TAMPA – To hear coach Dirk Koetter tell it, rookie running back Jermey McNichols was on his “final chance” to prove himself worthy of a roster spot with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday night.
From the looks of things he didn’t take full advantage of it.
Just as he has since training camp began, the mistake-prone fifth-round pick out of Boise State continued to run the ball mostly with hesitation and missed yet another pass blocking assignment.
The latter came on a third-and-2 play from the Bucs 29 late in the third quarter in which McNichols dove too low in his attempt to stop blitzing linebacker Pete Robertson.
McNichols’ dive simply created a small hurdle that Robinson easily cleared on his way to quarterback Sefo Liufau, who was forced to throw the ball into the dirt in an effort to avoid a sack.
The poor blocking effort marked at least the fourth time this preseason that McNichols has failed to get the job done in pass protection and it’s not like he ever ran the ball all that well either.
McNichols finished up the preseason with 24 carries for 79 yards (3.3), but he did finish on a good note, gaining 19 yards in his last four carries during the Bucs 13-10 loss to the Redskins on Thursday.
Overall, though, McNichols turned in a rather unimpressive preseason, one that would almost certainly earn him a ticket to the street were he not a fifth-round pick on a team with a running back issue.
That draft status and the fact top back Doug Martin will miss the first three games of the season as he serves out the final three-fourths of a four-game suspension for a PED violation could save McNichols. For now.
Or maybe not. When asked if McNichols did enough to erase any concerns he might have about him, Bucs coach Dirk Koetter provided an answer that include almost as much hesitation as a McNichols run.
Pausing at least three times along the way, Koetter simply refused to commit one way or the other in saying, “Uh… yeah. I mean uh… I don’t know. We’ll have to leave it – I better take a look at the tape.’’
Yeah, that doesn’t sound good. It sounds in fact like McNichols may be gone but perhaps his talent will still save him. After all, there was something the Bucs liked enough about him to draft him.