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
This Sunday the Buccaneers will face former Crimson Tide standout T.J. Yeldon, who is coming off a career-best performance in last week’s overtime loss to the Colts.
Fresh off a 105-yard game in Indianapolis, Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier believes Yeldon is more than just a speed threat.
Bucs MLB Kwon Alexander – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
“He carried the ball and did a good job of making people miss. But he showed some power, too, being able to run through some tackles,” Frazier said on Thursday. “Saw that when he was in college and now he’s displaying it again at our level… He’s a good blocker also; they’ll leave him in for protection.
“Those are three ingredients – catching, running and blocking – in a (running) back that you’d like to have and he’s displayed that in his short time in the league.”
Perhaps no Buccaneer knows him better than rookie linebacker Kwon Alexander. While at LSU, Alexander played the Alabama product three times and remembers him as a shifty running back who can keep his footing and make you miss.
“He’s a good back, so he’s going to do what he does best – run the ball and cut,” Alexander said. “He’s got great balance and speed. We just have to do what we do best – just run and hit and have fun. Like I said, play fast.”
In order for the Bucs linebackers to play fast, they’ll need a strong initial push from the defensive line. Leading the four man front is Gerald McCoy, who gave the Jaguars rookie a favorable comparison.
“He looks like a smaller version of LeVeon Bell to me,” McCoy said. “He has a little power to him but he can make you miss. He’s still a little raw, though. He’s got a lot to learn but he’s a good back.”
Despite the 37-23 loss last Sunday to Carolina, the front four fared pretty well against the Panthers rushing attack, holding Jonathan Stewart and Cameron Artis-Payne to a combined 75 yards on 32 carries. They’ll look to continue that success into this Sunday’s game and capitalize on making the Jaguars one-dimensional.
Among the few consistent bright spots on Tampa Bay’s offense this season has been running back Doug Martin.
The fourth-year pro eclipsed the century mark in last Sunday’s loss to Carolina, rushing for 106 and adding another 37 catching out of the backfield. Although that was his first 100-yard effort in 2015 – 98 yards in New Orleans and 54 against Tennessee – one could argue that he was well on his way in Week 1, if not for an early deficit that forced the Bucs to abandon the run.
But Martin’s early success comes as no surprise. The Boise State product has looked sharp since OTAs and training camp, and says he feels better than ever.
“Physically, yes. I’ve been feeling like that since training camp,” Martin said, asked if he’s in the best shape of his career. “Last year I was hit with the injury bug and I was never able to reach 100 percent. But now that I am I feel pretty good. I feel good and I feel confident in my game.”
Of course, it would be remiss not to mention the offensive line. After keeping Jameis Winston upright against one of the best pass rushing defensive line’s in the NFL in Houston, the five man front followed up with a strong performance opening running lanes against the stout front of Carolina.
“I take my hat off to the linemen,” Martin said. “They did a good job of staying on guys and [blocking] guys downfield, but that’s something we’ve got to continue doing down the line.
“It’s a new season and I have a great line in front of me and they’ve allowed me to do the things that I’ve been able to do.”
Later in the afternoon Lovie Smith talked about Martin’s consistency and the development of the young offensive line. The head coach said he expected this from Martin – “You just want to see the guys who keep performing and that’s what he’s doing,” he said – and is confident the O-Line will continue their progression as they spend more time together and learn to play as one unit.
And that goes for the entire team, as the try to piece together success and find their stride in the second quarter of the season.
“To be able to see us success against the pass against a pretty good front and to be able to run the football, that’s showing us what we can be,” Smith said. “Now it’s about being consistent with that effort and that’s for our entire football team right now.
“We see signs. In every area we see signs of what we can be, but the good teams are able to maintain that and you expect to have that type of effort every time and you start to get it. That’s where we want to be.”