Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Andrew Hayes-Stoker

TAMPA, Fla. -- Back in training camp and the preseason, Buccaneers rookie receiver Robert Herron often looked lost.

That’s mainly because he was.

“I was thinking about 100 things at a time instead of playing and going out and making plays like I know I can,’’ Herron said.

The sixth-round pick out of Wyoming made the roster, but he was buried on the depth chart -- until Sunday. One week after being inactive for a game at Pittsburgh, Herron played a key role for the Bucs in Sunday’s loss to New Orleans.

Herron caught a 9-yard touchdown pass from Mike Glennon to give the Bucs a 31-20 lead with 13:28 remaining. It was the kind of play Herron wasn’t making in the preseason.

But things have changed for Herron. He’s getting more comfortable with the offense.

“I’m just trying to stay in my playbook,’’ Herron said. “When the opportunities come, I’ve got to capitalize on them.’’

Herron was active in large part because fellow rookie Mike Evans was out with a groin injury. But Herron made the most of his opportunity and that might help him stay active for the remainder of the season. Ideally, the Bucs would like to use Herron as their slot receiver. That’s what he was drafted for.

But Herron admitted he wasn’t ready for that role when the season started.

“It was just that I was thinking about a lot,’’ Herron said. “A lot was going through my mind.’’

But Herron said he’s started feeling more comfortable after getting some good advice from people who have been around.

“Everybody’s taken a part,’’ Herron said. “[Fellow receiver] Russell Shepard and I have gotten very close since I’ve been here. My receiver coach [Andrew Hayes-Stoker], [quarterback] Josh McCown always says a few words to me to keep my head in it. I feel once I got settled in a little, my confidence went up.’’

And the Bucs are hoping Herron’s confidence keeps growing.
TAMPA, Fla. -- Wide receiver might be the position group I'm most intrigued to see in Friday night's Tampa Bay Buccaneers' preseason game (7:30 ET) with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

That's because there's some very good competition for the fourth, fifth and possibly sixth receiver spots. The Bucs have Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans as their starters and Chris Owusu seems to be a lock to make the team.

After that, it's anybody's guess.

"We've got a group of guys that don't necessarily have big names," receivers coach Andrew Hayes-Stoker said. "They're hungry to prove their opportunity. Competition at the highest level every day."

Rookie Robert Herron was a draft pick, so he also is likely to make the team. That leaves a group that includes Tommy Streeter, Solomon Patton, Louis Murphy, Lavelle Hawkins, Skye Dawson, Eric Page, Solomon Patton and Russell Shephard competing for the final roster spot or spots.

Each of those guys has shown promise at various points in training camp. But whoever steps up the most in the preseason games could end up making the roster.

TAMPA, Fla. -- Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans missed a good chunk of the offseason program with a hamstring injury. Although he has looked sharp in training camp, wide receivers coach Andrew Hayes-Stoker said the rookie still is catching up on what he missed.

"Any time that you lose, you don’t get it back," Hayes-Stoker said. "But he is progressing."

Evans has worked with the first team at times, but not all the time. Hayes-Stoker said the Bucs are proceeding cautiously on purpose.

"We’re trying to be smart," Hayes-Stoker said. "Obviously, he had the hamstring and we don’t want to be foolish there. But you see the strength, you see the play-making ability. And he’s still got things to do as a pro. You got to approach the game in your off time the same way. Every guy has a different struggle, whether it’s physical, whether it’s mental, whether it’s discipline, whether it’ focus -- everybody in this game has something they have to overcome."

But the Bucs see Evans as someone who can be a long-term starter. He might still have some lessons to learn, but Evans is going to be a big part of the offense from opening day on.

"His physical gifts are there a lot of times," Hayes-Stoker said. "He’s 20 years old. He’s young. Been in college. From a college spread-type offense. To learn to be a pro from a guy like (veteran receiver) Vincent Jackson is invaluable. I think he’s in the right environment. I think it’s the perfect team for him to foster and really grow. To stick his roots deep in the ground I really think it’s the perfect place for him."

Bucs announce 11 assistant coaches

January, 9, 2014
TAMPA, Fla. -- Very quickly, Lovie Smith is putting together his coaching staff for the Buccaneers.

We already knew Jeff Tedford was the offensive coordinator and Leslie Frazier the defensive coordinator. But the Bucs announced 11 more hires Thursday evening. In some cases, the names have already been reported. But let's run through the complete list.

The Bucs hired Marcus Arroyo as quarterbacks coach, Joe Cullen as defensive line coach, Andrew Hayes-Stoker as wide receivers coach, Dave Kennedy as strength and conditioning coach, Larry Marmie as a senior defensive assistant, Hardy Nickerson as linebackers coach, Kevin O'Dea as special teams coordinator, Mikal Smith as safeties coach, Tim Spencer as running backs coach, Ben Steele as an offensive quality control coach and Matt Wiegand as assistant offensive line coach.

The most interesting names on the list are Nickerson, Marmie and Mikal Smith. Nickerson was a linebacker for the Buccaneers when Lovie Smith was the linebackers coach in the 1990s. Marmie coached Lovie Smith when he was a college player at Tulsa. Mikal Smith is Lovie Smith's son.