Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier stated Thursday that safety Major Wright won’t be available Sunday, meaning Bradley McDougald is set to see the bulk of Sunday’s snaps at strong safety for a the fourth straight week.
“The injury with Major has played a factor in Bradley’s snaps going up,” Frazier said during his press conference today at One Buccaneer Place. “We’re not going to have Major again this week, so that’s tough, but it also means Bradley gets more snaps and gets more experience and we get more views of what he can and can’t do against a very good offense and against a very good quarterback, so that’s going to help us in the long term.”
McDougald’s status among Bucs defensive backs has steadily risen throughout this year, beginning when the team dealt Mark Barron to St. Louis following Week 8’s overtime loss to Minnesota. A second-year pro out of the University of Kansas, McDougald hadn’t seen more than 12 defensive snaps in a game until Week 9 in Cleveland when he got in for 31.
McDougald’s started the past three games at strong safety and his defensive reps have increased from 59 to 60 to a career-high 71 last week in Carolina. He also recorded his most productive statistical game of his young career against the Panthers, accounting for a game-high 15 total tackles.
Besides starting free safety Dashon Goldson, the only other healthy, active safety on the Tampa Bay roster is Keith Tandy.
Aaron Rodgers dominates the spotlight in Green Bay.
The 10th-year pro is an NFL and Super Bowl MVP. He’s on track to be fit for a gold jacket in Canton. He’s responsible for the Discount Double Check and bringing Hans and Franz back, for Pete’s sake.
“It’s going to be a great challenge,” Bucs safety Dashon Goldson said of facing the three-time Pro Bowler. “Everybody knows who Aaron Rodgers is in this league and around this locker room and what he can do week in and week out.”
Rodgers is likely going to surpass 4,000 yards passing Sunday for the fifth time in his career, needing just 163 in Tampa Bay, and has thrown for 35 touchdowns and just five interceptions through 14 games.
But opponents of Green Bay can ill-afford to come down with “Aaron Rodgers fever,” as Goldson said Wednesday in reference to the quarterback’s wide-spread popularity. This Green Bay offense is packed with established stars and those rising to similar heights. They’re not all primarily involved in the passing game, either
Second-year running back Eddie Lacy broke onto the NFL scene last season with 1,178 yards and 11 touchdowns in 15 games. He may join Rodgers by reaching a single-season milestone on Sunday, too, if he hits 60 yards on the ground. Lacy currently sits at 940 yards and eight touchdowns rushing to go with 396 yards and four scores receiving.
At 5-foot-11, 230 pounds, the 24-year-old is a hard-running back who’s a load to handle when he gets moving. According to Pro Football Focus, 538 of Lacy’s 940 yards rushing have been picked up after contact.
Known for playing his own physical brand of football, Goldson at first downplayed the challenge of facing a bruising back like Lacy, but said it’s going to take a collective effort to slow him down.
“It ain’t nothing but football, just tackling, no matter how big [a player is],” Goldson said. “We just have to get him on the ground and can’t allow any explosive plays. We’re aware of what he is and how he runs. He’s a strong runner for sure, downhill guy, and you can’t underestimate his speed, either.”
Bucs defensive tackle Akeem Spence will see plenty of game time again Sunday with Gerald McCoy’s deactivation and said he thinks dealing with Rodgers should become incrementally more manageable if Lacy can be bottled up early.
“First we have to knock the run out and slow Eddy Lacy down,” Spence said. “Therefore they can’t be two-dimensional. [We have to] try to make Aaron Rodgers throw the ball 40 or 50 times and try to beat us with his arm, which he can do. But at the same time, that’s when the front has to takeover, the rush has to get there and we have to try our best to get him on the ground.”
That’s a dicey proposition and Rodgers is 2-1 this year when attempting 40 or more passes, including the lone loss last week in Buffalo when he went 17 of 42 for 185 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. In those three games, Rodgers combined completion percentage does dip to 52.4 compared to his 64.0 season-long rate. His touchdown-to-interception rate in those first two games prior to Buffalo, however, was 6-0.
The official status of defensive tackle Gerald McCoy won’t be revealed until the coming week, but two straight Sundays of seeing the All-Pro laying on the field grabbing for his knee should be enough.
Head coach Lovie Smith announced the injury to be a hyperextension of the same right knee McCoy aggravated last Sunday in Detroit.
Team physicians may make the decision an easy one by saying the injury is season-ending. But even if he’s able to go for one or both of Tampa Bay’s remaining two games, is it really worth it?
The face of the franchise wants to play alongside the rest of his teammates whether the team’s 2-12 or 12-2 and he said as much last week when speaking about having to leave early in Detroit.
Reality is that this season can finish no better than 4-12 but it can end much worse that 2-14 if McCoy gets the green light, re-takes the field and makes a bad situation worse.
Until now, the fifth-year pro has enjoyed nearly three straight seasons of good, physical health after his first two years were marred by a pair of torn biceps. A broken hand forced McCoy to sit out the 14th game of his career during Week 3 in Atlanta this year.
Regardless of the team-leading 8.5 sacks McCoy’s produced in 2014, he should be shut down for the 15th and 16th times in his career even if he’s cleared to go next week.
The Buccaneers and Panthers released their first injury report of the week on Wednesday.
Tampa Bay Buccaeers
LT Anthony Collins – Elbow – Full Participation
LB Lavonte David – Concussion – Limited Participation
LB Mason Foster – Achilles – Did Not Participate
DT Gerald McCoy – Knee – Limited Participation
DT Clinton McDonald – Hamstring – Did Not Participate
TE Brandon Myers – Calf – Limited Participation
RB Bobby Rainey – Ankle – Did Not Participate
TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins – Back – Limited Participation
S Major Wright – Ribs – Limited Participation
WB Philly Brown – Shoulder – Full Participation
C Ryan Kalil – Not Injury Related – Did Not Participate
LB A.J. Klein – Knee — Limited Participation
QB Cam Newton – Back – Did Not Participate
TE Greg Olsen – Knee – Limited Participation
G Chris Scott – Foot – Did Not Participate
G Amini Silatolu – Knee – Did Not Participate
RB Jonathan Stewart – Hip – Limited Participation
RB DeAngelo Williams – Hand – Did Not Participate
Just like Week 1, Tampa Bay will be facing a Carolina Panthers team starting its backup quarterback.
Panthers head coach Ron Rivera confirmed during Wednesday’s conference call to the Tampa Bay media that Derek Anderson will be under center in place of Cam Newton.
“Yeah, it’s quite obvious with Cam’s situation right now,” Rivera said. “So Derek Anderson will be the starter.”
That “situation” is Newton’s recovery from a pair of lower-back fractures the quarterback suffered after being involved in a car crash outside of the Panthers’ facilities yesterday afternoon.
“It was literally about a block away from our facility so we had people headed to the site when it happened right away and it was most certainly an eye-opener,” Rivera said of the accident. “It does put a lot of things in perspective about the importance of life and thank goodness no one was hurt seriously, him or the driver of the other vehicle.”
Newton’s status was up in the air leading into the Week 1 season opener at Tampa Bay and Rivera said he hopes Anderson can benefit from a full week with the first team.
“The nice thing about it is he will work Wednesday, Thursday, Friday getting all the reps and get himself prepared and ready to go,” Rivera said. “He’s a veteran guy who’s done a nice job throughout his career. He’s started a lot of games in this league and he’s a savvy guy and we’ll try to do what he does best.”
Anderson played well in his lone start of the season against Tampa Bay, leading the Panthers to a 20-14 victory. The veteran started his 10th professional season by going 24 of 34 passing for 230 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Bucs defenders got to Anderson for just one sack, a 9-yard loss recorded by defensive tackle Gerald McCoy.
This isn’t what the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or their fan base envisioned when Lovie Smith was introduced at the team’s 10th head coach last January.
Even some of the most pessimistic of Bucs supporters probably didn’t see 2-10 coming, but it didn’t take long to realize that the rebuilding is still underway.
But there are still four games left in 2014, so what to do? Root for the home team to win no matter what? Or bite the bullet and hope the losses keep piling up so Tampa Bay’s name stays at the top of the NFL Draft board?
The latter is an understandable opinion for many fans, but not an easy one to swallow for others. Bloody and battered, going down swinging still remains the only option.
That means the rest of this season is all about raining on other fans’ parades – and it starts today in Detroit. This should also feel really familiar. Tampa Bay opened last season with eight straight losses, traveled to the Motor City with a 2-8 record and ended up coming home as a 3-8 team.
That 24-21 win last year was the last of three straight for the Bucs, but also helped trigger Detroit’s self-destruction. The Lions fell to 6-5 after the loss and rapidly fell out of contention by losing six of their last seven games to finish 7-9.
Players speaking from the locker room this week understandably focused their comments more on simply winning a game than ruining other teams’ seasons. But all four of Tampa Bay’s final contests may be against teams still fighting to continue their seasons beyond Week 17.
The best part is that all four games come against familiar foes Bucs fans can all come together to dislike. Carolina and New Orleans are current NFC South foes and Detroit and Green Bay harken back to the not-so-distant NFC Central days.
Yeah, losing may pay dividends in the future. But, in the moment, it still feels good to win the fight.
So for today, there are some kittens in Michigan waiting to be de-clawed and that mentality’s hard to hate on.
Anthony Collins, the 5-year, $30-million man Tampa Bay brought to town this offseason to replace Donald Penn at left tackle, may be on the shelf again this Sunday.
The seventh-year pro has played the last three games after having to sit out Weeks 9 and 10 with a foot injury, but was held out of practice Thursday after hurting his elbow.
Joining Collins on the sidelines of today’s practice were DT Clinton McDonald, TE Brandon Myers, RB Bobby Rainey and TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, head coach Lovie Smith reported. Linebacker Mason Foster was excused for personal reasons.
When asked about the severity of Collins’ elbow injury, Smith didn’t say much but hinted that it’s not a good sign this late in the week.
“You know, when you miss practice on a Thursday, it’s not a good thing, so we’ll see. Again, he didn’t practice today. A lot of times I do try to play the role of ‘Dr. Smith’ – I’m going to leave that alone this time. Hopefully he can go tomorrow.”
Primarily filling in for Collins during the games he missed in Cleveland and Atlanta was seven-year veteran Oniel Cousins. Rookie Kevin Pamphile also saw limited action both those weeks and entered for four snaps last Sunday against Cincinnati.
Clinton McDonald’s absence left Tampa Bay shorthanded on the interior defensive line last week, but that didn’t stop the Bucs from keeping an eye on Gerald McCoy’s playing time.
According to defensive coordinator Leslie Frasier, that’s both strategic and precautionary.
“We’re trying to develop a rotation system and you don’t want to have a big drop off when the next guy comes in,” Frazier said Thursday afternoon. “We’ve had to deal with the injury bug at times, but now I think we’re settling in a little bit with a rotation so we can take some of those snaps off of Gerald so that when we do get to the fourth quarter, he’s still able to play his best football. We don’t want him to just start fast and then we don’t have the same Gerald the whole second half of the ball game.”
McCoy’s still played a higher percentage of total defensive snaps than any other Buccaneer D-lineman (72 percent). Taking out the St. Louis game when he got injured after playing eight defensive plays and the following contest in Atlanta when he was inactive, McCoy’s percentage in games he’s started and finished jumps to 84.0 percent.
The 78.7 percent of plays (48 of 61) McCoy participated in against Cincinnati represented the third time his activity dropped below 80 percent in games he finished.
The Pro Bowler acknowledged the periodic breathers he’s been receiving during his Thursday afternoon press conference and said it’s different but beneficial.
“I’m so used to playing most of the snaps,” McCoy said. “This is new to me getting a couple of snaps off early in the game. [I’m] getting more than enough snaps off, but it’s been helpful. I feel good, really better than I’ve felt ever at this point in the season. It’s helpful. I think I’m able to be at my best at the end of the game when I’m fresh and got a couple of plays off early.”
Despite a few quick breaks throughout games, one thing that hasn’t dipped is McCoy’s production. He leads the team in sacks with 8.5 (minus-60.5 total yards lost) and quarterback hits with 13. McCoy’s totaled 32 tackles and his 12 made behind the line of scrimmage trail only linebacker Lavonte David’s 14.
There’s never a good time to get too comfortable as an NFL football player and rookie Solomon Patton knows all about it.
After breaking camp in Tampa Bay and serving as the primary kick and punt returner for the first six regular season games, the Bucs pink-slipped Patton and sent him packing.
“Oh yeah, I’ve definitely learned that it’s a business,” he said from the locker room Wednesday, two days after being brought back to Tampa Bay. “It’s my rookie year and it’s like a roller coaster I feel like, but everything works out for the best and I’m back.”
Patton brought back 10 punts and 17 kicks for average returns of 11.2 and 23.1 yards, respectively.
Looking for a more dynamic option, Tampa Bay released Patton on Oct. 21 but failed to find their man. Trindon Holliday and Marcus Thigpen couldn’t cut it and running back Bobby Rainey filled the role last week until Patton’s return on Monday.
The rookie out of Florida is hoping to use these last four games as an opportunity to show the Bucs coaching staff and front office that he possesses some explosiveness and should be the guy moving forward.
“That’s what special teams is all about. Special teams can really win games [along with] defense and offense, as well,” Patton said. “As a returner you want to score touchdowns and you want to get those big returns, so that’s what I’m shooting for these last four games.
“It’s a fast game so you have to run fast.”
Patton spent his brief hiatus from the team on the Arizona Cardinals practice squad and said he tried to take advantage of his surroundings.
“I had a good experience learning from Larry Fitzgerald and Ted Ginn, their returner there,” Patton said. “I learned some things from them so it was awesome.
“I’m just thankful that they called me back and gave me another opportunity. It shows that Coach Lovie Smith definitely believes in me, so I’m just excited to be back.”
The Buccaneers and the Lions released their initial injury reports for the week on Wednesday.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
CD Crezdon Butler – Not Injury Related – Did Not Participate
LB Lavonte David – Hamstring – Limited Participation
C Evan Dietrich-Smith – Illness – Full Participation
DT Clinton McDonald – Hamstring – Did Not Participate
TE Brandon Myers – Calf – Did Not Participate
RB Bobby Rainey – Ankle – Did Not Participate
TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins – Back – Did Not Participate
TE Luke Stocker – Concussion – Limited Participation
S Major Wright – Shoulder – Full Participation
RB Reggie Bush – Ankle/Back – Full Participation
DT Nick Fairley – Knee – Did Not Participate
WR Calvin Johnson – Ankle – Limited Participation
T Riley Reiff – Knee – Full Participation
G Larry Warford – Knee – Full Participation