Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Clinton McDonald

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.
TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers could be without three starters and two key backups for Sunday’s game at Detroit.

Defensive tackle Clinton McDonald (hamstring), left tackle Anthony Collins (elbow) and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins (back) all missed Friday’s practice and are listed as questionable. It’s the same story for backup running back/return man Bobby Rainey (ankle) and tight end Brandon Myers (calf).

“When guys don’t practice on a Friday, it’s not a good thing,’’ coach Lovie Smith said.

The Collins injury is the biggest concern. It would mark the second straight week the Bucs have been without a starting offensive lineman. Center Evan Dietrich-Smith missed last week’s game with an illness. Collins hasn’t had a great season, but his potential absence would leave the Bucs without their best bet to protect quarterback Josh McCown's blind side.

If McDonald can’t play, Akeem Spence would get his second straight start and Da'Quan Bowers would get time as a rotational player. If Seferian-Jenkins doesn’t play, Luke Stocker likely would be the starter.

Rainey did a nice job as the return man last week, but the Bucs signed Solomon Patton, who was with the team early in the season, as an option if Rainey can’t play.
TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers could be without left tackle Anthony Collins for Sunday’s game at Detroit.

Collins was added to the injury report and did not practice Thursday due to an elbow injury. Coach Lovie Smith didn’t get into the specifics of Collins’ injury but didn’t sound optimistic.

“When you miss practice on a Thursday, it’s not a good thing," Smith said.

If Collins can’t play Sunday, Oniel Cousins likely would get the start.

Defensive tackle Clinton McDonald (hamstring), tight end Brandon Myers (calf), running back Bobby Rainey (ankle) and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins (back) also were held out of practice. Middle linebacker Mason Foster was excused from practice for personal reasons.

Bucs without four injured starters

November, 30, 2014
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TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be without four starters for Sunday's game with Cincinnati.

All-Pro linebacker Lavonte David, who said Friday he was confident he would play despite a hamstring injury, headlines a list of significant inactives. Center Evan Dietrich-Smith (illness), tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins (back) and defensive tackle Clinton McDonald (hamstring) also are inactive. The other inactives for the Bucs are cornerback Crezdon Butler, tight end Brandon Myers and tight end Luke Stocker.

That means the Bucs are without any of the tight ends they’ve been going with all season. The team promoted Cameron Brate and signed D.J. Williams and those two will share the duties at tight end and fullback.

With David out, the Bucs are expected to shift Danny Lansanah to the weak side and start Orie Lemon on the strong side. Garrett Gilkey is expected to start in Dietrich-Smith’s place and Akeem Spence is expected to take McDonald’s place.

W2W4: Bengals vs. Buccaneers

November, 29, 2014
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What to watch for in Sunday’s game between the Cincinnati Bengals and Tampa Bay Buccaneers:

The Tampa Bay return game. This has been a weak spot for the Bucs all season. Marcus Thigpen was the latest return man, but he was released after having trouble holding onto the ball. The Bucs didn’t bring in a return man from outside. It looks as if there’s a good chance Bobby Rainey will handle both kickoff and punt returns.

A.J. Green. The Cincinnati receiver presents a tough challenge for Tampa Bay’s secondary. Green had been slowed by a toe injury earlier in the season, but he has come on strong recently. Green is averaging 124 receiving yards over the last two games.

Cincinnati’s running game. The Bengals rank seventh in the league in rushing offense while the Bucs are tied for No. 19 in defending the run. Jeremy Hill is averaging 4.9 yards per carry, and Giovani Bernard is back after missing four games with a hip injury. With nose tackle Clinton McDonald banged up, the Bucs might have trouble stopping the run.

Mike Evans. The Tampa Bay rookie receiver has been on fire for the last month. With a touchdown reception in each of the last four games, Evans is tied for the most consecutive games with a touchdown by a rookie receiver in the last 10 years.

The streak. It has been difficult to find positive stats for the Bucs this year. But here’s one: The Bucs have won their last six games against the Bengals.
TAMPA, Fla. – Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David said he’s confident he’ll be able to play Sunday against Cincinnati.

David, who missed last Sunday's game with Chicago with a hamstring injury, took part in Friday’s practice. David said sitting out last week was difficult.

David
“It’s very hard sitting out the first time since ever," David said. “It’s real tough for me. Being a competitor, I want to go out there and compete with my teammates. It was tough."

Coach Lovie Smith said David's status could be a game-time decision, but he was encouraged by the return to practice. Smith said getting David back would be a big boost for the defense.

“Quite a bit," Smith said. “Best outside linebacker in ball out there running around and getting close to full speed. That’s a good thing."

The Bucs have some other injury concerns. Center Evan Dietrich-Smith continued to be held out of practice with flu-like symptoms. If Dietrich-Smith isn’t able to play Sunday, Garrett Gilkey likely would fill his role.

Defensive tackle Clinton McDonald (hamstring) didn’t practice. If McDonald can’t play, Akeem Spence likely would replace him. Backup tight ends Luke Stocker (concussion) and Brandon Myers (calf) were held out of practice and it’s unlikely they’ll play. The team elevated Cameron Brate from the practice squad and said D.J. Williams and Brate are the likely backups for Austin Seferian-Jenkins.

Safety Dashon Goldson also was experiencing flu-like symptoms and was held out of practice.
TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' pass rush had its best outing of the season during Sunday’s victory at Washington. Now comes the challenge of keeping it at that same level the rest of the season.

The Bucs had a season-high six sacks against Washington and quarterback Robert Griffin III didn’t have much time to throw the ball. The Bucs had only five sacks in the five games prior to Washington.

All-Pro defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said the key to the success was that the defensive line played as a unit.

“The only way to have a dominant pass rush is if you rush with all four guys,’’ said McCoy, who leads the team with 6.5 sacks. “It can’t just be one or two guys. It has to be everybody doing their part. When you do that, everybody can get in on the action. It’s very rewarding when the [defensive line] room gets the sack. Of course, individually, there will be stats. But the room gets the sack. All we’re concerned about is that we rush as a unit and we were able to do that Sunday.’’

Tampa Bay relies almost exclusively on pressure from the front four. In the Tampa 2 scheme, blitzes aren’t used often. Defensive ends Jacquies Smith and Michael Johnson and defensive tackle Clinton McDonald have come on strong recently.

Johnson was signed as a high-priced free agent from Cincinnati. He started the season slowly and now has three sacks. It’s been well documented that Johnson has been playing through injuries to his ankle and hand. Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier revealed Thursday that Johnson has been playing with a broken hand.

“He’s been up and down with injuries and that’s tough,’’ Frazier said. “Now, with the broken hand, it limits him again. He’s playing through things. I don’t know the time frame to get the cast off. Hopefully, he’ll get to the point where he can grip and move people around with his hands, now that his ankle is fine. It limits him. He’s given us what he has and it was good enough this past Sunday. We’re going to need him again this Sunday.’’
TAMPA, Fla. -- There's been a lot of talk about how Tampa Bay's free agents haven't produced the way the Buccaneers expected.

McDonald
There is plenty of truth to that, but there also is one very big exception. He goes unnoticed sometimes due to the nature of his position, but nose tackle Clinton McDonald, who was signed away from Seattle, is quietly putting together a nice season.

"Clinton McDonald has been everything we've wanted him to be coming here," coach Lovie Smith said. "We wanted him to be a force. He's one of the elder statesmen -- guys listen to Clinton. Because he's not a BSer -- he's just to the point, works hard."

Teammates may listen to McDonald because he has a Super Bowl ring. He was with the Seattle Seahawks when they won the Super Bowl last season. But McDonald's play on the field also has spoken volumes.

McDonald has been playing the run well and he's recorded 3.0 sacks.

"For a nose guard, he's rushing the passer fairly well," Smith said. "Just been very pleased with the leadership he's brought. His overall play and in our locker room, on our football team has been outstanding.”

So the next time you hear talk about Tampa Bay's free-agent class being unproductive, remember McDonald and realize the Bucs hit on at least one free agent.
TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers made a lot of noise in free agency. But those free agents have been quiet so far.

That's a big part of the reason why the Bucs are off to a 1-6 start. Let's take a look at how the free agents are faring:

Anthony Collins: The Bucs gambled that Collins, a career backup, could be a quality starter at left tackle. So far, things haven't worked out too well. The Bucs have allowed five sacks in each of the last two games. That's not all on Collins, but he's the most important pass protector and the Bucs are struggling in that area.

Dietrich-Smith
Evan Dietrich-Smith: Much like Collins, Dietrich-Smith spent much of his career as a backup before becoming a starter in Green Bay last year. The Bucs viewed Dietrich-Smith as a player on the rise, but he's been pretty ordinary so far. We've already mentioned the pass blocking and the run blocking hasn't been great either. The center plays in important role in both of those areas.

Brandon Myers: He's getting playing time in two-tight-end sets, but rookie Austin Seferian-Jenkins is the main pass catcher. Myers has been all right as a role player.

McCown
Josh McCown: He was brought in as Lovie Smith's hand-picked quarterback. McCown started the first three games and the offense never got into any real rhythm. He suffered a thumb injury in the third game and couldn't throw the football for a month. McCown is healthy again, but the Bucs appear to be sticking with Mike Glennon as the starter.

Clinton McDonald: The defensive tackle was brought in mostly due to his upside as an interior pass rusher. McDonald has done a decent job -- he has 1.5 sacks and has generated pressure.

Michael Johnson: The Bucs brought this defensive end in to lead their pass rush. Johnson has been disappointing so far with only two sacks. It should be pointed out that Johnson has been playing through an ankle injury most of the season.

Alterraun Verner: The cornerback was brought in after the Bucs unloaded Darrelle Revis. Verner hasn't been spectacular, but he's been solid. He might be the best signing of this free-agent class.

Buccaneers at the bye: Defense

October, 16, 2014
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With the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their bye week, let’s take a position-by-position look at how they’ve performed so far.

Defensive line. Tackle Gerald McCoy and end Michael Johnson have been playing through injuries. They’ve been decent, but haven’t done anything special. William Gholston moved into the starting lineup at end after Adrian Clayborn suffered a season-ending injury, but hasn’t had a big impact. Tackle Clinton McDonald was supposed to add interior pass-rushing skills, but he’s been quiet so far. The Bucs have only nine sacks. They need to get a lot more active up front for coach Lovie Smith’s defensive scheme to have a chance to work. GRADE: D

Linebackers. Lavonte David has been solid, but he hasn’t been coming up with a lot of big plays. Middle linebacker Mason Foster missed three games with a shoulder injury and that really hurt the defense. Danny Lansanah has been a bright spot. He’s taken the starting job on the strong side away from Jonathan Casillas. Lansanah has returned two interceptions for touchdowns. GRADE: C

Defensive backs. The Bucs have a lot invested in their secondary, but they haven’t been getting much in return. Safeties Mark Barron and Dashon Goldson have been very quiet. Cornerbacks Alterraun Verner and Johnthan Banks have been slightly better, but they’re not coming up with big plays. GRADE: F
TAMPA, Fla. -- One of the stranger quirks in the NFL is the injury report for a Thursday night game.

McCoy
McCoy
Teams are required to put out an injury report on Monday. But that report generally is hypothetical because teams usually don’t practice on Mondays. So the report is an estimate of players who would not have practiced if there was practice.

Tampa Bay’s hypothetical report contained three players that would not have practiced. Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (hand) and middle linebacker Mason Foster (shoulder) suffered injuries during Sunday’s game. Rookie tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins (ankle) did not play Sunday and also was on the injured list.

McCoy and Foster declined to talk to the media during Monday’s open locker room period. McCoy first was seen with nothing on his hand and it was visibly swollen. A few minutes later, McCoy was seen with wrapping on his hand.

Coach Lovie Smith said it’s possible McCoy could have his hand placed in a cast, but that’s not the first priority.

“That is an option,’’ Smith said. “Some positions, you can get by with that. On the defensive line, it’s a lot harder to do. You need to be able to grip and hold. Yes, that’s an option. But, hopefully, we won’t have to go that far down the road with it, but we’ll see.’’

If McCoy is unable to play Thursday against Atlanta, Smith said the Bucs would employ a three-man rotation that would include Clinton McDonald, Akeem Spence and Da’Quan Bowers as the defensive tackles. If Foster can’t play, Dane Fletcher would be the likely starter.

Rapid Reaction: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

September, 14, 2014
Sep 14
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TAMPA, Fla. -- A few thoughts on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 19-17 loss to the St. Louis Rams on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.

What it means: This isn't a full-fledged disaster, but it's entering that territory. The Bucs are 0-2 -- with both losses coming at home. Based on what we've seen out of them so far, there's no reason to think they can win their three upcoming road games (Atlanta, Pittsburgh and New Orleans). This loss was particularly painful because it came against a mediocre team that was playing a third-string quarterback (Austin Davis).

Stock watch: Defensive tackle Clinton McDonald was an offseason signing as a free agent. That's looking like a good move. McDonald played the run well and had an impressive third-quarter sack of Davis. Unfortunately, the Bucs didn't get much of a pass rush from anywhere else.

Big injury: There was no official news yet, but the hand injury suffered by All-Pro defensive tackle Gerald McCoy appeared serious. McCoy briefly tried to return to the game with heavy wrapping on the hand. But that was short-lived and he left the game for good near the middle of the second quarter. If McCoy is going to miss any significant time, it could be devastating for the Bucs. He's their best player and the team's unquestioned leader.

Honoring Brooks: One of the day's highlights came at halftime when the Bucs inducted Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks into the team's Ring of Honor and retired his jersey (No. 55). Brooks also was presented with his Hall of Fame ring.

Game ball: Tampa Bay running back Bobby Rainey. He got the start in place of an injured Doug Martin and responded with a 144 rushing yards.

What's next: The Bucs face a quick turnaround. They play at Atlanta on Thursday night.

W2W4: Buccaneers-Panthers

September, 7, 2014
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TAMPA, Fla. – Let’s take a look at three things to watch in Sunday’s game between the Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Tampa Bay offensive line. This unit has been almost completely overhauled (right tackle Demar Dotson is the only returning starter) since last season. That’s not a bad thing because last year’s offensive line wasn’t very good. But the Bucs are playing catch-up in terms of continuity and chemistry. They added left guard Logan Mankins just last week. He’s a Pro Bowl player, but he has had only a handful of practices with his new teammates. That’s a less-than-ideal situation against a Carolina front seven that might be as good as any in the game.

Josh McCown. He has been a backup for much of his career, but McCown is getting the start on opening day. If he can play like he did last year for Chicago in relief of an injured Jay Cutler, McCown will be fine. He just needs to direct an efficient offense. But, if McCown plays like a backup, the Bucs could be in trouble.

The Tampa Bay pass rush. It’s crucial for the Bucs to put some pressure on Cam Newton, who is dealing with a rib injury. In Lovie Smith’s defense, most of the pressure is expected from the front four. On paper, Tampa Bay’s front four has the potential to be good. Gerald McCoy is an All-Pro in the middle and Clinton McDonald gives the Bucs an interior pass rusher. But the real key will be whether defensive ends Adrian Clayborn and Michael Johnson can generate pressure.
Cam Newton and Gerald McCoyDale Zanine/USA TODAY SportsCam Newton's sore ribs would prefer not to have any close encounters with Gerald McCoy.
If there's anything certain about the NFC South, it's uncertainty.

Since the division came into existence in 2002, no team has claimed the championship in back-to-back years. Worst-to-first finishes have been common, and no team has been able to consistently dominate.

That's why Sunday's season opener between the Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers is so significant. The Panthers won the division last year, and the Bucs finished last at 4-12. But this is a new year, and history has shown that anything is possible in the NFC South.

Panthers reporter David Newton and Buccaneers reporter Pat Yasinskas take a look at the matchup.

Yasinskas: David, much has been made of the release of wide receiver Steve Smith, who I think was the best player in franchise history. I know Smith's age was a concern. But can any of the new wide receivers step up and match his production?

Newton: You think Smith was the best player in franchise history? I truly believe he is, although he probably would have a hard time believing me after what I'm about to say: The Panthers are better at wide receiver today than they were this time a year ago.

It's nothing against Smith, but he's 35 and admittedly not a true No. 1 receiver anymore. First-round draft pick Kelvin Benjamin is. At 6-foot-5 and 240 pounds, he is the big target quarterback Cam Newton hasn't had. Benjamin is deceptively fast, too. But the biggest thing is he makes plays, whether it's over the middle in traffic or on the outside. If teams double-cover him, that will open things up for tight ends Greg Olsen and Ed Dickson in the middle. It also will open coverage on Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant, a pair of veterans I believe to be more dependable than Brandon LaFell and Ted Ginn Jr. were last year. If the Bucs choose to single-cover Benjamin, Newton will look for him often. I know rookie receivers tend to struggle, but this one has a special feel.

The bigger worry for Carolina is its rebuilt offensive line. The Bucs added some talent around defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. How big of a problem will that be for the Panthers?

Yasinskas: That should be a big concern for the Panthers. McCoy might be the best defensive tackle in the game, and the Bucs have worked hard to improve his supporting cast. They went out and signed tackle Clinton McDonald and end Michael Johnson to surround McCoy with some other players who can get after the quarterback. The guy who isn't getting a lot of attention but is worth keeping an eye on is Adrian Clayborn. He's a 2011 first-round draft pick who hasn't shown a lot so far, but the Bucs believe the new scheme will help them get more out of Clayborn.

Jordan Gross' retirement had to hurt Carolina. How good is this offensive line without him?

Newton: Athletically, it might be better. And in time, it might be better in terms of productivity. What it lacks is time together -- and Gross' leadership.

Byron Bell was considered average to perhaps slightly better than average at right tackle, but the Panthers believe because he is naturally left-handed he's better off on the left side. He's still susceptible to the bull rush from what I saw in the preseason, but he's every bit as strong and athletic as Gross. Amini Silatolu began last season as the starting left guard before suffering a season-ending knee injury. So he's solid.

It's the right side the Bucs -- particularly McCoy -- might be able to take advantage of. As good as rookie Trai Turner has looked at right guard, he just turned 21 and he missed the last two preseason games with a groin injury. The good news is he has Pro Bowl center Ryan Kalil next to him. Nate Chandler, a former defensive lineman who wound up the starter at right guard last season, has moved out to right tackle after losing the left tackle battle. Again, he has great athleticism. He just needs time at the position.

How much different will the Bucs look under Lovie Smith than they did a year ago?

Yasinskas: The Bucs will look dramatically different -- and that's a good thing from their perspective. Many players were miserable under former coach Greg Schiano, and they tired of his rigid ways. Smith brings a fresh start, and the players are delighted with him and his schemes. The Bucs are going back to the Tampa 2 defense that was famous in the Tony Dungy years, and their offense will have a faster tempo. More importantly, Smith has brought a new culture to the Bucs. Players are having fun again.

Everyone in Tampa is curious about Newton's rib injury. Is he healthy enough to be the athletic quarterback we've all come to know?

Newton: The ribs are sore, and that isn't likely to change by Sunday. But Newton has thrown the ball well in practice, and his range of motion is good. He's tougher than most give him credit for being. To never have missed a start despite being hit twice as many times as any other quarterback over the past three seasons really is remarkable.

Coach Ron Rivera says he doesn't plan to change the game plan because of the injury, and that includes the read-option. But do I expect Newton to run 11 times, as he did at Tampa last season? I'd be stunned. The Panthers don't need Newton taking unnecessary hits. Having said that, if there is a play to be made, Newton won't hesitate to use his legs. He insists that he'll continue to dive headfirst instead of sliding, too. But I expect Newton to stay in the pocket as much as possible and throw the ball to Benjamin as often as he's open. Those two have quickly developed a bond.

What about Josh McCown, who spent two years on the Carolina bench? Is he really the answer at quarterback to make the Bucs a playoff contender?

Yasinskas: McCown is a great story. He has spent most of his career as a backup, but the Bucs are giving him the chance to be a starter. McCown played extremely well last season when Bears starter Jay Cutler was hurt, and he has history with Smith from their time together in Chicago. But is McCown capable of leading a team to the playoffs? I honestly don't know. I think he needs a lot of help from the defense and the running game. If he gets that, McCown could be effective as a passer.
TAMPA, Fla. – In last year’s meetings with the Carolina Panthers, there were times when Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy was tripleteamed.

McCoy said Monday that he’d welcome a similar scenario when the Bucs host the Panthers in Sunday’s regular-season opener.

McCoy
McCoy
“I don’t care,’’ McCoy said. “It is what it is. Buffalo tried the same thing and you saw what happened. If they want to try it, they can go ahead. I’m not trying to play for myself. I play to get tripleteamed. I play so I make my teammates better. That’s one thing [Hall of Famer Warren Sapp] always talks about -- ‘Are you making the people around you better?’ That’s one thing he did. That’s one thing I’m working for. I want everybody around me to be great. It’s not about me. It’s about everybody around me.’’

The Bucs upgraded around McCoy in the offseason. They signed defensive end Michael Johnson and defensive tackle Clinton McDonald as free agents. But McCoy sees another returning starter as being crucial to the defensive line.

“I think [defensive end] Adrian Clayborn is going to be the key for us up front,’’ McCoy said. “Everybody wants to say it’s Gerald, it’s about the under tackle. No. He has to make a transition from the right to the left and people are not expecting that to be a positive transition, going from his best side to a side he has to learn over a couple months. I think he’s going to surprise a lot of people. If he can get going, it’s going to change everything else.’’

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