NFC South: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Buccaneers will be without their punt and kickoff returner and are likely to be without their starting running back and left tackle for Sunday’s game at Cleveland.

 Coach Lovie Smith said the hamstring injury return man Trindon Holliday suffered in practice earlier this week was more serious than originally thought. Smith said Holliday has been ruled out for Sunday.

Louis Murphy and practice squad receiver Marcus Thigpen worked as return men during the portion of practice that was open to the media Friday. Running back Bobby Rainey also has experience as a return man.

But Rainey is likely to be busy doing other things. Running back Doug Martin is listed as doubtful with an ankle injury. That means Rainey is likely to get the start against a run defense that ranks No. 30 in the league. There also is a possibility rookie Charles Sims could be activated from injured reserve and get some carries.

Left tackle Anthony Collins (foot) also is listed as doubtful. If he can’t go, Oniel Cousins likely will get the start.
TAMPA, Fla. -- All-Pro defensive tackle Gerald McCoy knows how to deal with the media better than any of the other Buccaneers. He knows he’s the most powerful voice in the locker room, and he isn’t afraid to say what’s on his mind.

 McCoy, obviously, had something on his mind Thursday. Unsolicited, he opened his weekly chat with the media with glowing praise of Cleveland quarterback Brian Hoyer. At the same time, McCoy certainly seemed to be taking a shot at Johnny Manziel without ever using the rookie’s name.

“First off, I want to say from me how much respect I have for Brian Hoyer and what he represents on the field,’’ McCoy said. “I don’t know who he is or what type of guy he is off the field. He’s in the starting role for a reason. He rightfully earned that role through all the circus that was going on in Cleveland.

“He never wavered. He kept his mouth shut, and he just performed, and he’s the guy who should be starting. He’s led them the way he should. He’s an athletic guy, smart, can make all the throws and is a huge reason why they are where they’re at. Starting with him, we’ve got to make sure we neutralize him.’’

The Browns drafted Manziel in the first round amid all sorts of hoopla. Manziel was the focus of all the preseason media hype. But Hoyer won the job and has a pretty firm grip on it with the Browns off to a 4-3 start.
TAMPA, Fla. – At the end of the preseason, the Buccaneers didn’t think safety Major Wright was good enough to make the roster. Now, he appears to be headed for a starting role.

“That’s crazy, but it is what it is now," Wright said Thursday.

The Bucs now think highly enough of Wright to trade away starting strong safety Mark Barron to St. Louis on Tuesday. That’s a long way from where Wright was at the end of the preseason. Although he came with ties to coach Lovie Smith from their Chicago days, Wright was released at the end of the preseason.

“I just waited, and the next thing I know, they ended up calling me back,’’ Wright said.

The Bucs quickly re-signed Wright and he had been playing in a backup role. Smith is cautious about tipping his hand to what he plans to do with his lineup, but he spoke glowingly of Wright on Wednesday.

Getting cut provides a reminder to Wright about how he was expendable. That provides him with motivation.

“My mentality is still the same," Wright said. “I’ve got to stay hungry and go out and just work. I can’t let my guard down just because this opportunity did come. It can leave, too. I just come out here, stay focused, stay humble and just keep working."
TAMPA, Fla. -- With Tuesday's trade of safety Mark Barron to the St. Louis Rams, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have only three of their own first-round picks left on the roster.

And one of those is defensive end Adrian Clayborn, who is on injured reserve. That leaves defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and rookie receiver Mike Evans as the only two first-round picks getting playing time.

Throw in guard Logan Mankins, defensive end Larry English and cornerback Mike Jenkins, who were drafted in the first round by other teams, and we've got a good stat.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Bucs have gotten a combined 1,699 snaps this season from players drafted in the first round. That's the third-fewest in the league.

Jacksonville (1,305) has the fewest and Oakland is second with 1,589. The Bucs, Jaguars and Raiders are a combined 2-20, so there must be something to be said for getting production out of first-round picks.
TAMPA, Fla. -- They talked like they were drafting the second coming of John Lynch.

Instead, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of a past regime might have hit on a second Sabby Piscitelli.

The current regime was only too happy to give up on 2012 first-round pick Mark Barron on Tuesday as the NFL's trading deadline approached. Barron was shipped to the St. Louis Rams for fourth- and sixth-round picks in 2015. The Bucs also traded reserve linebacker Jonathan Casillas to the New England Patriots. The Bucs will get New England’s fifth-round pick next season and send their 2015 sixth-round pick to the Patriots.

But it's the trade of Barron that's most significant. The current tandem of coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jason Licht obviously didn't share the same high opinion of Barron that former coach Greg Schiano and general manager Mark Dominik did only two years ago.

Hindsight is always 20-20, but the Bucs could have taken linebacker Luke Kuechly with the seventh overall pick in the first round in 2012. Instead, they passed and took Barron. Kuechly won Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2012 and Defensive Player of the Year in 2013 while playing for Carolina.

Barron hasn't been a total bust like Piscitelli, but he has produced only three interceptions in three seasons. Barron never has come close to playing up to his potential.

Barron became expendable in part because the Bucs have a trio of mediocre safeties in Bradley McDougald, Major Wright and Keith Tandy. None of those safeties has as much natural talent as Barron. But Barron's talent wasn't showing in the current system.

Barron also became expendable because he just wasn't as good as advertised. Maybe Barron turns into a force in St. Louis. But he was nothing more than mediocre in Tampa Bay.

Anybody else think the 2012 Bucs should have gone linebacker and drafted Kuechly?

The Film Don't Lie: Buccaneers

October, 28, 2014
Oct 28
A weekly look at what the Tampa Bay Buccaneers must fix:

Slow starts have been a major problem for the Bucs this season.

The numbers paint an ugly picture. The Bucs have been outscored 72-17 in the first quarter and 54-10 in the second.

The problems have been particularly bad on offense. What happened in Sunday’s 19-13 overtime loss to the Minnesota Vikings provides a perfect illustration of Tampa Bay’s early-game struggles. The Bucs were shut out in the first half and managed only 72 yards of total offense.

"When you’re three and out, and three and out, it’s hard to get anything going," coach Lovie Smith said.

For most of the season, the offense has failed to get into any sort of rhythm early in games. That’s a big part of the reason the Bucs are 1-6.

Smith and his staff have been unable to come up with anything to jump-start the offense. But I think the solution is pretty obvious. The Bucs have outscored opponents 68-33 in the fourth quarter. The Bucs have been playing from behind virtually all season, so they’ve used the two-minute offense extensively in the fourth quarter.

Quarterback Mike Glennon has been noticeably better when running the no-huddle offense. You can say the same thing about Josh McCown before he got hurt in Week 3.

The Bucs should try opening the game in the hurry-up offense. And they should sprinkle in the two-minute offense throughout.

That concept isn’t foreign to Smith. In offseason workouts and training camp, offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford spent a lot of time installing a two-minute offense, and the plan was to use it in more than two-minute situations.

Tedford had a heart procedure at the end of the preseason and ended up taking a leave of absence. McCown got hurt. Somewhere along the way, the Bucs got away from their plan to use the no-huddle offense early in games.

They need to get back to that plan.
TAMPA, Fla. -- If Gerald McCoy had waited until March, he might have gotten more money and he might have landed with a good team.

Nobody would have blamed the All-Pro defensive tackle. On the surface, he's stuck in a bad situation. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are 1-6 and appear to be headed nowhere.

But McCoy doesn't see it that way and that might be the best news Tampa Bay fans have heard in a long time. As you already know, McCoy signed a seven-year contract extension worth up to $98 million on Saturday. On Monday, the Bucs held a news conference to officially announce the deal and give McCoy his moment in the sun.

Although the Bucs were coming off an overtime loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, McCoy smiled throughout most of the news conference. That's because he sees brighter days ahead.

"A lot of people, you see run from situations like this," McCoy said. "They feel like they're not winning right now or it's not going the way they planned. The best feeling in the world is going to be when we turn this thing around and to know you were a part of it and you didn't run from a challenge. You didn't run from the fight. I love the fight. I don't like fighting, but I love this fight."

And McCoy is at the front of the fight. He's a team captain and he's been asked to be a leader by coach Lovie Smith, general manager Jason Licht and the Glazer family, which owns the team. If he wasn't already, the new contract makes McCoy the face of the franchise.

That's a lot of responsibility, but McCoy is a natural leader. To the outside world, it looks like the Bucs are in disrepair. But McCoy sees things differently.

"It's going to be the greatest feeling in the world to be able to hold that trophy in the air and know that you went through all the hard times and you didn't run from it," McCoy said. "You stuck in there. You hung in there and fought together as an organization and got back to exactly where [Licht and Smith] said we will be. And I believe them. I trust them. We're going to do it together and that's why I signed that paper."

Buccaneers release QB Mike Kafka

October, 27, 2014
Oct 27
TAMPA, Fla. -- In the latest sign that Josh McCown's right thumb is fully healthy, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have released backup quarterback Mike Kafka.

McCown had been out since suffering the injury in Week 3 and Kafka had served as the backup to Mike Glennon. But McCown returned and was on the active roster as a backup during Sunday’s loss to Minnesota.

Kafka began the season on Tampa Bay’s practice squad but was promoted after McCown’s injury. If Kafka clears waivers, there’s a good chance the Bucs will bring him back to the practice squad.

In other news from the practice squad, the Bucs released wide receiver Eric Page and placed cornerback Derrius Brooks on injured reserve.
TAMPA, Fla. – As you may have come to expect by now, Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith wasn’t shedding much light on his quarterback plans on Monday.

Mike Glennon has been starting since Week 4 and previous starter Josh McCown has returned from a thumb injury. With the Bucs at 1-6, there has been speculation that the Bucs might go back to McCown. But Smith wasn’t tipping his hand.

“We stand exactly where we stood last week,’’ Smith said. “We have two quarterbacks we feel good about playing. Josh was able to go through practice last week. We’ll start practice again Wednesday like we normally do. I never go over starting lineups or anything like that until the end of the week. If we were going to make a change, I wouldn’t talk about it an awful lot. But the plan isn’t for that. I thought Mike did some good things yesterday. You’d always like to have a couple of plays back. The first thing I thought about as far as improving our ball club wasn’t we’ve got to make a change at the quarterback position.’’

The part about “the plan’’ may make it sound like Smith is going to stick with Glennon. But the part about not talking an awful lot if a change is coming sort of leaves the door open.

Glennon has done some good things while he’s been starting. But I think the Bucs should turn things over to McCown. I don’t think Glennon has done anything to earn a benching. But I think the Bucs need to shake things up to start getting some wins and consistent production from their offense.

There are a lot of reasons beyond Glennon why the offense hasn’t been great and the offense wasn’t that great when McCown was playing early in the season. But something has to be done to spark this team and going with McCown might do the trick.
TAMPA, Fla. -- There have been reports that other teams are interested in trading for Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Vincent Jackson, and the same goes for running back Doug Martin.

Usually, you can shrug off trade rumors because trades don't happen often in the NFL. But I'm not pushing aside the rumblings about Jackson and Martin.

That's because trading one or both of them makes sense. The Bucs, who entered the season saying they planned to win now, have shifted gears and they're talking about how young they are and how it takes time to develop. That's what happens when you get off to a 1-6 start.

It's no longer about this season. It's about next year and that's why Jackson and/or Martin could be expendable. Both players should have decent trade value and it might be wise for the Bucs to start stocking up on draft picks for next season.

Trading Jackson might hurt in the short term because he's the team's best receiver. But, in the big picture, dealing him could make sense. Jackson is 31 and receivers generally start declining in their early 30s. The Bucs already have Jackson's eventual replacement in rookie Mike Evans. Jackson also is making $10 million a year and that money could be used toward a number of other areas.

Still, I'll say there's only about a 25 percent chance the Bucs trade Jackson before Tuesday afternoon's deadline. But I'll double the chances on the possibility of a Martin trade.

That one makes more sense than Jackson. Martin clearly is not thriving in the current offensive system. But teams in need of a running back will remember Martin rushed for more than 1,400 yards as a rookie in 2012. He's only in his third season and that could make Martin attractive to other teams because he doesn't have a lot of wear and tear.

Backup Bobby Rainey has looked better than Martin this season. And third-round draft pick Charles Sims could return from injured reserve as early as this week. Sims was drafted by the current regime, presumably because the powers weren't completely sold on Martin.

As it turns out, they were right. It's become painfully obvious Martin is not a great fit in this offense. With Sims coming into the picture, I don't think that's going to change. If the Bucs can get a decent draft pick in a trade for Martin, they should make the deal.
TAMPA, Fla. -- It's too bad Demar Dotson doesn't play a skill position.

He plays right tackle for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which keeps him mostly out of the spotlight. That's unfortunate because Dotson is one of the most quotable members of the Buccaneers, but his voice isn't heard all that often.

When Dotson's voice is heard, he usually is saying something pretty profound. That was the case after Sunday's 19-13 overtime loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

Dotson was asked if it's difficult to stay motivated when you're losing.

"It's tough," Dotson said. "But, guys, they pay you a lot of money to come to work. If you can't get yourself mentally ready to come to work, you need to turn your paycheck in and let somebody else do it. We're grown men. You can't use that as an excuse -- 'we're losing so I don't feel motivated to come to work.' Go turn your paycheck in."

Dotson is right. Players do get paid a lot of money to play a game. If they can't get motivated, they shouldn't be playing.
TAMPA, Fla. -- If someone makes a lowlight film of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' season, they now have the perfect opening scene.

It came in Sunday’s 19-13 overtime loss to the Minnesota Vikings and it summed up the way things have been going for the 1-6 Buccaneers. It came on the first play of overtime.

Rookie tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins caught a pass from Mike Glennon that would have been a first down. But what happened next decided the game. Minnesota’s Anthony Barr knocked the ball out of Seferian-Jenkins' hands. Barr grabbed the ball and ran 27 yards for a touchdown to win the game.

“No excuse," Seferian-Jenkins said. “I’ve got to hold onto the ball better than that.’’

Seferian-Jenkins’ mistake might have been one of youth. He was fighting for extra yardage when the fumble took place.

“You have to get down in that situation," coach Lovie Smith said. ‘We had a positive play. In an overtime situation, when you know if you score a touchdown down there, you’ve got to protect the ball. If you take the ball right away, then you have to protect it and you can’t have a takeaway on that end of the field. That’s Football 101 and we have to correct it.’’

Seferian-Jenkins’ play was crucial. But it wasn’t the only reason the Bucs lost. The offense did nothing for three quarters and the defense didn’t do anything special against rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. The Bucs could have won the game in regulation if cornerback Johnthan Banks had held onto a potential interception, but he did not.

“It’s not [Seferian-Jenkins’] fault that we lost the game,’’ wide receiver Mike Evans said. “There were a lot of other plays. We only scored 13 points as an offense. We’ve got to be better.’’
TAMPA, Fla. -- They went through their bye week using phrases such as "fresh start" and pledging things would get better.

So what happened Sunday? Things got worse for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who lost 19-13 in overtime to the Minnesota Vikings at Raymond James Stadium.

Despite taking a lead late in the fourth quarter, the Bucs suffered what might have been their most painful loss in a season filled with painful losses. This one came at home. It came against a bad team. It came against a rookie quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater.

It was more of the same old story as the offense struggled to be consistent and the defense played well, but didn't hold up when it mattered most.

"Ideally, that's not how we wanted to start it," coach Lovie Smith said. "Fresh start, it says 'home game, home win.'"

Such talk might be getting old, especially when Smith keeps saying his team is improving. The Bucs are 1-6. But maybe that talk about a fresh start needs to continue. The Bucs need to go back to the guy who was supposed to give them a fresh start at the beginning of the season.

They need to go back to Josh McCown at quarterback.

Mike Glennon has done some good things at times. But let's be honest here: At no point this season has the offense played the way the Bucs envisioned it would. I'm not putting all the blame for that on Glennon. The offensive line has been inconsistent in its pass blocking and bad in its run blocking. Running back Doug Martin can't seem to find a hole (if there are any) and the receivers aren't doing a great job of getting open or holding on to passes.

Sunday was just another day the offense spent sputtering. The Bucs had only 72 total yards of offense -- and zero points -- in the first half.

"When you're three-and-out and three-and-out, it's hard to get anything going," Smith said.

"The defense played tremendous," offensive tackle Demar Dotson said. "We've got to help those guys out by putting more points on the board, which we didn't."

Yeah, there was the flurry of 13 points in the fourth quarter -- the same quarter as top receiver Vincent Jackson had his only catch. As has been the case too often this season, Tampa Bay's offense came up with too little, too late.

So how do you solve that?

You start from scratch. McCown, who suffered a thumb injury in Week 3, is healthy now. He was the guy the Bucs went through the whole offseason and preseason thinking would be their quarterback.

McCown wasn't very good in his three starts. But something dramatic has to happen for the offense to get on track.

Before this season gets too far out of control, it's time to go back and start things over. Let Glennon go back to being the quarterback of the future and let McCown try to give this team a lift.
TAMPA, Fla. -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost 19-13 in overtime to the Minnesota Vikings:
  • Seferian-Jenkins
    Give rookie tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins credit for being a standup guy. He faced the media after his fumble led to Minnesota's game-winning touchdown. Seferian-Jenkins took blame for the loss and said there's no excuse for not protecting the football.
  • Rookie wide receiver Mike Evans came to Seferian-Jenkins' defense. Evans said one play didn't decide the game. He's right. The Bucs could have won the game if they had made any one of a variety of other plays.
  • Coach Lovie Smith started off his news conference by saying the Bucs "eventually" will win a game at home. That kind of talk is starting to get really old.

I'll be back with more in a bit.
TAMPA, Fla. -- Give the Tampa Bay Buccaneers credit for finally getting something right.

The team has struggled through a 1-5 start and hasn’t made the playoffs since last decade. But Saturday, the Bucs made the best move they’ve made in a very long time.

They signed All-Pro defensive tackle Gerald McCoy to a seven-year contract extension worth $98 million. That makes McCoy the highest-paid defensive tackle in the league, but he deserves every bit of it. He’s the best defensive tackle in the league and still has upside.

But McCoy is more than just a defensive tackle. He’s the leader of this franchise on and off the field. He recently has called himself out for not playing up to par and called the Bucs’ defense "soft." Those words mean a lot from McCoy because he has the résumé to back them up.

The McCoy extension is also a sign that coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jason Licht are going forward with their plan on how to build the Bucs. Smith has made it clear he wants to build a defense like the Bucs had in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

That’s when the Bucs had Warren Sapp at defensive tackle and Derrick Brooks at weakside linebacker. The new Bucs are in great shape at both of those positions with McCoy filling the Sapp role and Lavonte David drawing favorable comparisons to Brooks.

David is likely to get his contract extension after this season, and that will lock up the Bucs’ nucleus for the long term. Despite the team's record, Smith and Licht are going about things the right way. They’ve made sure their best player doesn’t get anywhere near free agency.

They still need another offseason of personnel moves to really be competitive, but the Bucs have made sure they’ve secured their main building block. McCoy is a leader on and off the field, and, if the Bucs can fill in some of the holes around him on defense, they can truly be like the Bucs of old.