The Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense has seen its defensive sack production climb steadily for three straight seasons, but last year’s total of 36 still falls short of expectations.
If the team plans on pushing that number into the 40s – something not seen from a Bucs defense since Simeon Rice was leading the rush in 2004 – it needs more pressure coming off the edge.
Charged with that task in 2015 will be a pair of defensive ends who first entered the league as undrafted free agents but are trying to become reliable NFL starters.
Tampa Bay enters training camp with Jacquies Smith and George Johnson penciled in to bookend its line. Smith impressed last year after being signed in September, racking up 6.5 sacks that put him two behind team-leader Gerald McCoy in that category. Johnson is back in Tampa Bay after beginning his career with the Bucs in 2010. He enjoyed his most successful season last year when he racked up six sacks in a backup role while in Detroit.
There’s a lot of practice, preparation and review time coming up before Week 1, but McCoy said Saturday he’s confident moving forward with Smith and Johnson on the ends. While waiting out a lengthy weather delay on the first day of training camp, the Pro Bowl defensive tackle spoke at length about both teammates.
“Jack is what we call him, which is Jacquies, and he was in Buffalo [before] and we watched him play,” McCoy said. “The crazy thing is when we watched film on them they played Carolina, I think, the week before us last year and he kept standing out. In our room we kept saying, ‘Who is this guy?’ When we brought him in, coach said, ‘Hey, that’s that guy we were watching on tape.’
“So he always had something to him, but once he got comfortable and he stopped thinking so much he was able to produce the way he did. And he’s only going to get better because now he’s really relaxed. He puts all the same work in and works even harder but now he’s comfortable out there.”
“George, he was here in my first year here,” McCoy continued, switching to Johnson. “So this is my second go-around with George. He’s always been able to rush the passer. When George couldn’t do anything else, when he got here he could rush the passer.
“He’s done nothing but mature and he’s just going to keep growing. He carries himself completely different than what I remember and that’s a good thing because he’s ready to roll.”
Also competing for playing time at either defensive end position will be veterans Larry English, T.J. Fatinikun, William Gholston, Lawrence Sidbury Jr., George Uko and Da’Quan Bowers, as well as rookies Jamal Young and Ryan Delaire.
Courtesy of Bay News 9
Fans showing up to One Buccaneer Place to see their boys in pewter and red open training camp will have to hope Sunday’s weather is improved from what the Bay area saw over last few days.
Earlier in the day the team told the media that the Saturday 2:30 p.m. start has been pushed back to 5:00, but around 4:15 it was announced that the open practice was canceled. The team is still hoping to get some type of work in at some point Saturday, but if it happens it will not be open to the public. There is a possibility that a workout could happen off site.
PewterReport.com will stick it out throughout the evening in case there is practice, and we are expecting some players and Lovie Smith to be available later on Saturday.
Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith wasted little time making it official Friday afternoon: the starting quarterback position is rookie Jameis Winston’s to lose.
But even before announcing the day’s biggest news – a decision most fans assumed was coming, anyway – Smith made it a point to address one of the team’s most glaring weaknesses entering training camp.
Prior to opening up Friday afternoon’s press conference to questions, Smith let it be known that the Bucs’ unsettled situation on the offensive line will remain that way until pads come on and live action begins.
“When you evaluate linemen, it’s pretty hard to evaluate them when you don’t get a chance to practice in pads,” Smith said during his opening statement. “In about three days or so we’ll be in pads and be able to get some better evaluation on some of our players.
“I felt like we had a good start to our offseason program, kind of setting the direction we wanted to go. But now it’s about finishing it.”
Smith was noncommittal on specific position battles outside of placing Winston atop the quarterback depth chart, but his unsolicited mention of a unit that struggled to open running lanes and protect passers last year highlights how critical improved play in that area will be in 2015.
Heading into tomorrow’s first practice, two of five starting positions along the line appear to be there to earn. Barring injury, center Evan Smith, left guard Logan Mankins and right tackle Demar Dotson are expected to be back as starters. That leaves left tackle and right guard up in the air.
Second-round draft picks Donovan Smith and Ali Marpet will be given opportunities to win jobs at left tackle and right guard, respectively, but will have plenty of competition from a group that includes Kevin Pamphile, Garrett Gilkey, Patrick Omameh, Kadeem Edwards.
“I haven’t talked to all of our football team about the depth chart and where our starting rotation will begin, but we just started on meetings this morning,” Smith said. “This afternoon we’ll start getting into football a little bit more, but we’re going to be a good football team. We realize there are areas we need to improve but now it’s time for all that talk to cease and we get to work on the practice field.”
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers announced today that they have placed wide receiver Louis Murphy, who injured his ankle, on the Active/Non-Football Injury List and DT Akeem Spence on the Active/Physically Unable to Perform List due to a back injury.
Head coach Lovie Smith addressed both players during his Friday press conference.
“There are two players who will be sidelined,” Smith said. “Akeem Spence has a back injury; he will not be practicing. And Louis Murphy hurt his ankle, a freak accident, so he will not be practicing. You will not see those two players practicing on the football field tomorrow. Everyone else should be good to go.”
Due to their distinction as active, both players will still count on the 90-man roster.
Actually, Deadspin and Drew Magary have been letting fans across the country know just what’s wrong with their favorite NFL franchise for a few years now.
Anyone unfamiliar with the series picks up pretty quickly that this is accomplished in a, let’s say, less-than-formal fashion.
Before even opening the link, Buccaneers fans can probably guess a few players or topics that are touched on and skewered this year.
Jameis Winston? 2-14? Jameis Winston? The Beatdown in ATL? Jameis Winston?
Yeah, those are all in there.
If you offend easily (which seems to be going around these days) or are an extremely thin-skinned Bucs fan, this link probably isn’t for you.
For everyone else, click here to go get a few laughs and hope this year’s squad can prove some people wrong.
Following a one-year stint in New England that netted him a Super Bowl ring, tight end Tim Wright is back in Tampa Bay and apparently his future quarterback couldn’t be happier.
“Oh my God, he’s amazing,” rookie Jameis Winston said with a smile after Tuesday’s mandatory mini-camp. “I prayed for him during our stretches. I had to thank God for having Tim Wright here and it made him laugh.”
Wright’s addition would provide Winston with another big-bodied pass catcher to throw to and the 6-foot-4, 220-pound pro showed off his hands on a few occasions Tuesday while running with both the first- and second-team offenses.
Tampa Bay’s tight end room didn’t get any more crowded after Friday’s move since the Bucs waived 22-year-old Taylor Sloat. Wright jumps into the competition for tight end receptions with Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Brandon Myers.
Over two full NFL seasons – the first in Tampa Bay, the second in New England – Wright has appeared in all 32 games and totaled 80 receptions for 830 yards and 11 touchdowns. The majority of that production (54 catches for 571 yards and 5 TDs) came after he was picked up as an unrestricted free agent by the Bucs and his former Rutgers coach Greg Schiano.
“It’s cool [to be back],” Wright said of his return to Tampa Bay. “It’s another opportunity … another blessing from God to be able to step on the field again and do what I love, contribute to the team and do what we can to win games.”
About a third of the organizations in the NFL pursued Wright after being waived last week but had nothing but praise for his former employer.
“It was a great organization,” he said. “They’ve got a lot of people that operate in the system well and they’ve got guys that put themselves second and the team first and that’s what it’s all about at the end of the day.”
The re-acquisition of Wright returns to Tampa Bay half of what it sent to New England last August to get left guard Logan Mankins. The third portion of that deal was this spring’s fourth-round NFL Draft selection the Patriots used to get Arkansas defensive end Trey Flowers.
“As we look at the waiver wire, any player available that we think will improve our ball club we’re going to jump on,” Bucs head coach Lovie Smith said. “That was an easy decision to make on Tim. We liked Tim [last year] and we decided to go a different direction. But where we are right now, we’re a stronger football team with Tim on our team. It’s good to see him back.”
The Buccaneers will show their support for the fight against childhood cancer Tuesday afternoon at One Buccaneer Place by participating in the Cut for a Cure Challenge.
A group of 15 players and team personnel, including rookie QB Jameis Winston, have already committed to have their heads shaved by pediatric cancer patients and survivors to benefit the Pediatric Cancer Foundation. According to a press release from the team, this is the organization’s third consecutive year participating in the program.
Winston will be joined in the scalp-shearing event by fellow rookies Donovan Smith, Ali Marpet and Jared Koster, as well as veterans Lavonte David, Andrew DePaola, Will Gholston, Mike James, Michael Koenen, Patrick Murray, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Evan Smith, Akeem Spence and Keith Tandy. Chief Operating Officer Brian Ford will also take part.
While also getting a trim of his own, Winston will help shave the head of one of the fans in attendance who raised the most money toward the team’s fundraising cause. Other pre-selected fans who helped raise money will be able to watch the event, as well as have the chance to get their heads shaved.
Simply put, there isn’t much worth remembering from last year’s 2-14 campaign. Outside of a few notable, individual accomplishments, requests for Bucs 2014 Season In Review videos probably aren’t inundating phone lines at One Buc Place this summer.
But now that the organization is months removed from the misery that “earned” it this spring’s No. 1 overall draft selection, there is some good that can come from the prolonged dejection.
“Every single person on this team has got to get better – 2-14’s not going to cut it,” said veteran cornerback Alterraun Verner, returning for his second season in Tampa Bay. “And that’s why it’s a motivation to know that we can do a lot better.”
The drive doesn’t just come from those within the walls of the facility working to redeem themselves, Verner added, but from outsiders still viewing Tampa Bay mores as Yucks than Bucs.
“People are still doubting us and I love it,” he said. “I love playing the underdog role, I love when people are sleeping on you. I use it as motivation. It’s definitely in the back of my mind but I’m also not letting that override or overrule how I’m going to play.”
While Verner managed to stay out of the crosshairs of angry fans and critical media members with his play in 2014, he was still part of the league’s fifth-most abused secondary. Tampa Bay surrendered 255.2 yards passing per game and 28 touchdowns. As a unit, Bucs cornerbacks and safeties accounted for 10 of the team’s 14 interceptions, with Verner grabbing two.
Helping Verner create a consistently effective pass defense at corner this season will be a healthy Mike Jenkins and ever-improving Johnthan Banks.
“He’s definitely an X-factor and he brings a lot of intensity and passion for the game,” Verner said of Jenkins, who suffered a season-ending injury during Week 1’s home loss against Carolina. “He’s somebody who’s been playing for eight years and you know he’s going to bring that to you. So it’s been good to have him back and competing.
“And then Johnthan has just grown as a player as you saw last year, so I like the depth. We’re all just pushing each other because at the end of the day [defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier] will put the best people out there and nobody’s job is secure or safe. So I love it. I love us all being out there competing.”
Twenty-four hours after shaking off some debut jitters, a pair of Tampa Bay Buccaneer rookie pass catchers said they were able to smooth out a few rough edges on Day 2.
“We came out here today and our focus was to get better from yesterday,” said Kaelin Clay, the Bucs’ sixth-round selection from Utah. “Yesterday the end of practice wasn’t so good, so our focus was to get better in practice today overall and I felt like today we did that. Better route running and just focusing on the small things – catching the ball and depth of routes, specifically.”
“I didn’t finish here at the end of practice so [receivers coach Andrew Hayes-Stoker] had every right to get on me for that,” said fifth-round pick Kenny Bell of a Saturday interaction with his new position coach. There’s a heightened sense of scrutiny surrounding practice and preparation in the NFL compared to college and Bell said he’s beginning to grasp that quickly.
“Obviously, I loved my time in Nebraska but it’s a whole new level,” Bell said. “The level of coaching in the meetings and the amount of correction you go through is unbelievable and I wouldn’t want anybody but Coach Stoker doing it.”
As for working with the draft’s top selection, quarterback Jameis Winston, the receivers had nothing but praise Saturday.
“Obviously chemistry is something that takes a while to build,” Bell said, “but when you have a quarterback with that much talent it makes your job that much easier.”
When asked about how it is catching throws delivered by Winston’s strong right arm, Clay said he’s already suffered an equipment casualty two days in.
“You guys don’t even know,” Clay said. “He threw one to me today and it ripped my glove. He’s got some power behind it.”
Before Jameis Winston can start trying to post the numbers Buccaneers fans really care about – those that help produce wins – he needed pick the one they can now buy on jerseys around the Tampa Bay area.
Rather than stick with trusty No. 5, the digit he won a college national championship with at Florida State two season ago, Winston decide to return to his earliest football roots.
“One thing about number 3 – that was my first number ever playing football,” Winston said during Friday’s introductory press conference at One Buc Place. “So I just look at it as a new beginning.”
Winston strapped it up in those early Alabama days for the youth league Bessemer Tigers, he said at a follow-up conference in the media room at One Buc Place. He went on to play his high school ball at nearby Hueytown High.
“In high school I wore number 8, in college I wore number 5, so five plus three is eight … and five minus three is two. Little addition and subtraction there,” Winston joked during the roughly 13-minute Q-and-A.
Had he wanted it, No. 5 is currently available on the Tampa Bay roster. Going back to No. 8 would have involved a conversation with fellow quarterback Mike Glennon.
When Winston makes it onto his first regular season active roster in pewter and red, he’ll officially be the fourth Buccaneer to wear No. 3 in team history and first non-place kicker. The number’s previous owners were Bill Capece (1981-83), Matt Bryant (2005-08) and Shane Andrus (2009).