O-Line Options After Loss of Nicks

As devastating as the loss of Pro Bowl guard Carl Nicks would seem to be, especially on the heels of Pro Bowl G Davin Joseph’s own trip to I.R. in August, the Buccaneers won’t stop to dwell on it.  The team plays its next game on Sunday in Oakland, and the “next-man-up” motto will be applied once again.  Someone will be asked to step up into the starting lineup, and the Bucs’ chase of a playoff berth will continue.

So, who might that next man be?  Or could the solution actually involve several changes up front? Continue reading

CB Lewis Promoted

That vacancy on the Bucs’ roster that was created on Friday morning by the release of DE Markus White has been filled, as expected, in advance of Sunday’s game against New Orleans.  Raise your hand if you had LeQuan Lewis as the man ticketed for that spot.

It is Lewis, the first-year cornerback out of Arizona State, who completed the Bucs’ 53-man roster on Saturday by being promoted from the practice squad.  As such, he has the opportunity to pull off a somewhat uncommon feat, playing both for and against the Buccaneers in the same season.

Oh, and White is back, too.  The Buccaneers re-signed him to their practice squad, neatly taking the spot vacated by Lewis.

The 5-11, 193-pound Lewis was on the Cowboys’ active roster for three weeks in September, and he helped Dallas’ defensive effort against Tampa Bay in a 16-10 win in Texas in Week Three.  Lewis had one tackle and one pass defensed in that very tight ballgame.  The Bucs snatched him up after he had been waived by the Cowboys earlier this month.  He originally entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with Tennessee in 2011 and has also spent time with the Jets.

Lewis is obviously the player the Bucs needed at this moment, and he is considered a very good special teams player, so he could even be active on Sunday against the Saints.  Of course, given that the team has started its 21-day evaluation period on DE Da’Quan Bowers, who is on currently on the PUP list, there was some outside speculation that the team was holding a spot open for him to be activated this weekend.  But Head Coach Greg Schiano said early in the week that it wasn’t the plan to bring Bowers up that quickly, after only a few days of practice.  So it’s LeQuan, not Da’Quan on the transaction list Saturday, and the evaluation of Bowers will continue next week.  The Bucs play at Minnesota next Thursday night.

DE White Waived

Roster moves usually come in twos, but the Buccaneers made a single maneuver on Friday morning, leaving an open spot to be filled on the 53-man list.

The Bucs have waived first-year DE Markus White, who just last week was promoted from the practice squad to the active roster.  White has had a few such moves this year.

The team first grabbed the former Florida State for their practice squad during the opening week of the season, after he had been let go by the Redskins.  White had been drafted by Washington the year before and spent most of his rookie season as a game-day inactive, though he did get in on two games.  After joining the Bucs, he went back to D.C. when the Redskins signed him straight off Tampa Bay’s practice squad to their own active roster.  White was later released again, and re-signed by the Bucs to their practice squad, getting the aforementioned promotion a few days later.

All of which is to say: There’s a spot open on the 53-man roster.  The Bucs did not immediately fill it on Friday, but are almost sure to do so before the game on Sunday.  Stay tuned.

Another Receiver for the Practice Squad

The Buccaneers had a spot open on their practice squad heading into the start of practice in Week Seven, but on Wednesday they filled it by signing first-year wide receiver Tori Gurley.

It is not surprising to see the Bucs’ brass go after another receiver.  Though NFL teams are listed to a 53-man active roster during the regular season, they really have 61 spots to work with during game preparations thanks to the eight-man practice squad.  It is fairly common to see a pair of receivers on the Bucs’ practice squad at the same time, as that position often takes up eight of the 61 available spots.  Tampa Bay currently has six receivers on the active roster and already had wideout Dale Moss on the practice squad.

Gurley, who entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with Green Bay in 2011, has yet to play in a regular-season but he has seen his share of travels.  The Buccaneers are his fourth team in 2012, after he went to camp with the Packers and then later spent time on the practice squads in Minnesota and Oakland.  He was on the Raiders’ practice squad, in fact, until October 2.

Gurley spent his entire rookie season on Green Bay’s practice squad and then was re-signed by the Packers for 2012.  He was eventually waived on August 31 before jumping to the Vikings a few days later.

At 6-4 and 232 pounds, Gurley has coveted size for the position, and he was actually a two-sports star as a prep in South Carolina.  After leading his high school to state championships in both football and basketball, he originally committed to North Carolina to play both sports, but ended up at South Carolina on the gridiron.

Last year, Gurley memorably declined an opportunity to spend the last three weeks on Minnesota’s active roster, choosing to stay with the Packers on the practice squad instead.  Gurley believed the opportunity to learn from some of the game’s best receivers was more valuable to his career in the long run.  He’ll get another opportunity to show what he’s learned in Tampa.

Bucs Get Young DE Back From ‘Skins

The Buccaneers obviously didn’t want to lose Markus White, and White was happy to come back to Tampa when he had the chance.

On Thursday, the Bucs signed White to their practice squad for the second time.  He probably would have had one uninterrupted stint on that unit had not the Redskins come calling in September.

White first joined the Buccaneers on September 3 as the team formed its practice squad for the first time in 2012.  However, players that are on NFL practice squads remain free agents of a sort, in that they are free to terminate their contracts and sign with another team as long as that second team is adding them to their active roster.  That’s what the Redskins did on September 18.  When such a maneuver is made, the new team must keep the player on their roster for at least three weeks.

That’s essentially what Washington did with White, releasing him again on October 9 in order to sign linebacker Mario Addison.  That was good news for the Buccaneers, who quickly stepped in to bring White back, releasing defensive end Kendrick Adams from their practice squad to make room.

White has now had two stints each with Washington and Tampa Bay, because it was the Redskins who brought him into the league as a seventh-round draft pick in 2011.  He played in two games as a rookie, mostly on special teams, and went back to training camp with the Redskins this past summer.  At Florida State, White played in 39 games with 27 starts and recorded 131 tackles, 28.5 tackles for loss, 11 sacks, with eight of those sacks coming during his senior year.

The Redskins called White, who stands 6-4 and weighs 264 pounds, an outside linebacker in their 3-4 defensive scheme.  The Buccaneers view him as a 4-3 defensive end.

New TE Could Aid Running Game

The Buccaneers made a pair of roster moves on Tuesday that added to a position that seemed to be at full strength and subtracted from one that has recently lost a player, as tight end Nate Byham comes aboard and defensive end Jeff Charleston departs.  However, the addition of Byham might actually be addressing a specific need.

 

A sixth-round pick by San Francisco in 2010 who spent all of last year on injured reserve, Byham might not be a particularly familiar name to Buccaneer fans.  But coming out of the University of Pittsburgh in 2010, he was considered one of the two or three best blocking tight ends available that year.  Byham caught about 50 passes at Pitt but was best known for opening holes for the Panthers’ rushing attack, which is how he twice earned All-Big East honors in seasons where he caught 20 or fewer passes.

 

We’ll have to wait and see what develops on the practice field and on Sundays in the coming weeks, but the Bucs could be looking to get Byham involved in their offense right away as a blocker in two-TE sets.  Luke Stocker is considered a strong blocker but co-starter Dallas Clark excels more in the passing game.  Third tight end Danny Noble was impressive in training camp and has worked very hard on his blocking skills but wasn’t asked to do too much of that in college at Toledo.

 

The Bucs have been pleased with the work of rookie RB Doug Martin but think they need to create some more open space for him to create longer runs.  Martin is currently averaging 3.5 yards per carry.  The addition of a blocker who could help in two-TE sets might be part of the solution.

Practice Squad Gets a New DE, Too: LSU’s Kendrick Adams

The Buccaneers brought two defensive ends to One Buccaneer Place for tryouts on Monday, one day after Adrian Clayborn was lost for the season to a knee injury.  Turns out, they liked them both.

One of those two, sixth-year veteran Jeff Charleston, was signed to the active roster on Wednesday.  The other, rookie Kendrick Adams, has now been added to the practice squad.  The Bucs announced that second move on Thursday, releasing guard Julian Vandervelde to make room on the eight-man crew.

Practice squad players are not eligible to play in games, but they do help a team’s depth on the practice field, where they can also eventually perform their way onto the active roster.  Thus, it is common for a practice squad to ebb and flow in terms of the positions it is stocked with, as teams react to roster shortages due to injuries.

The 6-5, 255-pound Adams played his last two seasons of college ball at LSU and signed with the Jaguars as an undrafted free agent this spring.  After two years at a junior college in Mississippi, he joined the Tigers and started in 2010 and 2011, contributing 49 tackles, four sacks, nine tackles for loss and one forced fumble.

Vandervelde joined the Bucs as a waiver claim in September, just after the final roster cuts.  He was subsequently released and signed to the practice squad.