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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Has newfound depth given Buccaneers NFL’s best LB corps?

Roy Cummings

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Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire
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TAMPA – The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have grown accustomed to having one of their linebackers step up as arguably the best player on the field on any given Sunday during the regular season.

It was that way again during their last preseason game last Thursday night against Washington, except that the linebackers who stepped up weren’t the two who usually carry that “best-player’’ distinction.

While Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander watched from the sidelines along with 35 other Bucs regulars, Kendell Beckwith, Adarius Glanton and Cameron Lynch easily stood out as the Bucs best players during a 13-10 loss.

The trio of Beckwith, Glanton and Lynch solidified their place on the Bucs roster by combining for 21 tackles, including three for a loss, a sack, two quarterback hits and a forced fumble.

Though it came against the Redskins second-and third-stringers, the outing nevertheless confirmed for Bucs coach Dirk Koetter something that’s been rolling around inside his head for a few weeks now.

A position group that at the start of training camp was considered to be perhaps one of the weakest on the team has suddenly proved to be one of the strongest, Koetter said.

 “Yeah, I thought those three guys were outstanding (against the Redskins), Koetter said. “With those three, I think we’re the deepest we’ve been at linebacker for sure.’’

NFL Network analyst Peter Shrager took it a step further. A big step further, assessing the overall talent of the Bucs linebackers and rating perhaps the “best’’ group of linebackers in the NFL.

Shrager based his assessment not so much on the depth of the group, but the two players that are clearly at the top of the depth chart and will be on the field the most, David and Alexander.

In fact, among non-skill position players throughout the league, Shrager chose Alexander as his No. 1 breakout candidate for the 2017 season, saying “I think he’s going to be a household name this year.

“Entering his third season,’’ Shrager added, “he led the NFL in (solo) tackles last year, 108; he had 145 combined, third in the NFL, and he had 21 tackles in that Sunday night game against the Cowboys last year.

 “In the first preseason game this year he had five tackles on the opening drive. He’s a tackle machine and when you combine him with Lavonte David and the rookie, Kendell Beckwith out of LSU, the Buccaneers linebacking corps could be the best in the NFL this year.’’

 Again, it’s remarkable how quickly opinions of this group have changed. After all, David is coming off arguably his worst season and there was little to suggest back at the start of training camp that Beckwith was going to make an early impact.

He was just eight months removed from reconstructive knee surgery and playing like it at the time. The expectations for Glanton and Lynch weren’t all that great either back then.

Glanton was coming off a third-straight NFL season in which he spent most of his time working on special teams, where he got 308 of his 332 snaps last year. Lynch, meanwhile, looked like even more of a longshot.

He was coming off an undrafted rookie season spent on the Bucs practice squad, which is where he landed after being let go by the Rams in their final roster cut-down last September.

Each has found a way to stand out since the first day of training camp, though, and now they’ll go into the season as one of the most intriguing position groups in the entire NFL.

 

 

Roy Cummings is a native of Chicago, Illinois who grew up in the suburb of Lombard. He and his family later moved to Lakeland, Florida, where Roy attended high school at Kathleen High. He graduated from the University of South Florida with a Bachelor's Degree in Mass Communications in 1983 and immediately went to work for the Tampa Tribune. After five years working in a Polk County bureau covering everything from high school sports to college football to the Orlando Magic of the NBA, Roy moved back to Tampa and became the Tribune's first beat writer for the Tampa Bay Lightning, covering the team from its inception through the first eight years on the ice. He was then moved to the Buccaneers beat, where he stayed until the paper was folded in May, 2016. A two-time Florida Sports Writer of the Year, Roy has extensive experience covering all Tampa professional sports teams, including the Tampa Bay Rays.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Report- Bucs aren’t trading tight end OJ Howard

Florida Football Insiders

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Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

There’s no doubt the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have begun to struggle with three losses in their last four games while on a bye week. However, a report Thursday says they’re not looking to sell off one of their premium young players before the trade deadline.

Despite inquiries from other teams, former first-round pick tight end O.J. Howard apparently will not be on the move.

That’s according to ESPN Buccaneers reporter, Jenna Laine, who went on Tampa Bay radio Thursday and said as much, and then repeated it on social media:

There have been numerous reports of teams inquiring about the third-year tight end from Alabama whose had a disappointing 2019 so far. Howard, known for his size and agility in the passing game, has only 13 catches for 176 yards and no TDs in the first six Tampa Bay games.

And in the last 2 weeks, Howard had only one catch in New Orleans and just two catches in London in the loss to the Panthers. In both games, he did not catch a pass in the second half.

Now, In fairness, Tampa Bay does have a lot of pass-catching weapons starting with receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin and Howard’s fellow tight end Cameron Brate. Brate is one of the personal favorite targets of quarterback Jameis Winston, especially on third down and in the redzone, where he caught a TD last week.

Howard, who was taken 19th overall in the 2017 draft, is in the third year of his deal that is paying him $1.5 million this season. He is slated to make $2 million next year and there is a fifth year option on his rookie deal, as well.

And while that makes him attractive to another team from a salary standpoint, it’s the same for the Bucs, their GM Jason Licht (who drafted Howard) and their long-term plans for the roster and the cap.

Howard has also finished his first two seasons on IR with ankle injuries near the end of them, as well.

The Bucs will come off the bye and play the Titans in Nashville, and a loss would drop them to 2-5 and only fuel speculation more that they might look to trade off a player or two before the end of the month.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs repeated blunders lead to London defeat

Florida Football Insiders

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Steve Flynn-USA TODAY Sports

Despite traveling over 4000 miles to London, it was a day to forget for the Bucs in their rematch with the Panthers on Sunday. Tampa Bay and QB Jameis Winston had enough misuses for a month of football, including 7 turnovers, as they dropped a 37 – 26 defeat at the hands of Carolina.

Winston was the biggest culprit, as he threw five interceptions (a career high) and also lost a number fumble in what was one of his worst performances of his five year career. And, even though his final stat line showed a 400 yards passing, Winston, with shaky from the very beginning. He threw an interception on the first play of the game to Panthers DB James Bradberry. This while trying to hit WR Mike Evans (catchless last week) over the middle.

Carolina only got a field goal though to make the game 3-0. And, after two Bucs punts on the next two possessions, Carolina marched 99 yards and ended up with in a short Christian Mccaffery one yard TD and a 10 – 0 lead.

One of the few breaks the Bucs got at Tottenham Hotspurs Stadium Sunday came when Carolina punt returner Ray Ray McCloud fumbled early in the second and Tampa Bay recovered. A short time later, Ronald Jones got the Buccaneers on the board with a five yard score to close the Carolina lead to 10-7.

Little did the Bucs, Winston and coach Bruce Arians know that it would be the closest they would get the rest of the day.

Later in the second, Winston had his arm hit by the Panthers Bruce Irvin and his pass was picked, again. And, it set up McCaffery’s second TD, a 25 yard catch and run to make it 17-7 Carolina in the half.

Then, after halftime,  the Bucs punted on their first possession and then, after a Panthers field goal made it 20-7, Winston once again threw a bad pass over the middle for his third interception of the game. This one to Pro Bowl LB Luke Kuechley, who ran it down to the Bucs 8 yard line. Next, WR Curtis Samuel scored on a handoff and at 27-7, the issue was basically decided.

Yes, the Bucs continued to scrap and Winston actually got them in the endzone  twice in the fourth quarter and finished with 400 yards passing, on the number. However, most of that was against softer coverage while Carolina led big in the second half.

Besides the five INTS, Winston also fumbled away another red zone scoring opportunity after he was hit and sacked. Then, a fourth quarter Bobo Wilson muffed punt led to Panthers field goal and the game back to an easy double digit lead. Again, -6 in the turnover margin was as horrific as it gets for Tampa Bay.

The Panthers are now rolling, including second year QB Kyle Allen getting his fourth straight win in relief of the injured Cam Newton. Plus, Carolina got their revenge from a loss a month ago in Charlotte by winning in their first ever trip to the U.K.

However, this day was more about a Bucs offense, and Winston specifically, that both looked so good in a 55-40 win two weeks ago in L.A. doing the exact opposite for most of this Sunday in a bad defeat.

Tampa Bay now stands 2-4 headed to their bye and knows that the turnovers must stop, or the year will get more sour and very quickly.

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