Tampa Bay has begun releasing players ahead of Saturday's 4:00 p.m. deadline from teams to cut their rosters down to 53 players. It appears the Bucs have started with the letter "M" as PewterReport.com has learned that backup middle linebacker linebacker Tyrone McKenzie, defensive end Kyle Moore, and defensive tackle John McCargo have been released today by Tampa Bay.
“Toughest weekend of the job,” Morris said. “Particularly tougher than my first two. It is probably rougher as a position coach because you are always closer to the people in that room. But as a head coach it doesn’t get any easier. Tough day. We will continue to make cuts, rehash it over this weekend and finalize when we have to have it finalized. We won’t make anything final until the end of the weekend.”
While PewterReport.com felt the release of Moore, a former fourth-round pick in 2009, and McCargo might be forthcoming as they were with the third-string defensive line, the waiving of McKenzie does come at somewhat of a surprise. McKenzie started Thursday night’s game with Washington and played well, racking up seven tackles and a tackle for loss. McKenzie finished the preseason with 14 tackles, a tackle for loss and a pass breakup, and initially started off as the team's starting middle linebacker in training camp.
McKenzie was outspoken in a Tampa Tribune story after rookie Mason Foster, the team's third-round pick, was taking over the starting reps, indicating that he had been told the starting job was Foster's from that point on. Foster finished the preseason with eight tackles and a fumble recovery and didn't play against Washington in the preseason finale.
Morris wouldn't comment specifically about any players that have been released. “I want to be fair to those guys,” Morris said. “I don’t want to be putting names out there, that may be out there. … I want to be fair to those guys. And we will just have to see what’s going on with those guys.” The depth at middle linebacker remains in question behind Foster, strongside linebacker Quincy Black, weakside linebacker Geno Hayes and Dekoda Watson, who is the starter at Sam (strongside) in the Bucs' Redskin 3-3-5 defense. Adam Hayward has experience at middle linebacker, and Black will handle the Mike duties in nickel defense as Foster will leave the field.
The Bucs also like rookie Derrell Smith, an undrafted free agent from Syracuse who didn't play on defense against the Redskins, as well as backup linebacker Simoni Lawrence, who used his speed and quickness to record a team-high 10 tackes at Washington and finished the preseason with 17 stops.
Morris commneted on the linebacker position as a whole and why he feels it is in good hands.
“Mason Foster has established himself as our base Mike (middle linebacker), at least right now,” Morris said. “Quincy Black is our base Sam (strongside linebacker). We really feel great about how fast those two have developed, how fast they look when they are on the field, how fast we look when we go to nickel [coverage] when we put Ronde [Barber] inside that linebacker position. We are really feeling good about that.
"Geno Hayes is out starting Will (weakside) linebacker and he also stays in there in nickel as well. Our backup Sam, Dekoda Watson, really looked good. He had a breakout preseason and he also provides us with that rush linebacker, that Redskin linebacker, as we call him. I am feeling great about those guys.
“We also developed Adam Hayward as a backup Mike. He also is a Sam and also plays Will for us. Hayward is kind of Mr. Reliable. He is becoming my defensive Earnest Graham. He is becoming that kind of guy for us. He can just about do anything for us and just dominate special teams. That position is still one of the ones under question. But we are happy with that top line and that group of guys and what they have done this preseason.”
With McKenzie's release it appears Hayward will serve as a possible backup to rookie Mason Foster. Morris talked about Hayward's resumé.
“He played a quarter and a half last yesterday [at Washington],” Morris said. “He played a bunch in practice. He played a little bit in that third preseason game against Miami. He played a little bit of Mike linebacker last year, backing up Barrett [Ruud]. This year he is a lot more comfortable than he was last year. Playing Mike is a big responsibility. It [takes] a different kind of guy. It is a guy who can communicate, talk to his guys and still do his job. That may take some time to grow and some things to do. He certainly has become more comfortable in his role when he goes to Mike.”
McCargo, who added a sack last night, also played well in the loss to the Redskins despite the former first-round pick of the Buffalo Bills joining the Buccaneers midway through the preseason and playing in the final two exhibition games. The Bucs appear to be set at defensive tackle with Gerald McCoy, Roy Miller, Frank Okam and Brian Price making the team and Al Woods on the bubble.
At defensive end, Moore, who began the 2010 season as the starter at left end, recorded two sacks in the preseason opener at Kansas City and played well in all four games, but got caught up in a numbers game, too. Tampa Bay expects to roll into the 2011 season with first-round selection Adrian Clayborn and Michael Bennett as starters and second-round pick Da'Quan Bowers and Tim Crowder as reserves. George Johnson, who led the Bucs in preseason sacks with three, is on the bubble.
During his next-day, after-game press conference, Morris was asked to talk about his feeling surrounding the defensive line. The head coach mentioned nine names, and the belief is that those players mentioned have secured a roster spot.
[Michael Bennett] certainly didn’t disappoint in camp,” Morris said. “He came into camp on a mission, so to speak, and played very well. “ We watched Da’Quan Bowers develop. We didn’t really know at first with all the question marks about injuries. He really came on in that third game. We also have the luxury of moving Michael Bennett down inside and … putting Dekoda Watson over there [to rush off the edge].
“In that three-technique [Gerald] McCoy has really come into his own and started getting off and making some plays in the backfield, being disruptive. He has done a nice job.
"Then you go to the nose tackle, the back up three-technique, and you can go a couple ways. You can go Frank Okam, or you can go to the nose tackle. Or you can go to Roy Miller, who is a big-time run stopper for us. [Brian] Price really came on last night, showed you some power. Then you have Okam that can play a little nose tackle in pass situations. Okam is a very smart, large human that goes in there and does a lot of good things for us.”
"Then you go to the right end where we think we hit at least a double right now with the way Adrian Clayborn plays for us. He is violent, strong – he is physical, fast – he brings a dynamic to our game we haven’t had in a while. His backup is Tim Crowder. He brings us consummate leader[ship]. He brings great effort. Hopefully he continues to get better. And George Johnson, who came on this preseason both inside and out. Looking at those guys’ dynamics, they really bring some great things to us."