NFL Nation: Corey Lynch

INDIANAPOLIS -- New Indianapolis Colts safety Mike Adams was part of the Denver Broncos team that reached the Super Bowl last season.

But there Adams sat, waiting for a team to sign him during the offseason. He waited. Waited some more. He waited so long that anxiety started to set in. Adams, 33, had never been out of work this long during his 10-year NFL career.

Adams’ phone finally rang last week when the Colts put safety Corey Lynch on injured reserve.

[+] EnlargeMike Adams
Adam Hunger/USA TODAY SportsVeteran safety Mike Adams has started 73 games in his 10-year career.
"The pieces are in place and we have a chance to hoist (the trophy) at the end," Adams said. "That’s my goal. I came here to win. That’s Chuck Pagano’s philosophy and that’s what they want to do here. That’s what it all boils down."

Adams has gone from being unemployed to having a chance to be one of the Colts' starting safeties when they take on his former team, the Broncos, in the season opener on Sept. 7.

"Bottom line is I want to compete for a job," Adams said. "I want to earn these guys' respect. I’m going in (Year 11). Its’ a different locker room, new system I have to learn. I want to earn that. I don’t want it given to me. I told coach and I told the (general manager Ryan Grigson), 'I appreciate you telling me I don’t have the job. I appreciate that.' I was the underdog my whole career. I love competing and proving people wrong."

Safety has been a legit concern for the Colts since long-time fixture Antoine Bethea signed with San Francisco on the first day of the free agent signing period in March.

The Colts didn’t address the position during free agency or the draft. They constantly talked about having confidence in Delano Howell, who has been working with the first team during the offseason workouts.

But Howell lacks experience on a defense that was too inconsistent last season. The same goes for Sergio Brown, David Sims and Colt Anderson.

Enter Adams.

He has started 73 games in his 10-year career. The question about Adams is how much does he have left in his tank at the age of 33. He admits his age might have caused teams to shy away a little bit.

"I feel like I’m 26,” he quickly says. "You're going to see the way I move. Once guys see my film. I was talking to the GM and he said, 'I had to watch your film' and he said, 'You’re 33?' and I was like, 'yeah I am 33,' but when you watch the film it doesn’t look like I’m 33."

Adams is versatile. He can also play cornerback, nickelback or be the dime.

Now he has to see if he’s versatile enough to get the number he wants. Adams, who currently has No. 42, has worn No. 20 throughout his career, but cornerback Darius Butler has that number.

"I’ll have to sweet-talk him," Adams said. "Have to take him out to dinner; wine and dine him."
INDIANAPOLIS -- The assumption heading into the draft was that the Indianapolis Colts would use one of their five picks on a safety.

Seventeen safeties were picked during the three-day draft. None of them were selected by the Colts.

"There’s a small handful of guys in this draft that we felt like we could go get, it just didn’t happen," Colts general manager Ryan Grigson said. "But it was not a deep safety class and if there was a safety we liked, we would have took one."

So as of now, in-house players Delano Howell, Sergio Brown, Corey Lynch and Colt Anderson, who have combined to start 22 games, are the stop candidates to man the starting safety spot opposite of LaRon Landry next season. Longtime Colts safety Antoine Bethea signed with the San Francisco 49ers in March.

"You don’t just because of need go reach and try to grab and fill a need when the value’s not there," coach Chuck Pagano said. "I feel good about the guys that are here and I think at the end of the day, we bolstered our front seven with acquiring D’Qwell Jackson and Art Jones and the two defensive players we picked up. The better that front seven is, the more pressure you can put on the passer, it certainly helps the back end. We’ll be fine."

Upon Further Review: Colts Week 15

December, 16, 2013
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INDIANAPOLIS -- An examination of four topics from the Indianapolis Colts' victory over the Houston Texans:

Still in it: The Colts did their part by beating the Texans and then they got some help from some other teams to keep them in the running for one of the top three seeds in the AFC playoff race. Miami beat New England, the No. 2 seed, and Cincinnati, the No. 3 seed, lost to Pittsburgh on Sunday night. The Colts and Bengals have identical 9-5 records, but Cincinnati has the tiebreaker because of its victory over Indianapolis on Dec. 8. The Colts trail 10-4 New England by a game. And in the really long shot department, Indianapolis trails top seed Denver by two games. The Colts have to win their final two games -- at Kansas City and against Jacksonville -- and get some help from other teams in order to move up from the No. 4 seed. The Patriots close the season against Baltimore (7-6) and Buffalo (5-9). The Bengals play Minnesota (4-9-1) and Baltimore (7-6), while the Broncos wrap up against Houston (2-12) and the Raiders (4-10).

Luck
Bethea
Faking it: The Colts had a 22-point lead early in the fourth quarter when they attempted their first fake punt of the season on fourth-and-8. The timing wasn't bad because most assumed the Colts would punt it and make the Texans use some clock by going the length of the field to score. Well, the Texans weren't thinking that. Safety Corey Lynch, punter Pat McAfee's protector, took the snap and attempted to run to his left. Lynch gained only 3 yards on the play.

Streak intact still: The Colts kept two significant streaks alive on Sunday. Coach Chuck Pagano and quarterback Andrew Luck still have yet to lose back-to-back games. The Colts are now 10-0 in games following a loss since the start of the 2012 season. They also kept the Texans winless in Indianapolis. Houston is 0-12 in games played against the Colts in Indianapolis.

Getting defensive: The Colts held the Texans to 239 yards, the fewest they've given up since allowing 205 yards against Jacksonville on Sept. 29, and the three points tied a season low. “We played good,” safety Antoine Bethea said. “Being able to stop the run, not giving up too many big plays, getting off on third down and creating turnovers, you'll always have a good turnout.” The Colts will need a similar type of defensive performance because the Kansas City Chiefs, Indianapolis' next opponent, are averaging 44 points a game in their last four games. They scored 56 points and running back Jamaal Charles caught eight passes for 195 yards to go with five touchdowns against the Oakland Raiders on Sunday.

Tennessee Titans cut-down analysis

August, 31, 2013
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Most significant move: Marc Mariani came back from a vicious broken leg suffered in the preseason in 2012. A shoulder injury suffered in the preseason opener cost him the rest of camp and the preseason, and the Titans put him in injured-reserve Saturday, ending his season. He might have been ready as soon as Week 3, but the Titans clearly didn't like the uncertainty. They could have waived him injured, exposing him to a claim. In that scenario, St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher, who was instrumental in the Titans drafting the receiver/returner out of Montana in 2010, might have wanted him. But the Rams or anyone else would have had to have added him without getting to examine the injury, and Mariani's not under contract beyond this year so a new team could have been at risk for picking up a year's salary and getting nothing out of him. If he wasn’t claimed, he would have reverted to Tennessee’s IR. By putting Mariani directly on IR, he is assured of his $575,000 base salary this season but won’t play anywhere. The move means Darius Reynaud is the returner. He showed himself to be only the team’s fifth-best running back during camp, but sticks to handle punts and kickoffs.

Wildcard: If Rusty Smith clears waivers, the Titans will want the fourth-year quarterback back on their practice squad. He’s not been on the active roster for nine games in any of his first three seasons, so he retains his practice squad eligibility. If Smith is claimed, the Titans will need to find a young quarterback for the spot, who they can work to develop as insurance and who will be able to offer an option as the No. 2 if Jake Locker or Ryan Fitzpatrick suffers an injury that results in any missed time. One team that won't claim Smith -- his hometown Jacksonville Jaguars.

What's next: I could see the Titans shopping for a veteran safety as they sift through cuts. Seventh-round pick Daimion Stafford is on the roster now, but the Titans are heavy with strong safeties and light at free safety. They’d probably like better balance and Stafford could ultimately land on the practice squad. With 10 defensive linemen plus strongside linebacker Akeem Ayers in line to play a good share of end, the last pure end -- Keyunta Dawson -- is hardly a lock at this point. Only one injured Titan, rookie linebacker Zaviar Gooden, is likely to miss the season opener at Pittsburgh.

Tennessee Titans cuts: S Al Afalava, T Daniel Baldridge, TE Brandon Barden (injured), DT Stefan Charles, DT Zach Clayton, TE Jack Doyle, LB Gary Guyton, DT DaJohn Harris, S Corey Lynch, FB Collin Mooney, DE Nigel Nicholas, RB Jalen Parmele, WR Rashad Ross, LB Tim Shaw, QB Rusty Smith, LB-DE Scott Solomon, G Kasey Studdard, WR Dontel Watkins, LB Jonathan Willard, CB Khalid Wooten, C-G Fernando Velasco

Placed on Injured-reserve: WR/returner Marc Mariani.

My 53-man Tennessee Titans roster

August, 30, 2013
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Rather than tell you this is what’s going to happen, I’ll tell you this is what would happen if I had influence in the Tennessee Titans meeting room when final cuts will be decided.

Some cuts are already trickling out from Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean, so check his Twitter feed.

Quarterbacks: Jake Locker, Ryan Fitzpatrick

There just is no room for Rusty Smith and there isn’t a need for a third quarterback unless things go incredibly wrong. The difference between a random third guy and Smith isn’t giant.

Running backs: Chris Johnson, Shonn Greene, Jackie Battle, Quinn Johnson (FB)

Battle has to contribute on special teams, but he was better than Jalen Parmele through the preseason. Wyatt says Parmele is already gone. Johnson’s been hurt and could lose out to Collin Mooney.

Wide receivers: Kenny Britt, Nate Washington, Kendall Wright, Damian Williams, Justin Hunter, Michael Preston, Marc Mariani (return specialist)

Preston is one of the best 53 players on the team. Even though he won’t be active on Sundays if everyone’s healthy, you keep extra quality depth at one spot if it’s better than weaker depth at another spot. Once he’s healthy, Mariani isn’t as explosive as a punt returner as Darius Reynaud, but will more regularly get 10 yards.

Tight ends: Delanie Walker, Craig Stevens, Taylor Thompson

No need for a fourth on the 53. Sign Jack Doyle to the practice squad

Offensive linemen: Tackles Michael Roos, David Stewart, Mike Otto, Byron Stingily. Interior: Andy Levitre, Chance Warmack, Rob Turner, Brian Schwenke, Fernando Velasco

Velasco is guaranteed $2.02 million under his tender contract out of restricted free agency. I’m not sure he should stick over Scott Solomon at linebacker or Stefan Charles at defensive tackle. But the big push for revamping the line and the desire for depth after last year’s slew of injuries makes me feel like they will stay loaded.

Defensive ends: Derrick Morgan, Ropati Pitoitua, Kamerion Wimbley, Lavar Edwards, Keyunta Dawson.

Dawson is a good guy to have. I can see him staying and the Titans going five ends as opposed to six tackles. But linebacker Akeem Ayers is a nickel end so he factors in here as well.

Defensive tackles: Jurrell Casey, Sammie Hill, Mike Martin, Antonio Johnson, Karl Klug (swing)

I’ve got Stefan Charles over DaJohn Harris but neither making it. If one of them sticks, it’s the last defensive line spot probably over Dawson. I see Charles on the practice squad.

Linebackers: Akeem Ayers, Moise Fokou, Zach Brown, Zaviar Gooden, Colin McCarthy, Patrick Bailey

Scott Solomon is one of my last two cuts. I want to keep seven 'backers. The seventh guy would be a trade-off for Velasco, I think. Solomon is versatile, seems to be catching on to the position change and can still play end if needed. He’s not practice squad eligible. I just can’t fit him here. I might keep him over Bailey but I don’t think they rank him that way.

Safeties: Michael Griffin, Bernard Pollard, George Wilson, Daimion Stafford

The fourth spot isn’t strong and Stafford could probably go to the practice squad. But if they choose a veteran -- Al Afalava or Corey Lynch -- as the fourth I could see them trying to upgrade it with an outsider.

Cornerbacks: Jason McCourty, Alterraun Verner, Tommie Campbell, Coty Sensabaugh, Blidi Wreh-Wilson

I’d expect Khalid Wooten on the practice squad.

Kicker: Rob Bironas

Punter: Brett Kern

Long-snapper: Beau Brinkley
Outside linebacker Keith Rivers, who was traded today to the New York Giants for a fifth-round pick, wasn't the only disappointment in the Bengals' 2008 draft class.

Cincinnati failed to find a long-term impact player out of its 10 picks that year. Rivers, the ninth overall pick in the 2008 draft, finished with the most starts in this class with 33, and the only players that remain with the team are two backups: defensive tackle Pat Sims (third round), and offensive tackle Anthony Collins (fourth round).

Wide receiver Jerome Simpson (second round) produced a career-high 50 catches last season as the team's No. 2 wide receiver, but he now faces 15 days in a Kentucky jail after pleading guilty to a drug charge. The Bengals haven't ruled out bringing him back.

Wide receiver Andre Caldwell (third round) showed promise in 2009 when he made a career-best 51 catches. But he followed that up with a combined 61 receptions the past two seasons. Caldwell signed this offseason with the Denver Broncos.

There were two players -- defensive tackle Jason Shirley (fifth round) and safety Corey Lynch (sixth round) -- who played a handful of games for Cincinnati before going elsewhere for reserve roles. Shirley played last season for Carolina, and Lynch was with Tampa Bay.

The last three players taken in the Bengals' 2008 draft -- tight end Matt Sherry (sixth), defensive end Angelo Craig (seventh) and wide receiver Mario Urritia (seventh) -- never played a regular-season game for Cincinnati and are out of the league.

In comparison, the Ravens drafted quarterback Joe Flacco and running back Ray Rice that season, and the Pittsburgh Steelers selected running back Rashard Mendenhall. Even the Browns, who had limited picks after trading for Shaun Rogers and Corey Williams, got underrated defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin in the sixth round.

Tanard Jackson starting for Bucs

October, 16, 2011
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TAMPA, Fla. – After practicing just three days in the last 56 weeks, safety Tanard Jackson will be in Tampa Bay’s starting lineup Sunday against the New Orleans Saints.

Jackson was reinstated by the NFL on Tuesday, after serving a suspension of slightly more than one year for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. Jackson returned to practice Wednesday and the Bucs made the decision to activate him to the 53-man roster Friday.

Cody Grimm, who had been starting at the free safety spot, already is out for the season with an injury. The Bucs had been getting by with Corey Lynch and Larry Asante sharing playing time at that spot.

Wrapping up NFC South preseason

September, 1, 2011
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The Panthers, Buccaneers, Saints and Falcons each completed their preseason Thursday night.

Not a lot of starters played, so let’s sum it all up with some quick observations on each team.

  • Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris sat most of his starters in a 29-24 loss at Washington. But he did a smart thing to get his backups ready. Morris showed his team the film of last year’s fourth preseason game and reminded the players that safety Corey Lynch, who had interceptions in the game, wouldn’t have made the roster without that kind of performance. Some of the “bubble’’ guys who appeared to get the message was defensive back D.J. Johnson and receivers Preston Parker and Ed Gant.
  • Tampa Bay second-round pick Da'Quan Bowers, who had been quiet much of the preseason, made a splash Thursday night. Bowers picked up a fumbled handoff on Washington’s first possession.

  • It wasn’t difficult to figure out that Atlanta coach Mike Smith was sending a message to his defense in the Falcons' 21-7 preseason finale loss to the Ravens. Although most of the offensive starters sat out, most of the defensive starters played. Undoubtedly, to fire up the defense and build some momentum for the start of the regular season. It seemed to work. Brent Grimes came up with an early interception and defensive end Kroy Biermann, starting in place of veteran John Abraham, produced a sack on a play where Ray Edwards also generated some pressure. Speaking of the pass rush, rookie Cliff Matthews also produced some pressure, which might help him secure a roster spot.
  • The one Atlanta offensive starter who did play a lot was rookie receiver Julio Jones. He was still playing in the second quarter and had a nice run on a reverse. He also got a nice block from quarterback Chris Redman. I’m sure part of the reason Jones got playing time was because he missed the normal offseason. But I also suspect the Falcons want to give opposing defensive coordinators some headaches as they watch film of Atlanta’s offense. Speaking of the offense, one reserve who stood out was running back Antone Smith, who might have secured a roster spot.

  • The Saints rested most of their starters, but two members of their recently-shuffled offensive line got to start in a 32-9 loss to the Titans. Those were tackles Jermon Bushrod and Zach Strief. On defense, it was more of the same, but cornerback Tracy Porter got lots of playing time. Porter missed much of the preseason and camp with an injury and this was a chance for him to catch up to his teammates.
  • Although the Saints appeared to be loaded at running back with Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas, Chris Ivory and Darren Sproles, Joique Bell has had such a strong preseason that it’s going to be difficult to cut him. If Bell does somehow hit the streets, Tampa Bay, which doesn’t have a lot of depth in the backfield, should do anything possible to get him.

  • One of the best signs for Carolina was the presence of right tackle Jeff Otah. He had missed some time with a knee injury, but it looks like he’s healthy. Otah could be the difference between Carolina having a mediocre offensive line and a very good one.
  • One of the worst signs for Carolina was when right guard Garry Williams went down with a knee injury in the second quarter of the 33-17 loss to Pittsburgh. The Panthers already lost starter Geoff Schwartz to injury and Williams had been the heir apparent. The Panthers don’t have lots of depth on the line and may have to go out and find someone off the waiver wire or in a trade.
TAMPA, Fla. -- Sit down with Mark Dominik even for just a few minutes and you’ll quickly hear his theory on why the term “youth movement’’ shouldn’t come with negative connotations.

“Don’t confuse youth with immaturity,’’ the general manager of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers said. “There’s a big difference between those two things. I’m sure we’ve all met 23-year-olds that act like they’re 28 and we’ve met people that are 28 but act like they’re 23. I feel like we’re a mature, young football team, which is important.’’

Yes, the Bucs, who were the NFL’s youngest team last season, are going to be young again. They have only three players 30 or older and they’re counting on big things from a lot of rookies and second-year players.

But this is a team that won 10 games last season with a lot of young players in key roles, and all of them should be a year better. That experience only encouraged the Bucs to continue with their youth movement and steer clear of making any dramatic moves in free agency. Instead of worrying about regressing, like a lot of fans and media are predicting, the Bucs fully expect to take another step forward.

“It doesn’t matter how old you are,’’ quarterback Josh Freeman said. “It matters how well you’re playing and if you have the ability to step up in big situations.’’

Freeman epitomizes what Dominik was talking about. The quarterback is 23, but spend a few minutes with him or think about how he led his teammates through workouts during the lockout and you’d swear he was 28. Or 38.

“It’s about the type of player we’re looking for,’’ Dominik said. “Certainly, the skill level has a lot to do with it. But it’s also very much about the type of player we’re looking for in terms of their demeanor. Plus, I have a lot of confidence in our coaching staff as far as getting guys prepared.’’

The Bucs hit it big when they drafted Freeman, and pickups such as receiver Mike Williams and running back LeGarrette Blount have made quick impacts. That’s part of the reason why they plan to plug rookie Adrian Clayborn in as an immediate starter at defensive end and why they’re willing to put rookie Mason Foster at the all-important middle linebacker position.

“When we talked to Adrian Clayborn and Mason Foster in the draft process, we felt that sense of someone who was wise beyond his years,’’ Dominik said. “It gives you confidence to be able to see a young man who takes his game and his craft seriously and puts time into it and it’s important to him. That's the kind of thing that's important to us. We have a young team that we like very much and we look forward to it growing older together.''

THREE HOT TOPICS

[+] EnlargeGerald McCoy
Brett Davis/US PresswireThe Buccaneers have invested several high draft picks in their defensive line, including the No. 3 overall pick in 2010 on defensive tackle Gerald McCoy.
1. Where will the pass rush come from? The Bucs were among the worst in the league at pressuring quarterbacks last season. That’s why they drafted Clayborn in the first round and fellow defensive end Da'Quan Bowers in the second in April. A year ago, the Bucs used their top two draft picks on defensive tackles Gerald McCoy and Brian Price.

There’s a lot invested in those young defensive linemen and the Bucs expect immediate results. Sure, they wouldn’t mind getting some sacks from blitzes by their linebackers or defensive backs, but it’s not like the Bucs have some other pass-rushing defensive end hidden up their sleeves.

Throughout camp, Clayborn’s looked even better than the Bucs thought he was when they drafted him. Bowers, coming off knee surgery in January, hasn’t been quite at Clayborn’s level. But he has looked better than the Bucs expected him to be at this point. At worst, Clayborn will start right away and Bowers will be used as a situational rusher. At best, Bowers might get on the field more than that and show every team that let him slide to the second round that his knee is fine.

2. Can Blount be a complete running back? That’s the hope and the plan, but Blount is a work in progress. We learned quickly last season that he can run between the tackles. He didn’t take the starting job from Cadillac Williams until midseason, but he still managed to rush for 1,007 yards.

Williams thrived as a third-down back last season, but he left via free agency, creating a void. When Blount was on the field last season, it was pretty obvious the Bucs were going to hand the ball to him. He only caught five passes and the team was hesitant to rely on Blount to pick up on blitzes on pass plays.

Earnest Graham and Kregg Lumpkin can do some of those things, but the Bucs have been working hard to make Blount a more balanced player. The coaching staff said he’s now up to speed on pass blocking and he has worked a lot on catching the ball out of the backfield in camp. If Blount can do everything this season, Tampa Bay’s offensive intentions no longer will be telegraphed.

3. Was Freeman’s first full season as a starter misleading? Not at all. He threw for 25 touchdowns with only six interceptions and pretty much carried an offense that had to do a lot of shuffling through a series of injuries.

Freeman took over as leader of the team last season, and he only reinforced that with the way he kept the Bucs together during the lockout. Those workouts only increased his chemistry with Williams, Arrelious Benn, Sammie Stroughter and tight end Kellen Winslow. Freeman is capable of throwing for 30-plus TDs and passing for more than 4,000 yards.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

[+] EnlargeDezmon Briscoe
Kim Klement/US PresswireTampa Bay is counting on a big contribution from receiver Dezmon Briscoe this season.
The Bucs had a pretty strong feeling about receiver Dezmon Briscoe when they made the unconventional move of signing him to the practice squad, but paying him like he was a member of the regular roster at the start of last season. Briscoe later earned his way onto the regular roster and has made the Bucs look like geniuses throughout camp and in the first preseason game. The team believes Benn is coming along well after suffering a torn ACL late last season. But the Bucs don’t want to rush Benn. That's why Briscoe could end up starting at the “Z’’ position opposite Williams early in the season. The long-range promise of Briscoe is off the charts because he can play all three receiver spots.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT

It’s not so much that the Bucs have been disappointed with what they’ve seen from McCoy and Price when they’ve been on the field. The problem is the two second-year defensive tackles simply haven’t been on the field a lot. The hopes are still high for these two, but Price is coming off a rare surgery on his pelvis and is being brought along slowly. McCoy, who had his rookie season end with a triceps injury just when he was starting to blossom, has missed some of camp with a shoulder injury. Roy Miller is a consistent player and the Bucs don’t mind starting him. But they need McCoy and Price to be on the field and making big plays.

OBSERVATION DECK

  • The arrival of Clayborn and Bowers also helps the offensive line. In the old days, left tackle Donald Penn rarely had to break a sweat in practice because he worked against Stylez G. White.
  • There’s concern on the outside about depth in the secondary. A lot of that concern stems from the uncertain situations of cornerback Aqib Talib and safety Tanard Jackson. Talib could face suspension by the league for an offseason incident in which he was charged with aggravated assault, and Jackson is out until at least late September as he finishes a one-year suspension for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. The Bucs have no idea what’s going to happen with Talib. If Jackson returns to them, they view it as a bonus. But the team isn’t nearly as concerned with the depth situation as fans are. Coaches are comfortable with Sean Jones and Cody Grimm as starting safeties and think they’ve found quality backups in Larry Asante and Corey Lynch. At cornerback, the Bucs believe E.J. Biggers could step into a starting role if anything happens to Talib, and there’s hope that second-year pro Myron Lewis could succeed as a nickel back.
  • The Bucs like what they’ve seen from Lumpkin during camp and think he might be a reliable backup for Blount. But Graham is a nice fall-back option. He’s been playing fullback, but played tailback earlier in his career. With Erik Lorig getting time at fullback last season, the Bucs have flexibility to move Graham around.
  • Although Foster is expected to start in the middle, the Bucs aren’t going to overload the rookie. At least in the short term, outside linebacker Quincy Black will wear the radio helmet and call the defensive plays. Part of that is because Black will be on the field all the time, and Foster will come out when the Bucs go to the nickel package.
  • Attention, fantasy football players: Consider drafting Winslow. He was good last season, despite missing a lot of practice time with an achy knee. Winslow said the knee feels better than it has in years. He spent most of the offseason working out with Freeman in Tampa and their chemistry should be even better than last season.

Three things: Buccaneers-Chiefs

August, 12, 2011
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Three things to watch for in Tampa Bay’s preseason opener at Kansas City on Friday. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. ET.

The play of Mason Foster. All indications are the Bucs are leaning heavily toward going with the third-round draft choice as their middle linebacker. The rookie has had a nice camp, but needs to show he can do the job in game conditions.

The evolution of LeGarrette Blount. The running back ran for 1,000 yards last season, but the team was limited in how he could be used. That’s because Blount didn’t join the team until late, didn’t start until the second half of the season and wasn’t fully up to speed on plays that didn’t involve him running the ball. The Bucs want Blount on the field more often this season and want to utilize him as a pass blocker and receiver.

How the safeties fare. With Tanard Jackson still suspended, the Bucs aren’t exactly loaded at safety. They have veteran Sean Jones, who is not exactly a ball hawk, and Cody Grimm, who still is recovering from a leg injury. This could be an opportunity for Corey Lynch or Ahmad Black to step forward.
We’ve talked about potential unrestricted free agents at length and you can see the official list of all of them by clicking here.

But we haven’t done much on restricted free agents. So let’s run through the list of NFC South restricted free agents now. Restricted free agents are players with fewer than four years of service who received qualifying offers before the lockout. Teams have the right of first refusal if a restricted free agent receives an offer from another team. Depending on the tender, they also can receive compensation if a player leaves as a restricted free agent.

Atlanta has two -- cornerback Brent Grimes and receiver Eric Weems. If Grimes leaves, the Falcons get a first-round draft pick. If Weems leaves, they get a second-round choice.

Carolina’s restricted free agents are receiver David Clowney, long-snapper J.J. Jansen and linebacker Jordan Senn. If Clowney leaves, the Panthers would get a fifth-round draft pick. There would be no compensation for Jansen or Senn.

New Orleans has only one restricted free agent. That’s guard Carl Nicks and he would bring a first-round pick as compensation.

Tampa Bay has six restricted free agents. Kicker Connor Barth and tackle James Lee would bring second-round draft picks if they leave. Defensive tackle Frank Okam would bring a fifth-round pick and safety Corey Lynch would bring a sixth-round pick. Cornerback Elbert Mack and receiver Micheal Spurlock come only with the right of first refusal.
Let’s be very clear from the start that no charges have been filed. But there are reports Tampa Bay cornerback Aqib Talib is a “person of interest’’ in a March 21 incident in Texas in which gunshots reportedly were fired.

Again, Talib has not been arrested and the investigation is ongoing. But even the hint of Talib possibly being involved in something like this has to have the Buccaneers upset and nervous.

Talib
Talib
Talib is one of the most talented young cornerbacks in the league and coaches and scouts from all over will tell you he has many moments when he plays at a Pro Bowl level. But Talib’s short career already has been marred by a history of trouble.

He got into a fight with a teammate at the 2008 rookie symposium. In a 2009 minicamp, he got into a fight with a teammate, swung his helmet and wound up hitting another player in the face. Talib also was suspended for the first game of last season as punishment for a 2009 incident with a cab driver.

The Bucs declined comment, which is understandable since there hasn’t been an arrest and the current labor lockout prevents them from having any contact with Talib or any of their players. Like the rest of us, the Bucs will have to wait to see how this sorts out. Even if the Bucs wanted to take a proactive move and discipline or release Talib, they can’t do it now due to the lockout.

You can bet the Bucs and the NFL will be keeping a close eye on this if it develops into anything more significant. There can be no suspensions during the lockout, but NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said during last week’s NFL owners meeting that players’ actions during the lockout will be subject to disciplinary action when the labor situation is resolved.

With one suspension already under his belt, Talib could face a longer suspension. As the Buccaneers prepare for the draft, this could impact their strategy and the secondary could become a bigger priority.

Safety Tanard Jackson already is serving a one-year suspension and isn’t eligible to apply for reinstatement until late September. The Bucs have some promising young players in cornerbacks E.J. Biggers, Elbert Mack and Myron Lewis and safeties Cody Grimm and Corey Lynch, but the possibility of being without their two best players in the secondary could change their thinking.

Buccaneers regular-season wrap-up

January, 5, 2011
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NFC Wrap-ups: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Arrow indicates direction team is trending.

Final Power Ranking: 13
Preseason Power Ranking: 30

[+] EnlargeLeGarrette Blount
J. Meric/Getty ImagesLeGarrette Blount went from undrafted free agent to 1,000-yard NFL rusher in a matter of months.
Biggest surprise: LeGarrette Blount. The running back wins a very close call over receiver Mike Williams, mainly because Blount was an undrafted free agent and Williams was a fourth-round pick. Blount initially signed with the Titans, but was cut by Tennessee at the end of the preseason. The Bucs took a shot on Blount and brought him along slowly. With Cadillac Williams starting the season ineffectively, the Bucs turned over their running game to Blount. He produced 1,000 yards and gave the Bucs a power running game. The best part of all is that Blount is still very raw. An offseason of coaching and working with his teammates could make him a lot better.

Biggest disappointment: Tanard Jackson. The safety was one of the best players on the team and big things were expected of him this season. But Jackson was suspended early in the season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. His absence created a scramble at safety, but that at least allowed the Bucs to find out that Cody Grimm and Corey Lynch can play a bit. But this is an area that probably still needs to be strengthened in the offseason. Jackson isn’t eligible to apply for reinstatement until late September and there is no guarantee he will be back with the Bucs.

Biggest need: A pass rush. The Bucs used their first two draft picks to solidify the middle of their defensive line. They selected defensive tackles Gerald McCoy and Brian Price. Each showed some potential before getting injured. Both should be back and healthy next season, and they should bring some push to the middle of the defensive line. But the Bucs need to focus on the outside of the line this offseason. Stylez G. White and Tim Crowder are not elite pass-rushers. The Bucs have assembled an offense that can score some points. Now, they need to fix up the defense to generate some sacks and turnovers to put teams away when the Bucs take a lead.

Team MVP: Josh Freeman. In his second season -- and first full season as a starter -- Freeman left no question that he truly is a franchise quarterback. He carried the team all season and seemed to get better each week. The Bucs are letting Freeman and his young receivers grow up together, and that means the rapport should only get stronger. Freeman established himself as a leader on and off the field, and this is his team now. Freeman hasn’t even hit his full potential and the Bucs came close to making the playoffs. He should continue to get better, and that means nothing but good things for the Buccaneers.

Can’t stand still: The Bucs showed a knack for finding guys who can play at the bottom of the scrap pile. Players such as Blount, Williams and Grimm prospered when they were given chances, and the Bucs were proud to tell you how many rookies they were playing this year. That’s great, but you’re not going to hit on every player you reach for. The Bucs need to continue with their youth movement because it’s working nicely. But they might be wise to at least do a little in free agency and sign a proven player or two to help the youth movement along.

Quincy Black will play for Buccaneers

December, 5, 2010
12/05/10
3:26
PM ET
TAMPA, Fla. – The Buccaneers appear to be catching a bit of a break on the injury front.

Linebacker Quincy Black, who was listed as questionable, is expected to play and start today. His backup Dekoda Watson (shoulder) has been declared inactive.

The other inactives for the Bucs are Larry Asante, Brandon Carter, Will Barker, Preston Parker, Dezmon Briscoe and Frank Okam. Rudy Carpenter has been designated as the third quarterback.

The Bucs also are saying James Lee will start over Jeremy Trueblood at right tackle. Trueblood had been the starter. He missed some time with an injury and Lee played well in his absence. Now that Trueblood is close to full health, coach Raheem Morris has indicated the two will compete for the starting job each week.

Also, at least according to the depth chart, the Bucs will start Corey Lynch at free safety. That spot came open when Cody Grimm suffered a season-ending injury. But don’t be surprised if cornerback Ronde Barber gets some work at safety.

Final Word: NFC South

December, 3, 2010
12/03/10
4:00
PM ET
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 13.

[+] EnlargeMichael Spurlock
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesThe Falcons have reconfigured their special teams coverage after Micheal Spurlock returned the ball for 209 yards in their previous match.
Point of no returns. The last time Tampa Bay and Atlanta got together (earlier this season in the Georgia Dome) Micheal Spurlock almost single-handedly knocked off the Falcons with a few huge kickoff and punt returns. I wouldn’t look for that to happen again. Mike Smith and his coaching staff sat down after that one and made some major changes to their coverage units. They switched where some guys line up and they also brought a couple of starters, most notably defensive end Kroy Biermann, onto the coverage units. Since then, the Falcons haven’t been giving up much in the way of returns.

Storm brewing. I just looked at the weather forecast for Cincinnati on Sunday and it’s not very pretty. The Saints are a much better team than the Bengals. But with the temperature near freezing and the possibility of snow, this could be a very tough game for New Orleans. They’re a team built for a dome, or at least good weather. Sean Payton may have to change his game plan and run Chris Ivory and Reggie Bush more than usual, and it would be nice if Bush did a better job of holding onto the ball than he did in Dallas on Thanksgiving.

Turnover-free zone. We’ve already talked several times about how the Falcons have gone four straight games without a turnover. But we’re going to do it again now because this is significant. If Atlanta can go without a turnover against the Bucs, the Falcons will become the first team since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970 to go five consecutive games without turning the ball over. If they do that, I think chances are pretty good they’ll also extend their winning streak to six games and get their 10th victory of the season.

Safety dance. Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris has been a little coy about his plans at safety after Cody Grimm's season ended when broke his left ankle. We may see some of Corey Lynch back there. He’s mainly been a special-teams guy but has been working in this defensive system in practice all year. I also think you might see cornerback Ronde Barber get some time at safety -- or maybe even some sort of hybrid position. What I’m saying is, if I’m Morris, I’m putting Aqib Talib on Roddy White all day. That’s strength against strength. Then, I’m looking at Atlanta’s other receiving weapons -- tight end Tony Gonzalez and receiver Michael Jenkins. I’d take my chances and let E.J. Biggers, Myron Lewis or Elbert Mack handle Jenkins, who is a role player. No matter if you line him up at safety or cornerback, I’d put Barber on Gonzalez and let the two veterans go at it.

An instant classic. Ah, there’s so much to say about this epic matchup between the Carolina Panthers and Seattle Seahawks. But we’re limited on space here, so we’ll keep it short. If John Fox really wants to get back at the people who are letting his contract run out, he should go out and win this game and maybe one or two more and cost Carolina the first pick in next year’s draft. That’s about the only thing the Panthers have to shoot for right now.

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