Connor Barth was perfect in his return to Tampa Bay, hitting three field goals from 35, 45 and 47-yards out while knocking down all three 33-yard extra points.
After seeing 17 points get taken off the board over the last two weeks – five missed FGs and two PATs –head coach Lovie Smith is relieved to put the kicking issues aside.
Connor Barth, Tampa Bay’s all-time leader in field goal accuracy, goes 3-for-3 on FG in return.
“It was exciting to watch, to put it mildly,” Smith said. “What a homecoming, a welcome back. There’s a lot on the kicker to perform when his number is called and he really stepped up to the plate big time.”
Not only did Barth step up to the plate on three-point attempts, but also on kickoffs. A lot was made about his apparent lack of power keeping him a free agent, but Barth silenced the critics on Sunday. All eight kickoffs reached the end zone and five resulted in touchbacks.
“Last week you guys reminded me forever (saying), ‘Lovie, you’re going to have to cover this week because Connor’s going to hit it to the 20-yard line every time,’” Smith jokingly said. “That wasn’t the case. He really did a great job kicking off.”
After the game, Barth credited long-snapper Andrew DePaola and holder Jake Schum on “making it easy” on him and said he never doubted any field goal attempt. Though, even he admitted he was a little shocked at how well kickoffs went.
“I’ve made a lot of kicks in this stadium, so it is what it is,” Barth said. “You just trust in what you worked on in practice. We had a good week and that always makes it better on Sunday. We always preach one kick at a time and I really try to focus on that one kick.
“I’m happy that I kicked off, that was the main thing. I haven’t kicked off like that – I don’t know if I ever have. That was fun. It was a great team win and I’m just happy to be a part of it.”
After being demoted to fourth cornerback on the roster a couple weeks ago, Alterraun Verner started Sunday’s game at the nickel position and turned in a solid performance.
Along with five tackles, Verner recorded a sack in the second quarter when he blitzed from five yards behind the line of scrimmage, proving the range of responsibility at the nickel spot.
Bucs CB Alterraun Verner – Photo by: Getty Images
“The nickel position can be as involved as any position on the defense,” head coach Lovie Smith said on Monday. “He gets a chance to blitz. Vern got a sack (Sunday) at it. At times, he’s going in for our Sam linebacker so you are going to be involved in the run and man coverage.
“He gets a chance to do everything, so you need a pretty good football player at that position. He’s such a smart player, too. You need a heady player there and I was pleased with what he did the first time out.”
Verner, a Pro Bowler in 2013, handled the apparent reduction of playing time like a professional, saying he would do whatever the team asked of him to the best of his ability. On Sunday that meant lining up at nickel cornerback, a position that Ronde Barber set an especially high bar at in Tampa.
“(Verner) did what we asked him to do,” Smith said. “He made a couple of plays from the nickel position. When people look at the nickel, sometimes you wonder why you put a player like that in the position. First off, look at who we’ve had here playing the nickel position (Ronde Barber). It takes a special player to do that.”
Time will tell if Verner can continue to succeed at one of the most featured and unique positions in this Tampa defense.
Don’t look now, but the Buccaneers are tied for fifth in the league with 15 sacks.
Yet despite six quarterback takedowns in Sunday’s win, head coach Lovie Smith believes the defensive line had even more opportunities to make plays.
“Pleased in general,” Smith said. “We left a little bit on the field (Sunday) and that’s what (Defensive line coach) Joe (Cullen) and Paul (Spicer) will say. But you have to be pleased when you see a young player like Jacq Smith come around and Will Gholston moving into a more prominent role.”
Along with sacks from the usual suspects – Gerald McCoy with two and Lavonte David with one – former practice squad player Howard Jones emerged on Sunday with two in the first half. While Smith expects more from the front four as a whole, he was pleased to see inexperienced players make their presence felt in pass defense.
“Howard Jones, have you met him?” Smith jokingly asked. “It’s not like I’ve spent a whole lot of time with him myself. But it’s good to see a young player like that come up, get his opportunity for playing time and come through. (Jones’s) first passing situation and he gets a sack with a great move, too. That’s been fun to watch, some of those players stepping up.”
In order to get a steady rotation along the front and fresh legs to rush the quarterback, the Bucs deployed an extra defensive lineman on Sunday. It became a competition among teammates of who could blitz the quarterback faster or get behind the line first on run plays.
“We’ve kind of changed it up a little bit and started dressing eight defensive linemen instead of seven, letting everybody have an opportunity to play,” Smith said. “Once you get that competition, you see who gets back there the quickest. You (also) take away the quarterback’s run lane (Sunday) and we did a fairly good job against the (running backs), too.”
Less than 24 hours after a redeeming 38-31 win against Jacksonville, the Buccaneers received some more good news on Monday.
Head coach Lovie Smith is hopeful the team will get tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins back in time for their Week 7 game at Washington.
“I just know that (Seferian-Jenkins’s) doing everything we’re asking him to do,” Smith said. “He’s really been engaged from the sideline, involved and doing everything he can. For what we’re doing offensively, and (now) adding that piece – and we get Luke Stocker back also – that should help a lot, too.”
Along with their two tight ends, Smith hinted that tackle Demar Dotson is still on track and could return in the near future, too. Same goes for Logan Mankins, who was limited in practice last week but sidelined for Week 5′s game.
As far as injuries on Sunday, Smith doesn’t expect anything serious regarding Chris Conte’s ankle or Keith Tandy’s knee.
“I don’t know the extent of the injury right now,” Smith said. “I don’t think it’s that bad. But having a couple weeks before we play, hopefully we’ll have all of them ready.”
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers announced Saturday that they have waived offensive lineman Matthew Masifilo and promoted tackle Reid Fragel from the practice squad to the active roster.
Fragel (6-8, 308) has spent the 2015 season with Tampa Bay, seeing time on the practice squad and active roster. He wears No. 79.
Masifilo has been transitioning from the defensive to offensive line since this offseason.
The Buccaneers and the Jaguars released their final injury reports for the week on Friday. Updates in BOLD denote a change from the previous day.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
CB Johnthan Banks – Knee – Did Not Participate – Doubtful
G Logan Mankins – Groin – Did Not Participate – Questionable
DT Gerald McCoy – Shoulder – Limited Participation – Questionable
TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins – Shoulder – Did Not Participate – Doubtful
WR Russell Shepard – Hamstring – Did Not Participate – Doubtful
C Evan Smith – Ankle – Did Not Participate – Doubtful
TE Luke Stocker – Hip – Limited Participation – Questionable
S Major Wright – Abdomen – Full Participation – Probable
S Sergio Brown – Calf – Full Participation – Probable
DE Chris Clemons – Knee – Full Participation – Probable
CB Aaron Colvin – Shoulder – Full Participation – Probable
CB Davon House – Illness – Full Participation – Probable
WR Allen Hurns – Ankle/Thigh – Full Participation – Probable
WR Marqise Lee – Hamstring – Did Not Participate – Out
TE Marcedes Lewis – Hamstring – Full Participation – Probable
LB John Lotulelei – Concussion – Did Not Participate – Out
DT Sen’Derrick Marks – Knee – Limited Participation – Questionable
LB Paul Posluszny – Ankle – Did Not Participate – Questionable
RB Denard Robinson – Knee – Did Not Participate – Out
S James Sample – Shoulder – Did Not Participate – Doubtful
TE Julius Thomas – Hand – Limited Participation – Questionable
Led by Bobby Rainey, who rushed for 127 yards and a touchdown, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers cruised to a 27-6 victory against the Buffalo Bills in Week 14 of the 2013 season. That December 8 day was the last time the team won at Raymond James Stadium.
Eleven losses later – spanning over a season and a quarter – do players left over from the Greg Schiano era even remember what winning in Tampa Bay feels like?
Bucs RB Bobby Rainey – Photo by Getty Images
“Man, that was a while ago,” said wide receiver Vincent Jackson, who had three receptions for 70 yards and a touchdown catch from Mike Glennon during that 2013 Bills game. “It’s always fun to win at home. It’s fun to win any football game in the NFL. It’s tough. It’s been a while.”
It has been a while, indeed. But the Bucs have another opportunity to end the skid this Sunday in what feels like a must-win game against fellow 1-3 opponent, the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The three-time Pro Bowler knows the Bucs need to reclaim the term “home field advantage,” not only for the team but for fans, too. Sunday would be a great time to start, before the Bay Area faithful check out after a 1-4 start and 3-21 record since the 2013 victory.
A 2-3 record heading into the bye would do a lot for this franchise and those who support it.
“We definitely need to do it for ourselves, do it for the fans and do it for this organization and get back into a tradition of protecting this place,” Jackson said. “Raymond James needs to be a tough place to play.”
Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy was also asked what he remembered specifically from the last win. In self-deprecating fashion, McCoy laughed and answered, “We won. We won at home, shoot!“
Tampa Bay knows they need a win in the worst way possible Sunday. Hopefully McCoy can repeat that statement at 4 p.m. when asked what his biggest takeaway was from Week 5.
Logan Mankins, Tampa Bay’s longest-tenured offensive lineman, missed his second straight practice Friday after injuring his groin earlier this week.
The 11-year veteran was one of four Buccaneers not participating in today’s session, joining CB Johnthan Banks (knee), Austin Seferian-Jenkins (shoulder) and WR Russell Shepard and C Evan Smith (ankle). TE Luke Stocker (hip) and S Major Wright (abdomen) both took part in practice in some capacity Friday.
Mankins came to the Bucs from New England last year and has started all 20 games since. He hasn’t missed a game since sitting out Week 13 in 2012 while with the Patriots.
“I don’t know,” Mankins said about the likelihood of him suiting against Jacksonville. “We’ll see on Sunday before the game how it’s progressed. If I can go I’ll go, if I can’t I can’t.”
Head coach Lovie Smith echoed his left guard’s sentiments but added that Mankins is a player who will not miss a game unless it’s absolutely necessary.
“Again, it’s about this weekend,” Smith said. “He has a groin injury. It would be hard to keep him out but if he wouldn’t be able to go, there would be a definite reason, and I’m talking about an injury. If it’s about pain, he’ll play.”
In the event Mankins is a no-go Sunday, young backups Kevin Pamphile and Jeremiah Warren would be next in line to receive reps left guard.
On Wednesday, recently re-signed kicker Connor Barth admitted that his apparent lack of power/experience on kickoffs could’ve been a reason he remained a free agent until now.
And while Barth said he’s looking forward to the opportunity to kickoff, something he hasn’t done in Tampa Bay since 2010, it hadn’t yet been confirmed that he would handle that responsibility.
It was on Thursday.
K Patrick Murray – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
“Connor will kickoff for us this week, yes,” head coach Lovie Smith said at his press conference. “I feel pretty good [about his ability]. He’s the one guy on [the roster] who’s done it, so we feel good about him kicking off.”
After signing with the Broncos in Week 13 last season, Barth kicked off eight times in his first game. And after averaging 57 yards with zero touchbacks, Denver turned to their punter for the final four weeks and kept Barth strictly to field goals and extra points.
In Tampa Bay’s case, Kyle Brindza kicked off all 18 times in 2015 and recorded 13 touchbacks. While the Bucs have upgraded in accuracy (Barth is a career 85.3 percent kicker), they’ve likely sacrificed the consistency to place the offense at the 20-yard line, which means the kick coverage unit has more to do now.
“We like our personnel,” Smith said about his coverage team. “We feel like we’ve upgraded our special teams personnel.
“A lot of times you have to cover kicks. As you put your kickoff team together, you’re putting it together to cover kicks, so we feel good about it.”
The Buccaneers and the Jaguars released their second injury reports for the week on Thursday. Updates in BOLD denote a change from the previous day.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
CB Johnthan Banks – Knee – Did Not Participate
G Logan Mankins – Groin – Did Not Participate
DT Gerald McCoy – Shoulder – Limited Participation
TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins – Shoulder – Did Not Participate
WR Russell Shepard – Hamstring – Did Not Participate
C Evan Smith – Ankle – Did Not Participate
TE Luke Stocker – Hip – Limited Participation
S Major Wright – Abdomen – Full Participation
S Sergio Brown – Calf – Full Participation
DE Chris Clemons – Knee – Full Participation
CB Aaron Colvin – Shoulder – Limited Participation
CB Davon House – Illness – Did Not Participate
WR Allen Hurns – Ankle/Thigh – Limited Participation
WR Marqise Lee – Hamstring – Did Not Participate
TE Marcedes Lewis – Hamstring – Full Participation
LB John Lotulelei – Concussion – Did Not Participate
DT Sen’Derrick Marks – Knee – Limited Participation
LB Paul Posluszny – Ankle – Did Not Participate
RB Denard Robinson – Knee – Did Not Participate
S James Sample – Shoulder – Did Not Participate
TE Julius Thomas – Hand – Limited Participation