followed their board and beat that whole drum on that," Riddick said. "Their expectations for Demarcus Lawrence in the second round are higher than what mine are, but other than that, the defense still has major problems at safety, they are banking on Sean Lee being healthy at linebacker and there are too many problem areas overall."
My analysis of the analysis: The Cowboys could have kept Ware by restructuring his contract again, but did not want to kick the salary-cap can down the street again. They also could have made him an offer in the Terrell Suggs neighborhood ($16 million guaranteed) but never made a proposal. They were simply ready to move on.

In essence they traded Henry Melton for Hatcher. Melton is younger but coming back from an ACL tear. If he can come back, then that signing was better than keeping Hatcher, who turns 32 in July and had one great season.

Despite the supposed salary-cap constraints, they could have gone after Julius Peppers and Jared Allen and paid them big money. That might have made the Insiders happy, but it would have hamstrung their abilities to keep Tyron Smith and Dez Bryant. That’s an easy call to make, so they went after low-cost, low-risk signings like Jeremy Mincey, Terrell McClain and Amobi Okoye. Will any of them play better than Ware in 2013? That is their hope.

The Insiders also did not recognize the coaching changes. How much better will Rod Marinelli be than Monte Kiffin? I’d say that is a plus. I think Scott Linehan will be better than Bill Callahan on the offensive side of the ball. That is a plus.

The Cowboys could not answer all of their offseason questions, but they did have a “smart” offseason, and in the NFC East they should be able to compete.

Cowboys 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 NFL draft in the rearview mirror and training camp just a couple months away, we assess the Dallas Cowboys' offseason moves.

Best move: The Cowboys could not make big splashes in free agency and their 8-8 record kept them in the middle of the pack in the draft as well, so the best move was not one regarding personnel. It was coaching. Elevating Rod Marinelli to defensive coordinator after the Cowboys finished last in the league in 2013 was their best move. With the Chicago Bears, Marinelli had a difference-making defense that could create turnovers at will. He also had Pro Bowl-quality players such as Julius Peppers, Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs. He does not have that in bountiful supply in Dallas, unless Sean Lee can stay healthy or Henry Melton returns to form from injury.

[+] EnlargeDeMarcus Ware
AP Photo/Kevin TerrellWill the Dallas Cowboys regret not re-signing DeMarcus Ware?
Riskiest move: DeMarcus Ware put up 119 sacks with the Cowboys from 2005-13, but the club believed it was time to move on after Ware had just six in 2013. A quadriceps injury forced Ware to miss the first three games of his career in 2013 and he was slowed by other maladies. The Cowboys did not make an attempt to offer Ware a reduced contract and simply cut him. Within 24 hours he was signed to a three-year deal by the Denver Broncos with $20 million guaranteed. For this 4-3 scheme to work, there must be an accomplished right defensive end. The Cowboys believed Ware’s time as a dominant pass-rusher was over but did not pick up his replacement until the second round of the draft, selecting DeMarcus Lawrence.

Most surprising move: With the 16th pick in the first round, the Cowboys had a chance to select Johnny Manziel to be Tony Romo’s eventual successor. It seemed to be a perfect marriage of the attention Jerry Jones seeks and the spotlight Johnny Football enjoys. Jones passed on Manziel, recommitting his faith in Romo, who signed a six-year, $108 million extension last season, and making a smart move in picking up Notre Dame offensive lineman Zack Martin. He will be a Day 1 starter and give the Cowboys three first-round picks on their offensive line, which will help Romo and potentially help a defense if the Cowboys can control the clock.

Numbers game: The emphasis of the Cowboys’ offseason has been about the defense, but they have taken a quantity-over-quality look. They had some interest in Peppers and Jared Allen after releasing Ware, but only at a reduced rate. The Cowboys signed Melton, who is coming off an ACL injury, to a one-year deal with an option for three more years if he plays at a high level. They signed Jeremy Mincey and Terrell McClain to low-risk deals. They kept Anthony Spencer, who is coming back from microfracture surgery, on a one-year deal. They even signed Amobi Okoye, who did not play last season due to personal medical issues, in hopes a reunion with Marinelli will rejuvenate him. The flashiest addition might be Lawrence, and it is difficult to expect rookies to hit the league running.
OXNARD, Calif. -- The Cowboys have expressed interest in free-agent defensive lineman Amobi Okoye, according to a source.

Okoye
Team officials have no plans at the moment to bring in any linemen for a workout, but the team does have one roster spot available on their 90-man roster. The goal is to fill that spot with a defensive lineman.

Okoye played in nine games last season for the Chicago Bears under then-defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, who is now the defensive line coach for the Cowboys. Okoye, a 2007 first-round pick by the Houston Texans, has 16 career sacks.

The Cowboys have lost four defensive linemen to injury in the first three days of training camp.

Starting defensive end Anthony Spencer was sent back to Dallas to undergo surgery on his left knee. The recovery time is two to four weeks. Starting defensive tackle Jay Ratliff hasn't practiced yet because of a hamstring strain and his return date is unknown.

Backup defensive end Tyrone Crawford suffered a torn Achilles injury the first day of training camp and is lost for the season.

Before Tuesday's morning walk-through practice, backup defensive tackle Ike Igbinosun was seen wearing a protective boot on his right leg. His status is unknown.

The Cowboys entered training camp with 14 defensive linemen, but only two of the projected starters -- DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher -- are healthy and practicing. The team is down to 10 D-linemen.

Team officials continue to stress that it's too early to panic regarding the defensive line and that seeing some of the younger linemen is a good thing at this stage.

"Injury provides opportunity," coach Jason Garrett said Tuesday. "There are some young guys that we have we want to see. We want to see a lot more of those guys play. We saw some of them play in the spring. We'll get a chance to see more of them now that we will have the pads on starting (Tuesday). It's just an opportunity to show us what they can do. If they do that, they earn more of our trust and we give them more opportunities."

Bucs gave Okoye $600,000 for nothing

September, 4, 2012
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If I’m Amobi Okoye, I don’t think I’d be questioning Greg Schiano’s character. For that matter, Okoye should be running to the bank to make sure the check the Tampa Bay Buccaneers gave him as a parting gift has cleared.

The Bucs cut Okoye a break when they released him Friday. His original contract was for $2 million -- $1.8 million in base salary and a $200,000 workout bonus. Okoye collected the workout bonus in the offseason. As the Bucs were about to cut the defensive tackle, his contract stipulated that $700,000 of his base salary was guaranteed and offset language, which lets a team off the hook if he is released and signs elsewhere.

The Bucs and Okoye quickly renegotiated the contract to remove the guarantee and the offset language, according to a source with knowledge of the deal. Okoye then was waived with a $400,000 injury settlement and promptly turned around and signed a new deal with the Chicago Bears and made some harsh comments about Schiano.

In all, Okoye made $600,000 from the Bucs without ever playing in a regular-season game for them. The Bucs got out of the botched partnership in decent shape as well. Thanks to the renegotiation, the $200,000 workout bonus is the only remnant of Okoye’s contract that counts against Tampa Bay’s salary cap.
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.

Chicago Bears cut-down analysis

August, 31, 2012
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Most significant move: The most significant move of the final cut-down, and the entire offseason, is how aggressive the Bears were in trying to upgrade special teams. In free agency, they signed Eric Weems to help Devin Hester with returns. They kept undrafted safety Jeremy Jones to help on special teams, then traded fullback Tyler Clutts to Houston to acquire cornerback Sherrick McManis. They also kept linebacker Patrick Trahan to help out on special teams. Figuring the team will have a better offense, the Bears wanted to shore up special teams to keep their offense in good field position.

Onward and upward: With only three draft choices making the 53-man roster -- third-round pick Brandon Hardin ended up on injured reserve -- the Bears need to see if they can slide released draft choices Isaiah Frey (sixth round) or Greg McCoy (seventh round) to the practice squad. The Bears may only keep one on the practice squad because both are cornerbacks. They also hope to get undrafted tackle James Brown through waivers to get him on the practice squad. The Bears kept the predicted eight offensive linemen on the active roster, so they need a tackle (Brown, A.J. Greene or Cory Brandon) and an inside prospect to fill out the practice squad.

What’s next: The Bears aren’t standing pat. They ended up adding 16 new players to the roster and are in the process of signing defensive tackle Amobi Okoye as a backup. It wouldn’t be surprising if they look at Antonio Dixon, a defensive tackle released by the Philadelphia Eagles. A decision still has to be made on a punter. Adam Podlesh suffered a hip flexor injury, so the Bears kept undrafted punter Ryan Quigley on the active roster. It’s not out of the question for them to look for another punter who was released.

Buccaneers could be thin at DT

August, 31, 2012
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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers went to great extremes this offseason to build up their depth at defensive tackle so they don’t face a situation like last season, when they became so desperate they had to bring in Albert Haynesworth.

It doesn’t look like things are working out quite as planned. According to multiple reports, defensive tackle Amobi Okoye has been released by the Bucs and the Chicago Bears already are working to finalize a contract with the veteran. That’s ironic, because Brian Price, who once seemed to factor into Tampa Bay’s interior-line plans, was traded to Chicago this summer.

The Bucs spent decent money ($2 million) to bring in Okoye, a former first-round draft pick by Houston. The thinking was he could at least be a rotational player behind Gerald McCoy and could end up as a starter if McCoy’s injury woes continued. Instead, Okoye was the one with the injury problem. A knee issue forced Okoye to miss a lot of time in training camp and the preseason. The Bucs are off the hook for Okoye's $1.8 million base, but his $200,000 workout bonus still will count against their salary cap.

Roy Miller appears to have earned the starting job next to McCoy. Okoye’s release would leave Gary Gibson and Wallace Gilberry as the apparent top backups at defensive tackle. Gibson played for coach Greg Schiano at Rutgers and has bounced around the NFL. Gilberry also has NFL experience. But, given McCoy’s history of injury problems, I don’t see how the Bucs can feel too great about their depth at defensive tackle. I think there’s a decent chance they could end up with another defensive tackle off the waiver wire.

There also are reports that the Bucs have released defensive tackle Frank Okam and safety Cody Grimm, but the team hasn’t made any official announcements yet.

Observation deck: Bucs-Redskins

August, 29, 2012
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Tampa Bay’s 30-3 loss to the Washington Redskins on Wednesday night didn’t make for great viewing.

Blame much of it on Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano. But, more importantly give Schiano lots of credit for making one of his best decisions since taking over the Buccaneers in January.

The Tampa Bay starters did not play. Instead, they stood on the sidelines after going through a full practice at Georgetown University earlier in the day.

It’s not unusual for an NFL coach to use his starters lightly or sit some of them in the final preseason game. But Schiano took this to an extreme. He even sat long-snapper Andrew Economos and a few guys that are likely to be key backups.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. After watching Pro Bowl guard Davin Joseph go down with a season-ending knee injury last week, Schiano wasn’t taking any chances. He wants his starters healthy for the regular-season opener, which comes Sept. 9 against Carolina.

That game is going to be a lot more important -- and, hopefully more entertaining -- than the preseason finale.

Some quick observations from Wednesday night’s game:
  • The Bucs still are trying to figure out how they’re going to replace Joseph. Jamon Meredith started at right guard, but I don’t know if that means he’ll be there for the Carolina game. Meredith surrendered a sack and was called for two penalties in the first half. The Bucs are experimenting with their options at that spot. Ted Larsen, who got the start at center, and Derek Hardman, also are possibilities from the current roster. But the Bucs also could scan the waiver wire for help in the coming days. After watching all the backup offensive linemen, I’d suggest the waiver wire might be the way to go.
  • Defensive tackle Wallace Gilberry might have helped his chances of landing a roster spot. He batted down a pass at the line of scrimmage early in the game. The Bucs are expected to use Gerald McCoy and Roy Miller as their starters. Amobi Okoye is expected to be part of the backup rotation, but he’s missed a lot of time with an injury. Gilberry likely is in the mix with Gary Gibson and Frank Okam to be part of the rotation.
  • I remember a preseason or two back in the 1990s when third-stringer quarterback Scott Milanovich was the most popular quarterback in Tampa Bay. After watching Brett Ratliff get the start and play the entire game, I don’t think starter Josh Freeman or backup Dan Orlovsky have anything to worry about. In fact, I think there is at least a chance the Bucs could follow the path a lot of other teams have taken in recent years and go with only two quarterbacks on the regular-season roster. In fairness to Ratliff, he got no help from his offensive line.
  • Broadcaster and former Buc John Lynch might have stirred up some speculation when he said the Bucs should try to sign tight end Chris Cooley, who recently was released by the Redskins. Usually, I try to shoot down speculation about the Bucs signing guys in their 30s because that really doesn’t fit the profile of a team that’s doing most of its building through the draft. But I’m with Lynch on this one. I think the Bucs could use a little more depth to go with Dallas Clark and Luke Stocker. If Cooley’s healthy, he might be worth a shot. I think he’d be a better lockerroom fit than Jeremy Shockey, who still remains unsigned. General manager Mark Dominik said during a fourth-quarter interview with the broadcast team that there had been contact with Cooley's agent, but said the team is now aggressively pursuing the veteran tight end.
  • Rookie safety Sean Baker still might be a long shot to make the 53-man roster. But he intercepted two passes and recovered a fumble Wednesday night. That might help Baker land a spot on the practice squad.
  • Nice to see Bucs’ co-chairman Joel Glazer hugging Raheem Morris before the game. Morris coached the Bucs the last three seasons and is now Washington’s defensive backs coach. Morris had a good relationship with ownership, but it was obvious to all that a move had to be made as the Bucs lost their final 10 games of last season. I’m just guessing here, but I doubt any members of the Glazer family were exchanging hugs with Washington general manager Bruce Allen, who once held the same role in Tampa Bay.
METAIRIE, La. -- The Saints just announced they’ll move their first training camp practice indoors due to nasty weather in the area.

I’ve got to make my way from the media room to the indoor facility in just a minute. But first, we’ve got a bit of breaking news.

Adam Schefter reports the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have traded defensive tackle Brian Price to Chicago for a late-round draft pick. My first instinct is this is a smart move by the Bucs. Price has been a good player, when healthy.

But Price has a history of injuries. He also has been dealing with a personal tragedy. His sister was killed in a car accident this spring and Price spent a big chunk of the offseason away from the team.

Without Price, the Bucs likely will turn to Amobi Okoye as the starter next to Gerald McCoy. Price might be better off getting a fresh start with the Bears.

Buccaneers' hidden treasure: DL

June, 27, 2012
6/27/12
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AFC hidden treasures: West | North | South | East NFC: West | North | South | East

Examining a position group that could exceed its preseason expectations:

The Bucs have invested a lot of premium draft picks in their defensive line in recent years, but they haven’t really collected any dividends. This could be the year that changes.

Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, the third overall draft pick in 2010, has been slowed by injuries his first two seasons. But he did show some promise when healthy. The new coaching staff believes McCoy can be a dominant player and cornerstone of this defense. But the obvious key is he needs to stay healthy. If he does, he ideally will line up next to fellow third-year pro Brian Price, who also has dealt with some injury issues. But the Bucs went out and got Amobi Okoye and Gary Gibson in the offseason and the hope is to use them in a rotation that can help keep McCoy and Price fresh.

If McCoy and Price finally can blossom, that should provide a tremendous boost for second-year defensive end Adrian Clayborn. He recorded 7.5 sacks as a rookie without much around him. The Bucs believe Clayborn can hit double digits in sacks. The line suffered a big blow when Da’Quan Bowers tore his Achilles tendon in the offseason. At best, Bowers could return around midseason. At worst, he’ll miss the entire season. But this still has a chance to be a decent defensive line because Michael Bennett can start opposite Clayborn.

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