• It’s no surprise that the Buccaneers signed former Carolina and Detroit defensive end Larry Webster III to the practice squad this week. Webster fits the mold that defensive line coach Jay Hayes likes in his players – tall and long. At 6-foot-6, 275 pounds, Webster is identical in size to new defensive end Will Clarke IV, who is also 6-foot-6, 275 pounds. Clarke was drafted under Hayes at Cincinnati where he spent the last four seasons prior to coming to Tampa Bay after the final roster cuts.
In Cincinnati, Hayes had several big and tall defensive ends in Clarke, Carlos Dunlap (6-6, 280), Michael Johnson (6-7, 280) and Margus Hunt (6-8, 298). Now he has four ends that are 6-foot-5 or taller in Clarke, Webster, Ryan Russell (6-5, 275) and Will Gholston (6-6, 281).
Webster, whose father, Larry II, was a defensive lineman from 1992-2002 with Miami, Cleveland, Baltimore and the New York Jets, played basketball at Bloomsburg, a Division II school, for four years where he set the school record for blocks with 175. Webster averaged 11.1 points and 7.5 rebounds per game over his career and played football from 2012-13 where he recorded 88 tackles, 31 tackles for loss and 26 sacks, including a school-record 13.5 in 2012.
Webster, who only spent one year and one preseason on the Panthers’ active roster, didn’t see the field much in Carolina as he struggled to adjust to playing against better completion. He recorded just one sack, which came in the preseason this August. Webster came out of college weighing 252 pounds and running a 4.58 in the 40-yard dash, which was the second-fastest 40 time in the draft for defensive ends behind Jadeveon Clowney. The Lions drafted Webster in the fourth round in 2014.
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• Tampa Bay rookie tight end Antony Auclair was active for his first NFL game on Thursday night against New England. He played mostly on special teams, but did get one snap on offense, which was on running back Doug Martin’s 1-yard touchdown plunge.
“It was such a great feeling,” Auclair said. “I’m one-for-one!”
• Tampa Bay’s offense has made big strides to start the 2017 season, ranking sixth in the NFL in total offense (374 yards per game) and passing yards (288 yards per game). Although the Bucs have the 27th rushing attack in the league (88 yards per game) that will likely change for the better with the return of running back Doug Martin.
“When you look at it statistically, we have improved,” said Bucs wide receiver Adam Humphries. “There are a lot of areas – offensively, special teams-wise, and defensively we are top 10 or top 5 in the whole NFL. It’s impressive. With the players we have there is a lot of potential. Overall wins and losses, we need to capitalize late in games to win the game. Statistically, we are doing well so far.
Bucs TE Cameron Brate and QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
The one area where the Bucs really need to improve is points scored. Tampa Bay is currently ranked 17th in the league, averaging 21.2 points per game, and ranked 18th with a 22.1 points per game average. In 2015 when the Bucs had the fifth-ranked offense, the Bucs were ranked 20th in the NFL, averaging 21.4 points per game. Scoring 21 or 22 points per game wasn’t good enough to get Tampa Bay into the playoffs over the last two years. The Bucs will need to get their scoring up to fulfill their postseason aspirations.
• Tampa Bay’s defense needs to pick up the pace in a couple of areas, such as completion percentage and sacks, as the Bucs have only generated four after posting nine through four games in 2016. Tampa Bay’s defense allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete just 60 percent of their passes for 1,077 yards last year. This year, the Bucs defense has surrendered 1,261 yards and allowed a 69.5 percent completion percentage.
But through four games, there has been some improvement from a year ago, too. The Bucs have 23 quarterback pressures as compared to 18 from a year ago, have three interceptions this year compared to one at this juncture last year, in addition to having one more pass breakup (17) than the team did in 2016.
Tampa Bay has also forced three fumbles and recovered two, which is an improvement over a year ago when the Bucs had just one forced fumble and one fumble recovery in four games.
Tampa Bay also has only allowed seven passing touchdowns as opposed to nine through four games a year ago, and has only surrendered 83 points, which is a big improvement from the 114 it allowed in the first quarter of the 2016 campaign.
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Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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