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.”
The Buccaneers and the Jaguars released their first injury reports for the week on Wednesday.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
CB Johnthan Banks – Knee – 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 – Limited Participation
DE Chris Clemons – Knee – Did Not Participate
CB Aaron Colvin – Shoulder – Limited Participation
WR Allen Hurns – Ankle/Thigh – Did Not Participate
WR Marqise Lee – Hamstring – Did Not Participate
TE Marcedes Lewis – Hamstring – Did Not Participate
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
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers announced Wednesday that they have signed linebacker Orie Lemon to the active roster, waived injured defensive end Josh Martin and signed wide receivers Rannell Hall and Adam Humphries to the practice squad.
Lemon (6-1, 242) has spent time on Tampa Bay’s active roster and practice squad this season, appearing in one game, after playing in 10 games, with three starts, for the Buccaneers last season. He will wear No. 45.
Hall (6-1, 200) was on Tampa Bay’s practice squad for the first two weeks of the season and spent the past offseason and preseason with the team. He will wear No. 16.
Humphries (5-11, 195) has played in three games for the Buccaneers this season, catching two passes for 14 yards. He will wear No. 11.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers announced on Tuesday that they have signed kicker Connor Barth, promoted wide receiver Donteea Dye and defensive end Howard Jones from the practice squad to the active roster and placed defensive end T.J. Fatinikun on Injured Reserve.
Barth (5-11, 193) is in his eighth season out of North Carolina and has played in 71 regular season games, making 116-of-136 field goal attempts (85.3 pct.) and all 149 extra point attempts. He will wear No. 10 for the Buccaneers.
Bucs WR Donteea Dye – Photo by: Getty Images
Dye (6-0,195) signed with Tampa Bay as a college free agent out of Heidelberg this past offseason. He spent the preseason with the Buccaneers and has been on the team’s practice squad for the first four weeks of the season. Dye wears No. 17.
Jones (6-4, 238) originally entered the league with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2014, as a college free agent out of Shepherd. Jones spent the 2014 season on the Steelers’ practice squad and was with the team through the 2015 preseason, before being waived. He has been on the Buccaneers’ practice squad for the first four weeks of the season. Jones wears No. 95.
The team also announced that they have signed tackle Reid Fragel and defensive end Josh Shirley to the practice squad and released tackle Martin Wallace from the practice squad.
Shirley (6-1, 235), who played collegiately at UNLV, entered the league this past offseason as a college free agent with the Oakland Raiders, spending the offseason and preseason with the team, before being signed to their practice squad for the first two weeks of the season.
While Tampa Bay’s defense showed signs of improvement in multiple areas on Sunday, including third-down efficiency and contested passes, they still fell two short of their takeaway quota which proved to be a difference of two touchdowns.
The first – a Panthers fumble that somehow resulted in a Panthers touchdown – can be forgiven after Chris Conte made a great play to jar the ball loose from Jonathan Stewart before an unbelievably lucky bounce.
However the same can’t be said for the second one, as Lavonte David let a sure interception slip out of his grasp and gave the drive new life.
“Lavonte David would tell you that’s a typical interception for him,” head coach Lovie Smith said of the near third quarter pick that would’ve kept it a 24-10 game and shifted momentum. “Those are two of the ones that should, at the very worst, have made it a three takeaway day.”
David’s missed opportunity resulted in a 14-point swing, as Carolina would score two plays later to make it a three touchdown game with just over seven minutes left in the quarter.
Smith knows his team has to capitalize on plays like that, as games can drastically change off one mistake.
“We did have a couple of opportunities. It’s just not a good defensive day for us unless we can take the ball away.”
Of course even if the Bucs came up with the ball both times, avoiding the 57-yard fumble return and 12-yard crossing touchdown, they still would’ve ultimately lost the takeaway battle by two.
At the end of the day, Sunday’s loss came down to four interceptions and a fumbled snap that, more often than not, would knock even the best team out of the game.
“You can live with a three takeaway day unless the opponent has a five takeaway day,” Smith said. “It’s always defense vs. defense and offense vs. offense. We didn’t get that done yesterday.”
It didn’t take long for the Buccaneers to turn back to a familiar face at kicker.
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Tampa Bay has signed eighth-year pro Connor Barth to replace former kicker Kyle Brindza, who missed five field goals and two extra points over the last two weeks.
Tampa Bay Brings Back Connor Barth
Barth, who lost the Bucs kicking battle to Pat Murray last preseason, spent the last five games of the 2014 season in Denver. He finished an impressive 15 of 16 on field goal attempts, including a long from 50. Despite a 93.8 percentage in 2014, the Broncos elected to go with 24-year old kicker Brandon McManus as their starter this year and released Barth on August 26.
After a brief stint in Tampa Bay this preseason (Week 3), the Bucs have officially brought back their kicker of five years (2009-2013) for the second time.
Update: According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Media, the deal is for two years and is worth a maximum of $2.75 million.
For anyone thinking if the Bucs were worried that Tampa Bay rookie quarterback Jameis Winston’s confidence might be shaken, or if there was any thought on Mike Glennon replacing the former FSU Heisman winner, Lovie Smith had an answer for you – and for PewterReport.com.
“No, I’ll stop you there. No, it doesn’t. Jameis had a tough day yesterday, alright,” Smith said after PewterReport.com posed the question in his Monday press conference. “When you have a quarterback who’s going through tough situations, you try to run the football and get your running game going, which we were able to do. Maybe lean on it a little bit more. But when you get behind, you can’t do that either. But Jameis will be fine. Tough day at the office yesterday, he’ll bounce back this week.”
Winston himself made it clear following Sunday’s 37-23 loss that confidence is not an issue with him.
“No, I will never lose it,” Winston said. “Confidence will never be an issue. I’ve just got to work harder. That was a wakeup call to my work ethic. I have to work harder.”
Fans were probably waiting for it since halftime yesterday, but Tampa Bay cut ties Monday with kicker Kyle Brindza.
The move comes after a second terrible week in a row for the rookie out of Notre Dame. After missing three of four field goals and his only extra point opportunity in Houston last week, Brindza failed to convert two of three field goals and missed another extra point Sunday against Carolina.
Later Monday afternoon the team announced that it has also let go wideout Adam Humphries. After turning heads during the preseason with his performance as a receiver and return man, the rookie caught just two passes for 14 yards in three regular-season games.
Replacing Humphries on the active roster will be another young wideout, Donteea Dye. The rookie out of Division III Heidelberg (Oh.) University appeared in all four preseason games, catching seven passes for 82 yards.
Head coach Lovie Smith refrained from placing heavy blame on Brindza following yesterday’s game but did let his frustration be known.
“We’re not going to start kicking people off in the press conference after the game,” Smith said. “We’re disappointed in Kyle’s play today. We have to do a better job with extra points, with field goals when we need them. Those were critical parts of the game. We need to get more production from there, yes.”
This year’s experiment with a rookie kicker ended with Brindza hitting 6 of 12 field goal attempts (50 percent) and 6 of 8 extra points. Tampa Bay enjoyed much more success last season after ditching Connor Barth for rookie Patrick Murray. The latter hit 20 of 24 field goal tries (83.3 percent), including five from 50-plus. Murray converted all 31 of his extra points but that was before this year’s implementation of longer, 33-yard kicks.
Brindza came to Tampa Bay after an Aug. 31 trade that sent tight end Tim Wright to Detroit. He came with a 3-year contract with $1,582,500.
Tampa Bay decided it found another inexperienced kicker they could trust this preseason, though, and released both Barth and Murray on Sept. 4.
The Bucs are still evaluating options and are expected to have someone in town by Tuesday as they prepare to host Jacksonville this week, but no potential options have been disclosed as of this afternoon.
Smith did address the kicking issue and ongoing evaluation process during his Monday press conference.
“We want one with a big leg who can also put it through,” he said. “As we look for our next kicker, first it’s about being able to hit field goals and extra points. We would also like for him to put it out of the end zone on kickoffs, but we’re not just looking for a kickoff guy. We’re looking for a guy who can hit field goals and be accurate with it first. That’s the first priority.”
After a second multi-miss performance in as many weeks it’s hard to imagine a scenario where the Buccaneers keep Kyle Brindza.
Along with hooking an extra point in the fourth quarter, Brindza missed two more field goals on Sunday after head coach Lovie Smith gave him a vote of confidence earlier in the week.
“There’s no excuse for those kicks,” said a deflated Brindza at his locker after the game.
Adding insult to injury is the fact that the rookie kicker’s mistakes couldn’t have come at worse times. The first, a 29-yard chip shot, happened after the offense put together a nine-play, 45-yard drive at the end of the first half, and the second, a makable 43-yarder, was after the defense reclaimed momentum with a fumble recovery during the first series in the third quarter. Both field goals could’ve cut the Panthers lead to 17-13 and given the Bucs an opportunity for a go-ahead score.
“Today was a horrible day, just like last week,” Brindza said. “I have to somehow get over this.”
It remains to be seen if he’ll be given a chance to “get over this” in Tampa. Brindza is now an underwhelming 6 of 12 on field goal attempts this season and has left 17 points on the board just in the last two weeks.
During the game former Bucs kicker Conor Barth tweeted, “I’m just saying I’m available for the right price.” The timing of the post likely wasn’t a coincidence and it’s possible the Bucs could bring in Barth for a tryout, if not another kicker, as early as Tuesday.
“We’re disappointed in Kyle’s play today,” Lovie Smith said. “We have to do a better job with extra points, with field goals when we need them. Those were critical parts of the game. We need to get more production from there.”
For the second time this season a Buccaneer player has been voted the NFL Rookie of the Week.
After quarterback Jameis Winston took home the award for his performance in New Orleans, where he completed 14 of 21 passes for 207 yards and two touchdowns (one rushing), linebacker Kwon Alexander, Tampa Bay’s fourth-round pick, was recognized after his 15 tackle day in Houston.
The LSU product also recorded his first career interception when he dove for a tipped ball and set the offense up at the 26-yard line. The heads-up play resulted in the Bucs only touchdown drive.
While Alexander proved to be a silver lining in the 19-9 loss, head coach Lovie Smith suggested on Monday that the team expects even more from their rookie linebacker.
“Kwon will tell you he played okay (on Sunday),” Smith said, asked if Alexander had validated his fourth round selection.
This means that the ceiling is especially high for Alexander, who’s already second on the team in tackles behind Lavonte David with 23. If Alexander continues his fast progression, the Buccaneers could have one of the top linebacker duos in the NFL by the end of the season.