After slightly injuring his left hamstring during the first half Monday night, the Buccaneers decided to shut Mike Evans down for the rest of preseason.
Evans, who was held without a catch over the last two games, is completely fine with the move. The 2014 rookie sensation is comfortable in his role and knows he’d be ready to go if games counted.
“I think it’s smart,” Evans said of sitting out the rest of preseason. “There’s no reason to risk it. I’ve already proven myself. And this way I can just try to get back for Week 1 of the regular season.
“If I necessarily had to (play), yes (I could). But it’s not necessary so I won’t be playing.”
Evans seemed to be in a light-hearted, relaxed mood on Thursday. After talking about playing the X receiver and the opportunities that come with it – mismatches in single coverage – the topic shifted to two point conversion attempts, which Evan’s related to Madden.
“Going for two, it’s harder than it looks,” Evans said. “I know it’s just two yards but it’s harder than it looks. A lot of teams go man coverage down that close, so it would work for some teams that have big receivers out there.
“When I play video games I always go for two,” Evans said. “So I guess doing it in real life wouldn’t be too bad.”
When asked if he uses himself on Madden, Evans said he likes it better to control top rated wideouts like Antonio Brown and Calvin Johnson. Despite a 68-catch, 1,051-yard rookie season, Evans didn’t crack 90 on his Madden 16 rating, making him worse than the players he used to create as himself.
“I always used to create myself and I was 99,” said Evans, who’s current rating is 87. “But now I’m not, because I’m really in the game now. It’s cool to see myself, but my rating isn’t as high as I want it to be until it gets fixed.”
All kidding aside, Evans made a great point for why it’s actually important to bring your Madden rating up.
“If you’re Madden rating is up, then it means you’re doing something good in real life, too.”
The Buccaneers have waived linebacker Orie Lemon and kicker Brandon Bogotay, after signing long snapper Brandon Hartson and Connor Barth.
Barth, who spent last season in Denver, rejoins the Buccaneers where he will compete with Patrick Murray to be the starting kicker. Murray beat out the veteran during the 2014 preseason and went on to have great year, finishing 20-24 on field goal attempts, but due to recent struggles (two missed FG and one PAT in last two games) Tampa Bay felt the need to add competition.
Hartson, 25, originally signed with the Bears as an undrafted free agent in 2013, before getting released before the start of the regular season. Hartson spent brief time on the Chiefs and Steelers practice squad last year.
To make room on the roster Tampa Bay released Bogotay, who signed in May after spending the 2013 offseason on the Browns practice squad, and Orie Lemon, who played in 10 games for the Buccaneers in 2014. Lemon, who was held out of camp and preseason this year with an abdominal injury, recorded 23 tackles in 2014.
The Buccaneers starting offensive line was clicking on all cylinders Monday night, protecting Jameis Winston and providing lanes for Doug Martin on their eight play, 80-yard opening touchdown drive.
Following the game, left tackle Donovan Smith talked about the importance of starting fast and gaining momentum early.
“You have to come out and set the tone, and that’s with any football game,” Smith said. “Being able to come out of the gates firing – it was just great. We got into a rhythm and we just rolled with it.”
Head coach Lovie Smith isn’t one to overreact after a preseason performance, but said Wednesday that he’s pleased with the unit’s improvement.
“We’ve made progress from Week 1 to Week 2, which you like to see,” Lovie Smith said Wednesday. “We had the chance to look at a lot of young players, which is good. That was the plan. We’re coming along, just like we are as a football team.”
Coming off a rocky start in Minnesota, along with having two new players on the first-team – right tackle Reid Fragel and center Jeremiah Warren – the Bucs O-Line’s performance Monday night came as somewhat of a shock. But a wake-up call might have been just what they needed, as players responded to their head coach’s challenge.
“Our number was called and we answered,” Donovan Smith said. “Coach Smith, he made a statement – to make it a physical game. And once he makes a statement, we had to step it up. And we went out there and started from Play 1.”
While numerous players stood out along the offensive line, Smith had a particularly impressive night. After getting beat by a spin move on his first career snap last week, the Penn State product held his own against the Bengals top pass rushers, even defending a crossing stunt by Domata Peko and Wallace Gilberry at one point.
“You have to be able to battle, learn from your mistakes and go from there,” Smith said. “That’s what I did. I battled back pretty well and went from there.
“(The competition) is the best of the best. You have guys running a 4.5, 4.6 charging at you full speed and you’re backpedaling. It’s just one of those things where you perfect your craft and just trust it.”
Tampa Bay will likely try a couple more combinations along the five-man front before their opening game against Tennessee, but for now, they have to be encouraged by the most recent outing.
“For the most part, young players stepped up to the plate last week,” Lovie Smith said. “Thats where we stand offensively, especially along the offensive line.”
PewterReport.com’s Mark Cook was a guest on the Bucs Brief podcast on Tuesday and discussed a number of subjects about the Buccaneers so far through the preseason and even took a look ahead to the regular season. Listen to Cook’s portion of the podcast by clicking below.
A week after getting his first start at Mike linebacker in training camp, Kwon Alexander took center stage with the first-team defense on Monday against the Bengals and did not disappoint.
The fourth-round pick, who’s had an incredible rise this offseason, tallied four tackles and appears to be vindicating not only the Bucs’ decision to draft him, but potentially start him.
“It was fun,” Alexander said of his first start. “I had a good time out there. First of all, it was just exciting to be at Mike for my first time, going out there, having fun and doing what I was supposed to do. Pretty excited about tonight.”
Alexander was bursting through the gaps against the run, as well as showing his ability to drop into coverage. Part of what made it look so easy for Alexander and the linebackers was the front four’s success applying pressure and keeping Bengals offensive linemen on their heels.
“Feels good when you have that front four in there and getting that pressure,” Alexander said. “Without them you don’t have a defense. With them going hard, getting sacks and turnovers – it’s just fun to watch.”
Of course, Alexander wasn’t the only linebacker in sync and flying around. Danny Lansanah put together another great performance that included a safety, making it difficult for coaches to take him off the field at the Sam position.
Like the secondary, however, the linebacker’s success starts up front. Ends George Johnson and Larry English were productive coming off the edge, but it’s the guys in the middle who the Bucs are relying on especially to collapse the pocket and set the tone in the trenches.
“When you have Gerald McCoy and Clinton (McDonald) in front of you and making it easy, I can play ball,” Alexander said. “I’m glad I have those guys in front of me, and the rest of the D Line, too.
“We got our first win in the home stadium. Now we have to keep improving and move on to the next step.”
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers announced today that they have signed punter Jacob Schum and waived safety Derrick Wells.
Schum (5-11, 211) originally entered the league as a college free agent out of Buffalo with the Cleveland Browns in 2013, before being waived that offseason. Schum spent the 2014 offseason between the Buccaneers and the New York Jets and spent time on Tampa Bay’s practice squad last season. He spent the 2015 offseason and preseason with the Jets, before being waived on August 18.
In two preseason games this year, Schum punted four times for 205 yards (51.3 avg.), with one downed inside the 20. The Hamburg, New York native will wear No. 5 for Tampa Bay.
– This report is courtesy of the Buccaneers communications department
Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith takes pride in his defense’s ability to create turnovers and last night’s effort provided a number of promising moments.
The Bucs picked off starting Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton twice, returned one for a touchdown, and forced and recovered a fumble. All three turnovers came on successive second-quarter Cincinnati drives and resulted in 16 points in a span of just 4 minutes, 49 seconds.
That’s a solid effort for an entire game, let alone a portion of one quarter, but Smith is greedy when it comes to flipping possession.
“We talk about it being in our “Tampa Bay DNA” if you play defensive ball around here,” Smith said during his Tuesday afternoon press conference at One Buc Place. “We do practice it and you need to see some results. But we left a lot on the field in a lot of different areas.
“It’s about getting the ball back. That’s what you’re trying to do when you’re on the defensive side – and score.”
Cornerback Alterraun Verner got the takeaway binge starter when he picked off a tipped pass to Bengals receiver A.J. Green and returned it 24 yards to the house. Three offensive snaps later it was free safety Bradley McDougald snagging a high, deep-middle pass intended for tight end Tyler Eifert and bringing it back 38 yards to the Cincinnati 12.
Following Bucs quarterback Mike Glennon’s 22-yard touchdown pass to receiver Russell Shepard, Tampa Bay’s third and final turnover was a fumble caused when cornerback Mike Jenkins punched a ball free from Jeremy Hill and recovered by linebacker Bruce Carter.
Smith described the forced fumble and recovery as the team’s only “hard takeaway as we see it.” Both interceptions came while taking advantage of Cincinnati mistakes: Green’s tipped dropped pass and Dalton’s sailed delivery to Eifert.
Smith did praise the Bucs’ ability to turn Verner’s interception into an immediate six points, though he thought there was an opportunity to do the same with McDougald’s runback.
“It has to become a habit for us,” Smith said of defenders reading turnover situations quickly and knowing their blocking assignments. “At first you have to get that takeaway, and then from there, yes, you transfer from defense to offense right away. On Alterraun Verner’s that was a good escort into the end zone. Some good blocks there.
“On McDougald’s, though, we had a chance to score on that one. You can’t assume if you get it down there you’re going to score touchdowns. It’s about getting it into the end zone then. We’ll keep working on that.”
Overall, the Bucs won Monday’s turnover battle 3-0. During last year’s two-win debacle of a season, Tampa Bay finished with 25 takeaways and 33 giveaways, a minus-8 differential.
It looks like wide receiver Mike Evans’ preseason is over.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith said Tuesday that the hamstring injury that cut the second-year receivers’ night short Monday will be evaluated closely as the regular season approaches.
“I know right now Mike Evans probably won’t play anymore the rest of the preseason,” Smith said at his 4 p.m. press conference at One Buc Place. “We’ll probably keep him out. Hamstring. You guys know how I am about the hamstrings – it takes a while.”
Evans exited last night’s second preseason game against Cincinnati after being targeted twice without securing a reception. The second-year pro didn’t record a catch on any of the three passes thrown his way last week in Minnesota, either.
In addition to Evans, Smith said rookie quarterback Jameis Winston’s rolled ankle isn’t serious and that defensive back Leonard Johnson also suffered an ankle injury.
“We’re still evaluating it,” Smith said of Johnson’s situation. “Again, a physical football game like that you normally have some injuries and we had some.”
Johnson, battling to retain his role at nickel back, “might miss a little bit of time,” Smith reported. He added that Johnson will not play Saturday’s third preseason game against Cleveland.
After allowing Vikings’ quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to complete 7-of-8 passes last week, the Buccaneers secondary responded in dominant fashion Monday.
The first-team defense intercepted Andy Dalton twice in the second quarter, with the first being taken back for six and the second leading to an offensive touchdown.
“It felt great,” said Alterraun Verner, who recorded the pick-six, of the defense’s effort to create takeaways. “That is something we preach everyday and something we need to build on. This is only the preseason and it needs to translate to the regular season.”
Both interceptions – one by Verner and the other by free safety Bradley McDougald – came during textbook Tampa 2 coverage. Lining up off the line, Verner was playing soft coverage against A.J. Green and protecting his zone before the ball tipped up and into his hands. In McDougald’s case, the center fielder-like safety cut off the tight end’s route and took advantage of an overthrown ball. It was classic bend-but-don’t-break D, as Verner was beat on the same route the previous play while McDougald was playing deep trying to prevent a big gain and eventually benefit from an off-target pass.
In order to have success playing Cover 2, the defensive line must apply pressure and force rushed decisions. In the past the Bucs have struggled in that area, but on Monday the front four was at its best. Aside from four sacks registered by Gerald McCoy, George Johnson, Larry English and Caushaud Lyons, Bucs up front were collapsing the pocket and keeping Andy Dalton under duress throughout the first half.
“They did a great job,” Verner said of the defensive line. “I know for sure they bailed me out a couple of times. I got a lot of help from them, and I (also) contributed to (their success) for the play I was able to make. They were aggressive and really harassed Andy Dalton early and often.”
Although it’s just preseason, the defensive performance on Monday won’t go unrecognized. Verner thought the effort was encouraging for the future, but for now,was just happy to give the fans a win at home.
“Preseason or regular season, it feels good to get a win at Raymond James,” Verner said. “Gives something for the fans to be excited about, a preview of what could come in the season as long as we build and keep working.
“And even for us, just getting that confidence and saying, ‘We are a good team if we put our best effort forward.’ It was good on all those accounts, regardless of preseason.”
All throughout training camp, one young Buccaneer turning heads on a consistent basis has been undrafted free agent wide receiver Rannell Hall.
The rookie’s taken advantage of this past month’s opportunities by showcasing both his speed and ability to catch the football, picking up periodic praise from head coach Lovie Smith and offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter along the way.
“He’s an undrafted free agent that seems like every day he’s practiced he’s done something that we’ve liked,” Smith said after Saturday’s final training camp practice.
But when Tampa Bay strapped it up last weekend for its preseason opener in Minnesota, Hall was one of six Buccaneers that didn’t see the field.
Pregame reports were that Hall was dealing with a hamstring issue and Smith reiterated that yesterday. The former UCF Knight, however, said that while he felt ready and able to debut last week, it just has him more amped up to run out onto the field Monday night at Raymond James Stadium.
“I’m a full-go,” Hall said yesterday. “I’m in perfect condition. I wasn’t even hurt last game. It’s always upsetting, being a competitor, but everything happens for a reason. I feel like the team went out there and did pretty well. We came up short in the game but there are always things to learn from.
“I’m just excited for this upcoming game Monday against Cincinnati.”
In his four years in Orlando, “Speedy” Hall accumulated 2,051 yards and nine touchdowns on 145 receptions, 264 yards and two touchdowns on 43 rushing attempts and 2,083 yards on 82 kick returns (25.4 average).
Competition at receiver is as deep as any position on the team this year and Hall is one of 11 in camp currently. Locks to make the final 53-man roster are Mike Evans, Vincent Jackson and Louis Murphy. Rookies Kenny Bell (fifth round) and Kaelin Clay (sixth round) also have a leg up on other newcomers by virtue of their selections in this past spring’s draft.
That would leave Hall competing for limited position slots with Robert Herron (second year), Adam Humphries (rookie), Tavarres King (third year) Donteea Dye (rookie) and Russell Shepard (third year).
As of Sunday, players have a little over a week and two more preseason games to make their cases before all NFL teams must cut their 90-man rosters down to a maximum of 75 by 4 p.m. on Sept. 1.