NFL Nation: Robert Herron

Anthony Collins inactive again

December, 21, 2014
12/21/14
11:37
AM ET
TAMPA, Fla. -- For the second straight game, Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive tackle Anthony Collins is a healthy inactive.

A high-priced free agent, Collins has had a disappointing season and has fallen out of favor with the coaching staff. Demar Dotson, who has spent his career at right tackle, will start on the left side for the second straight week. The Bucs want to see if Dotson can be the long-term answer on the left side.

The other inactives for the Bucs are receiver Robert Herron, receiver Solomon Patton, running back Mike James, cornerback Isaiah Frey, defensive end Lawrence Sidbury and tight end Evan Rodriguez.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith hinted during the week that there could be some lineup changes, and he followed through.

Demar Dotson, who normally starts at right tackle, will start at left tackle Sunday against the Carolina Panthers. Oniel Cousins will start at right tackle. Anthony Collins had been the starting left tackle most of the season, but he missed last week’s game with an elbow injury. Collins, who has not played well, appears to be a healthy scratch from the starting lineup and is listed as inactive Sunday.

The other inactives for Tampa Bay are receiver Robert Herron, receiver Solomon Patton, safety Major Wright, linebacker Mason Foster, tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins and defensive tackle Clinton McDonald.
video

TAMPA, Fla. -- Just when you think you've seen every possible way to lose a football game, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers surprise you.

Sunday's 14-13 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals was an appropriate outcome for a franchise that now has 23 seasons of double-digit losses since coming into the league in 1976. The latest loss is up there with any others in the team's history because it came in a home game the Bucs appeared to be on the verge of winning.

Until, of course, they got in their own way. Seattle's fans are referred to as the 12th Man. Tampa Bay fans should be called the 13th Man because they're so unlucky.

[+] EnlargeLouis Murphy
AP Photo/Steve NesiusA bizarre error wiped out a completion to Louis Murphy as the Bucs found another way to lose.
Before we get into the ins and outs of how it all fell apart, let's tell you where the Bucs were sitting. With 26 seconds left in the game, Josh McCown completed a pass to Louis Murphy that appeared to give Tampa Bay the ball at Cincinnati's 20-yard line.

All that remained to be done was to let the clock run down to less than five seconds, spike the ball and bring on Patrick Murray for a chip-shot field goal and a victory.

"The script was written right for us to pull it out at the end," coach Lovie Smith said.

But the script got thrown off as the completion to Murphy was wiped out by a penalty for having 12 men on the field. The Bucs had a few shots after that but were unable to get back into field goal range.

"That sums up our whole season," offensive tackle Demar Dotson said.

So what went wrong to result in 12 men on the field?

Smith didn't want to get into specifics. But McCown said the Bucs brought in offensive lineman Oniel Cousins, who had been working as a tight end all day. Rookie receiver Robert Herron was supposed to come out of the game but did not.

Who's to blame? The logical candidates were pointing the finger at themselves.

"Coaching error on our part," Smith said. "We didn't catch it. Kind of as simple as that. Shouldn't happen. Miscommunication. Blame the head coach. Bad move on my part of not seeing it."

But McCown said all the blame shouldn't fall on the coaching staff.

"We can all help out," McCown said. "We were in a bit of a muddle huddle there, getting guys on and off and playing with the extra tackle. The transition of that from going four wides to bringing Oniel back into the game, we've just got to handle it better. I certainly own it. I didn't see it. I called out protections and other things and didn't get my eyes over there to double-check to see where we were at."

Where the Bucs are at is a 2-10 record and last place in the NFC South.

"That's how 2-10 football teams play," Smith said. "We found a way to lose it in the end."
video
NEW ORLEANS -- The table was all set for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to turn around their season.

Then it all fell apart.

Despite holding an 11-point lead in the fourth quarter, the Bucs lost 37-31 to the New Orleans Saints in overtime Sunday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

"We had every opportunity to win this football game," offensive tackle Demar Dotson said. "We had the Saints right where we wanted them. We didn't finish. We allowed things to slip out of our hands. We've got to learn how to finish football games. That's tough to come in here and have the opportunity we had and let it slip away."

It's tough because, with a win, the Bucs would have been nicely positioned. They would have been right in the NFC South race and they would have been coming home with a two-game winning streak and growing confidence for next week's game with Baltimore.

Instead, they're 1-4, in sole possession of last place in the NFC South and coming home angry. There was more anger in Sunday's locker room than there was after a 56-14 loss to Atlanta in Week 3.

"Somebody's got to make a play," defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. "You've just got to make a play. We let that one go. We let that one go."

The Bucs let this one get away in regulation and in overtime. They took a 31-20 lead when rookie receiver Robert Herron caught a touchdown pass from Mike Glennon with 13:28 left in the fourth quarter.

Plenty of teams have blown leads to Drew Brees and the Saints in their home through the years. But shouldn't you expect to hold on when you have an 11-point lead and your offense and defense have been playing well?

"Yes, we do," coach Lovie Smith said. "There's no other way around it. You're up by 11. With our defense, simple as that, you don't let them score and you win the football game."

That's not what the Bucs did. Two series -- one by the offense and one by the defense -- quickly turned the course of the game. On a New Orleans drive that featured three Bucs penalties, Pierre Thomas scored on a 27-yard run to cut the lead to 31-26.

The Bucs followed that with one of the worst offensive series in franchise history, which is saying a lot. The Bucs started with a first-and-10 at their own 20. They quickly got backed up by three penalties and a fumbled snap by Glennon. Stuck at the 1-yard line, Glennon was sacked for a safety by Junior Gallette to cut the lead to 31-28.

The Saints followed that up with a field goal to send the game to overtime. But that's where things got even worse for the Bucs. On a third down, the Tampa Bay defense appeared to force a New Orleans punt. But cornerback Johnthan Banks was called for illegal use of hands. That gave New Orleans new life and the Saints wound up winning on an 18-yard run by Khiry Robinson.

The Bucs, who finished with 15 penalties for 113 yards, have no one to blame but themselves. They had this game there for the taking and they didn't finish it off.

"It was a key game for us," Smith said. "We put a big emphasis on it. On the road and a division game, that itself says quite a bit. To be able to steal one would have put us in pretty good position. But we seem to do it the hard way. I'm still encouraged by a lot of the things I saw. Disappointed in the loss, but encouraged by some of our play. We're getting better as a football team and eventually our record will show it."

But, despite the golden opportunity, the Bucs aren't there yet.
TAMPA, Fla. – On a day near the middle of training camp, Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith walked into his post-practice news conference and delivered a message.

"There's nothing really I can give you today," Smith said.

Smith wasn't being condescending or rude to the media. He simply was being truthful. Tampa Bay's camp hasn't had any major news or controversies. It has been downright boring at times -- but it beats the alternative.

We saw the other side of things last year, and it wasn't pretty. There was plenty of news and a ton of distractions. Former coach Greg Schiano and quarterback Josh Freeman were in the early stages of a feud that would end in divorce one month into the season. And it wasn't just Freeman who was having issues with Schiano's style. Numerous players had problems with Schiano's rigid ways and never fully bought into the coach.

That quickly caught up to Schiano, who was fired after two lackluster seasons. Enter Smith, who is the anti-Schiano in just about every way. Smith is calm and treats his players like adults, and you already can see the results of that. There have been no controversies.

Amid the tranquility, players are singing the praises of Smith. The coach brings back memories of Tony Dungy, who guided the Bucs to their first era of sustained success. That's no coincidence. Smith was the linebackers coach in Dungy's early years in Tampa Bay and has an approach similar to Dungy's.

People already are comparing defensive tackle Gerald McCoy to Warren Sapp and linebacker Lavonte David to Derrick Brooks. Smith's hiring has brought enthusiasm to a fan base that hasn't had much to be excited about in recent years. But that fan base has pleasant memories of what things were like in the Bucs' glory days.

On several occasions, Smith has said that one of his goals is to make the Bucs relevant again. If things go according to Smith's plans, the Bucs might be boring, but they'll be good.

THREE REASONS FOR OPTIMISM

1. Smith is known for being a defensive coach, and he has some good ingredients to start with. McCoy and David were All-Pros last year, and they play two of the most important positions in the Tampa 2 defense Smith is bringing back to the Bucs. McCoy and David give Tampa Bay a nice start, but some other players are going to have to come through. The coaching staff believes strong safety Mark Barron is ready to be a star. If some role players come through, this could be a very good defense.

[+] EnlargeDoug Martin
Hannah Foslien/Getty ImagesDoug Martin is back from a shoulder injury, but he shouldn't have to shoulder all of the load in a deep backfield.
2. Doug Martin is back from a shoulder injury that kept him out for about half of last season. That should provide a huge lift for the offense. Martin rushed for more than 1,400 yards as a rookie in 2012, and he has looked sharp in training camp. Under Schiano, the Bucs often overused Martin. That’s not going to be the case with Smith. The Bucs have made it clear that Martin will remain as the feature back but that they’ll rotate in some other backs to keep him fresh. Rookie Charles Sims, Bobby Rainey and Mike James could be in the mix for playing time.

3. After using their first two draft picks on wide receiver Mike Evans and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, the Bucs have one of the biggest receiving corps in the league. Williams, Seferian-Jenkins and Vincent Jackson each are at least 6-foot-5. They're going to present coverage challenges for defensive backs.

THREE REASONS FOR PESSIMISM

1. The offensive line hasn't looked very good in the preseason, and that's a huge cause for concern. The Bucs are especially thin at guard. All-Pro Carl Nicks left the team after not being able to recover from a toe injury. That leaves four guys without a lot of experience vying for two starting spots. Oniel Cousins, Jace Daniels, Patrick Omameh and rookie Kadeem Edwards have been rotating at the guard spots, and two of them will emerge as starters, unless the Bucs bring in some help from the outside.

2. Smith went out on a limb when he signed quarterback Josh McCown as a free agent and immediately named him the starter. McCown, 35, has been a backup most of his career, but he did play well in Chicago last year when Jay Cutler went out with an injury. McCown threw 13 touchdowns with just one interception. It's too much to expect him to keep up that kind of pace, especially with an unsteady offensive line. Smith, who coached McCown in Chicago, believes he can be successful over the course of a full season. But that's something McCown has never done.

3. Smith's philosophy is to play great defense and be efficient on offense. That worked well enough to get Smith to a Super Bowl with the Chicago Bears. But that philosophy might be antiquated. The league has become quarterback-driven. The Bucs are in the same division as New Orleans' Drew Brees, Carolina's Cam Newton and Atlanta's Matt Ryan. McCown and this offense might not have enough firepower to stay competitive in the division.

OBSERVATION DECK

  • McCoy has had an outstanding training camp. He consistently has gotten into the backfield as a pass-rusher and has been stuffing running plays. But it remains to be seen whether McCoy's excellent play is simply the byproduct of the weakness at the guard spots.
    [+] EnlargeVincent Jackson
    AP Photo/Bill KostrounVincent Jackson, in his third season with the Bucs, will have a third starting QB throwing to him.

  • The chemistry between McCown and Jackson has been noticeable. In addition to the offseason program, the two spent a lot of time in the spring and summer working out at a local high school.

  • The Bucs have gotten almost nothing out of defensive end Da'Quan Bowers since taking him in the second round in 2011. But they are trying something new with Bowers this year. They're going to use him inside at defensive tackle in obvious passing situations.

  • The Bucs have high hopes for sixth-round draft pick Robert Herron. But don't look for the receiver/return man to get a lot of playing time early on. Herron has had ball-security issues in camp. He needs to hold on to the ball if he's going to earn playing time.

  • Herron will make the 53-man roster. So will Jackson, Evans and Chris Owusu. Eric Page also probably will stick thanks to his return skills. That probably leaves one spot to be filled from a group of receivers who have shown promise in training camp. Tommy Streeter, Louis Murphy, Lavelle Hawkins and Solomon Patton all have shown flashes, but at least a couple of them won't make the roster.

  • Hamstring injuries have kept cornerbacks Alterraun Verner and Mike Jenkins out for a big chunk of training camp. But there's a flip side to that, and it's positive. Second-year pro Johnthan Banks has gotten a ton of work with the first team and has looked good. Banks didn't have a great rookie year. But his performance in camp probably will keep him in the starting lineup.

Buccaneers Camp Report: Day 14

August, 12, 2014
8/12/14
8:58
PM ET
TAMPA, Fla. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Tampa Bay Buccaneers training camp:
  • Coach Lovie Smith pulled a bit of a surprise and put an unexpected end to the training camp portion of the preseason Tuesday. The Bucs are off Wednesday. When they return Thursday, they’ll be practicing without pads and preparing for Saturday night’s preseason game with Miami. Smith said he was pleased with camp overall. “I thought it was good," Smith said. “We practiced in the heat of the day most of the time. It’s draining. It’s draining just going through a walk through in Tampa. But the guys got through it. We haven’t had any major injuries. We felt we got about the proper amount of physical contact that we need to get ourselves in position to play the game. I like the work that we’ve done. Most of the guys have made a lot of progress throughout. We just need to kind of take steps now. We want to see improvement in the games."
  • Smith singled out several under-the-radar players that have given themselves a chance to make the roster with strong training camps. He mentioned fullback Jorvorskie Lane, linebacker Danny Lansanah and defensive lineman Scott Solomon. Smith also said rookie receiver Robert Herron has come on strong in recent days after having some problems holding onto the ball earlier in camp.
  • Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy was given most of the practice off. Smith said that was a coach’s decision and a reward for a strong camp by McCoy. Nose tackles Clinton McDonald and Akeem Spence each got some work at McCoy’s three-technique position.
  • Tuesday was “legends" day. The Bucs welcomed 50 former players to watch practice. That was a nice gesture and a change from former coach Greg Schiano, who didn’t always welcome former players. “I think we’ve made it known that they’re welcome," Smith said. “Not just on legends day, but any day coming back to their football team. What we’re doing, we hope that they see, is we’re trying to get it back. Most of the guys that came here had success while they were here, and that’s what we plan to do."
  • The Bucs signed defensive end T.J. Fatinikun.
  • There is no practice Wednesday. The Bucs are scheduled to practice Thursday at 2 p.m. Although Smith isn’t calling it training camp anymore, the practice still will be open to the public, team officials said. This will be the last open practice of the preseason.

Buccaneers Camp Report: Day 10

August, 5, 2014
8/05/14
8:24
PM ET
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 8

August, 3, 2014
8/03/14
8:42
PM ET
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 6

July, 31, 2014
7/31/14
6:18
PM ET
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 2

July, 26, 2014
7/26/14
8:30
PM ET
TAMPA, Fla. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Tampa Bay Buccaneers training camp:
  • The Bucs, who had their practice abbreviated by lightning Friday, got their first full workout of camp in Saturday evening and the results were predictable. There was good and bad. No series summarized that more than a couple of plays near the middle of practice. On one play, quarterback Josh McCown threw an interception to strong safety Mark Barron. On the next play, McCown bounced back and hit Vincent Jackson with a perfectly thrown ball. Coach Lovie Smith said he expects the team to be more precise when it puts on pads for the first time on Sunday.
  • Speaking of first practices, Saturday marked the true debut of rookie tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. He missed the offseason program due to NCAA regulations and was very limited in the rookie minicamp by a foot injury. But Seferian-Jenkins said his foot is fine now and he practiced with no limitations. After missing so much time, though, Seferian-Jenkins might be a little behind the other tight ends – Brandon Myers, Tim Wright and Luke Stocker. “He’s playing catch-up,’’ Smith said. “But he’s catching up.’’
  • It’s usually tough to get players to talk about specific goals, but defensive end Michael Johnson broke that rule of thumb. Johnson set one goal for himself and one for the entire defense. He wants to get back to double-digit sacks like he had in 2012 with Cincinnati. He also said the Bucs want to have the best defense in the league. Those two goals kind of go hand in hand. There’s been a lot of talk about how defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and linebacker Lavonte David compare to Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks, who were the cornerstones during Tampa Bay’s glory years. But a lot of people forget the Bucs didn’t fully get over the top until they got Simeon Rice as an outside rusher. If Johnson can make an impact anywhere close to what Rice did, the Bucs could end up being a very good defense.
  • I came into camp very skeptical about Tampa Bay’s depth at wide receiver after Jackson and rookie Mike Evans. But I’m starting to warm up to this position group. No one stood out, but guys like Tommy Streeter, Solomon Patton, Russell Shepard, Louis Murphy, Robert Herron, Lavelle Hawkins, Eric Page, Skye Dawson and David Gettis each had some bright moments. I think one of those guys will step up and claim the No. 3 job. That may be all the Bucs need because I’m not anticipating a lot of four-receiver sets from this offense.
  • Read into this whatever you want, but Jamon Meredith worked as the first-team left guard and Oniel Cousins worked at right guard. After the departure of Carl Nicks, I think the Bucs still are trying to figure out what they’re going to do at guard. I wouldn’t be surprised if Patrick Omameh and rookie Kadeem Edwards get some looks with the first team.

Best Bucs camp competitions

June, 20, 2014
6/20/14
8:11
AM ET
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.
TAMPA, Fla. -- Buccaneers rookie Robert Herron said he’s patterning himself after veteran NFL receiver Steve Smith. He’s off to a good start.

Like Smith, Herron is an undersized receiver with the potential to contribute to the return game. But the similarities don’t end there, and Smith and Herron might have something more in common.

Anyone who has followed Smith’s career with the Carolina Panthers and now with the Baltimore Ravens knows the receiver plays with a chip on his shoulder.

“I definitely have a chip on my shoulder because I feel like I should have went before,’’ Herron said.

Herron, a Wyoming product, was referring to the fact that he wasn’t drafted until the sixth round.

“I’m definitely motivated,’’ Herron said. “I thought I was going to go before that. But you never know how the draft is going to go. I wasn’t expecting that but I knew it could happen. I’m definitely going to try to go hard on every team that either I took a visit with or a workout with.’’

If Herron uses that fuel to be even half as productive as Smith, the Bucs will be very happy.

The Bucs see Herron as someone that has a chance to be their slot receiver. They have plenty of size with starters Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans, but they can use someone with speed to stretch the field. Herron said he spent much of his college career in the slot and is comfortable in the position.

But the Bucs also are looking at Herron in another spot. During this weekend’s rookie camp, Herron has gotten some work as a punt returner.

“He didn’t do a lot in college, but he has been working on it,’’ coach Lovie Smith said. “He caught the ball better today than he did yesterday. I was a little concerned to say the least yesterday. But today was better. It was windy. But, as I told them, there’s going to be a couple of windy games that we’ll be playing this year.’’

Herron said he hasn’t returned punts since high school. But Herron said he’s spent the last few months working on punt returns because it would make him more marketable in the NFL.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers begin a three-day rookie camp Friday afternoon. Here are three things I’ll be keeping an eye on.

Mike Evans' readiness. The first-round draft pick has to get ready in a hurry. The Bucs are counting on Evans to be an instant starter at wide receiver opposite Vincent Jackson. Many rookie receivers are brought along slowly. The Bucs don't have that luxury. They need Evans in the starting lineup on opening day.

Charles Sims' hands. The Bucs surprised a lot of people by using a third-round pick on a running back when they already had depth at the position. But Sims was drafted for a reason. He’s an outstanding receiver out of the backfield and it sure seems like the Bucs want to throw to their running backs.

Robert Herron in the slot. It might be a lot to expect a sixth-round pick to contribute right away, but Herron will at least get a look. The Bucs need a slot receiver and Herron is a natural at that position. If Herron can make a good early impression, he could set himself up for a lot of playing time.
There’s an old saying that you can’t judge a draft for at least two years. I think that’s fair.

But we live in a time when immediacy is expected. With that in mind, how do we put an early gauge on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ draft class?

I say the best way to do it is to look to see how many draft picks – at the moment – will be starters on opening day. I’m speculating here, but I’ll say the Bucs got two opening-day starters out of this draft.

I think the first two draft picks, Mike Evans and Austin Seferian-Jenkins, will be in the starting lineup in September. Evans is a very safe bet to be there because the Bucs have no other real threats to win the starting position opposite Vincent Jackson. Evans is a plug-and-play starter and I think he’s got a very good chance to be productive with opposing defenses also having to deal with Jackson.

I also think Seferian-Jenkins will be an instant starter, even though he’s going to have a little more competition than Evans. The Bucs already had Tim Wright, Tom Crabtree, Brandon Myers and Luke Stocker. All four of those tight ends have some positive qualities, but Seferian-Jenkins has the potential to be the most complete player of the bunch.

I don’t want to sell the rest of Tampa Bay’s draft class short. The other four rookies all could end up as starters eventually. But I think running back Charles Sims, guard Kadeem Edwards, tackle Kevin Pamphile and receiver Robert Herron will be backups as rookies.
NFC wrap-ups: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South


TAMPA, Fla. -- A wrap-up of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' draft. Click here for a full list of Buccaneers draftees.

[+] EnlargeMike Evans
Thomas B. Shea/Getty ImagesMike Evans can begin his career as Tampa Bay's
No. 2 receiver opposite Vincent Jackson.
Best move: There was a lot of smoke about the Buccaneers possibly drafting quarterback Johnny Manziel. But Tampa Bay’s top target all along was wide receiver Mike Evans. The Bucs got him with the seventh overall pick. Evans projects as an immediate starter opposite Vincent Jackson. At 6-foot-4, Evans has a frame similar to Jackson, and this duo is going to cause matchup problems for opposing defenses. Evans can begin his career as the No. 2 receiver, but Jackson already is in his 30s. It might not be long before Evans takes over as the No. 1 receiver. By resisting the urge to take Manziel, the Bucs made it very clear they view Josh McCown as their short-term starter and Mike Glennon as their quarterback of the future. Evans’ arrival makes both McCown and Glennon better.

Riskiest move: The Bucs began the draft without a clear-cut starter at right guard. They still don’t have one. They did take guard Kadeem Edwards out of Tennessee State and Purdue's Kevin Pamphile, who projects as a tackle, in the fifth round. But it’s a lot to expect a fifth-round pick to be an immediate starter. The Bucs might have to keep an eye on the free-agent market to get their starting right guard. There also are health concerns with left guard Carl Nicks, so Tampa Bay doesn't have a lot of depth at guard.

Most surprising move: The selection of running back Charles Sims in the third round. The team already had a deep stable of running backs with Doug Martin, Mike James, Bobby Rainey and Jeff Demps. It wasn’t really necessary to add another back to the mix. But Sims isn’t a typical back. He was used extensively as a receiver out of the backfield in college, and it’s likely the Bucs want to take advantage of those skills. We don’t know what coordinator Jeff Tedford’s offense will look like just yet. But, with the addition of Sims, it probably is fair to say the Bucs want to throw some passes to a running back.

File it away: You generally don’t expect a sixth-round pick to get playing time early, but Wyoming wide receiver Robert Herron has a shot. The Bucs have an opening for a slot receiver, and Herron has speed to spare. He’ll get a chance to compete for the slot receiver spot. Herron also has return skills and could factor in on special teams.

SPONSORED HEADLINES