Photos from Wednesday's practice at One Buccaneer Place.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafted West Virginia running back Charles Sims in the third round in May and had big plans for him in their 2014 offense, just as they planned to make significant use of first-round wide receiver Mike Evans and second-round tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
However, while Evans has started from Day One and been one of the team's most pleasant developments, and while Seferian-Jenkins has overcome an early-season ankle injury to show flashes of his big-play potential, Sims has had to watch from the sideline as the season's first half unfolded. Sims suffered an ankle injury in a preseason practice that was severe enough to require surgery, and the Buccaneers decided to use their one injured reserve "designated for return" tab on the rookie back. That "designated return" could be soon.
Whether or not it will be this Sunday in Cleveland has yet to be determined. The Bucs can activate Sims before that game – he had to sit out at least eight weeks before returning – but they don't have to. How he looks on the practice field the rest of the week will inform the final decision.
"He'll have a chance," said Head Coach Lovie Smith. "It's two weeks now to see him on the field. He's getting better and better…got a good look at him today. That quickness and all those things we liked when we drafted him, we're starting to see that. We miss having him out there. We're a little banged up at the running back position, too, so we'll see how the week plays out."
Indeed, as Smith mentioned, the Buccaneers could be without starting tailback Doug Martin this weekend. Martin was one of three Buccaneers who did not practice at all on Wednesday, in his case due to an ankle injury suffered in the game against Minnesota on Sunday. Fullback Jorvorskie Lane also has one week left on his commissioner's suspension, so the running game without Sims would consist of Bobby Rainey and Mike James.
The Bucs won't rush Sims back simply for that reason. However, when the rookie is ready to play, Smith thinks he will make a difference right away.
"There's no doubt," said Smith. "When he's ready to go, he'll give us a spark. I feel pretty confident saying that."
The Bucs were also without left tackle Anthony Collins in practice to start the week, as Collins is dealing with a foot injury. Smith said he hoped to see Collins back in the mix on Thursday. The Bucs' entire Wednesday injury report can be found here, and there are additional quotes from Tampa Bay players and coaches below.Head Coach Lovie Smith
"Injury list: Anthony Collins has a foot injury right now that he's dealing with a little bit. Hopefully he'll be able to go tomorrow, but we held him out of practice today. Brandon Magee continues to get better with his knee, but he wasn't able to practice, and Doug Martin, of course, has the ankle injury. Those three guys weren't able to practice. We have some players who have nagging injuries that were only able to practice on a limited basis: Vincent Jackson, still nursing that rib injury; Michael Johnson has a hand injury right now – he was able to do most of the work, but he did practice on a limited basis; and Evan Dietrich-Smith has a knee that is bothering him a little bit. Besides that, we're in pretty good shape, a good Wednesday practice. I guess since we've talked last, yesterday we traded two good football players that have meant a lot to our program. Jonathan Casillas has been here for a while, just coming off an injury, started as a starter here for us and moved to a backup role on special teams, so this is a good opportunity for him for someone else to see him and maybe he can do some other things for him. Mark Barron, I don't have to tell you what all he's meant to our program and what he's done for us. Whenever you trade players, you have to feel good about other players here that will be playing that position, and we feel pretty good about both positions. We just wish them well as we move on. Cleveland Browns, 4-3, playing good football, big win last week. We have a couple common opponents that we play also. To be able to beat the Steelers the way they did says an awful lot about where they are right now. Whether it's running the football, passing, good defense on the other side – they've taken the ball away quite a few times. Road AFC opponent, a win that we need to get."
On the trade of safety Mark Barron signaling that the team is looking toward the future rather than winning now:
"There no truth to that at all. The moves we made we felt like gave us our best chance to win right now, as much as anything. Yeah, we picked up a draft pick on both those players; moved up on one and picked up another. But it's not about the future – well, it's always about the future, but it's about our current roster. As I said, you don't trade players unless you feel pretty good about the other players you have. We like what Major Wright has been able to do. Major Wright has played as well as any of our safeties when he's gotten an opportunity to, and Bradley McDougald has a bright future ahead of him. That allowed us to make those moves, as much as anything."
On what type of player he is hoping to fill Barron's role:
"We don't want a one-dimensional player as far as pass or run. It's not looking for a safety who can only play in the middle of the field and won't tackle and do all of those things. At the same time, we don't want a player who can only play in the box. We want a guy who can do both. Especially Bradley McDougald, who is probably our best combination of a guy who can do both, and, of course, Major has been able to do both also. Again, Mark Barron is a heck of a football player. You have to listen when people contact you and, again, hopefully this will work out for both of us."
On safety Dashon Goldson's role:
"I was talking about the other two players, of course, who haven't played a lot and haven't started, but, yes, we feel like Dashon can do both, whether it's playing down in the box, playing the deep middle or half-field safety position, quarterbacking our team back there. All of those things, he can do."
On possible starter at left tackle if Anthony Collins is unable to play on Sunday:
"You want me to talk about our starting lineup on Sunday? We have a few options you can look at. We normally dress seven linemen. One of those guys would normally play; just look at our roster a little bit. As a general rule, I don't talk about starting lineups, so I'd like to answer that question right now, but we're not that far. He didn't practice – today he wasn't able to. Tomorrow hopefully he'll be able to go on a limited basis and we'll go from there."
On cornerback Isaiah Frey's performance at nickel back:
"OK. Just as we're going forward, it's hard for anybody to look that good when you lose, but I think he did about what we thought he would do. They will be in position a couple times. From our defense just as a whole, last week we had zero takeaways. We expect guys to make tackles. That just goes with how you're labeled being on the defensive side of the ball. We need all our players, the nickel position and everyone, to come up with more make-a-difference plays: interceptions, fumbles, stripping the ball away, some of those kinds of things; big third-down stops. So that's how we're grading it when I say OK."
On whether preseason discipline played any role in the trades of linebacker Jonathan Casillas and Barron:
"Not at all. As you can tell, I've forgotten what you were talking about. It's been no issue at all. Both of these guys are real men. Hated to see them go. No issue at all. The Patriots and the Rams are both getting good players that will be in their locker rooms and they're going to love both of them."
On whether he liked the performance of defensive end Jacquies Smith:
"Yes, I did. I thought he was – as you look at the body types that we would like to play with and what we expect from our guys, to be able to rush the passer, to be an edge rusher, you have to have some juice. Starting off with that. Have to have some bend and be an athlete to be able to do different things. He was able to do – he had a couple good rushes. T.J. Fatinikun, also. Both of those guys flashed for young players who haven't gotten a lot of reps so far. When you flash, you get more time, and I'm anxious to see how much they can develop."
On whether linebacker Orie Lemon will play a defensive role or special teams:
"Initially you play, you may just have a special teams role. But in order to come here, we have to like something about you being a regular-down linebacker for us, whether it's Sam or Will, and we liked that about him. In interim right now, it will probably be more in a special teams role."
On whether he sees Lemon as more of a Sam or Will linebacker:
"They're identical for the most part. It's the same body type; it's just whoever you need. As a general rule, if I was him, I'd want to play SAM. Lavonte David is not ever coming off the field."
On tight end Luke Stocker filling in at fullback:
"I thought he did OK. Big body. I think Luke has done a good job throughout. He gives you flexibility. On the defensive side of the ball, how do you play him? If you had regular personnel, I'm talking about a regular fullback, you'd assume it would be some form of a two-back set. But when you have a tight end that can line up outside, in-line and a fullback, you have a lot of options. We like what he's been able to do, and also as a special teams player. When we got here early on, didn't know what to really expect from him, but he's been a valuable member of our team."
On defensive tackle Gerald McCoy's health:
"Well, 100 [percent], that's really – who's 100? It's really hard. But I think he can be about as healthy as any defensive lineman, any interior guy who's in the pit, can be. His hand is getting better and his play is getting better too. High standard for Gerald. He has a high standard. And as we make this rise, he'll need to be at the top of his game, which he's capable of doing. We're going to put more and more pressure on Gerald. Gerald wants more and more pressure."Quarterbacks Coach Marcus Arroyo
On what he has seen from running back Charles Sims in practice and if he is encouraged by his progress:
"This week was the first opportunity we've had since he's been back to kind of really see him go and see to what extent it's at – to what percentage he's at. Excited to have Charles back out there – absolutely."
On if he thought the offense would have performed better against Minnesota last Sunday coming off a bye week:
"Well I think we'd hope so. We're all disappointed in the lack of production early on. Just something that's been a little bit hamstrung with us right now and we've got to solve that issue, we've got to be more productive early on. With a week off, you hope you come out and start a little faster than that and don't go down and do some of the things we did and hurt ourselves. Again, that's not where you want to be. Angry, frustrated, all those things are probably – I don't know if I'd define it that way. Just disappointed to see it and we've got to find a way to correct it. This is another opportunity here today to get out there and try to figure out a way to start faster."
On if it was a combination of quarterback and offensive line mistakes that hampered the offense against Minnesota:
"Yeah, it's kind of gone that way this season. If we could pinpoint it, it would probably be a lot easier. Or if there were a quick fix, it'd probably be a lot easier. Unfortunately, it's not. I guess we're all taking our turns. We've got to find a way to jell a little bit so that we're not doing that. Whether it's a miscommunication on the first drive or penalties – same thing. Whatever it is that puts us behind those sticks – we need to get through it and manage that and we're going to continue to do that."
On what can be done to further solidify the offensive line:
"It goes back to the same thing last week: we've got to be able to find a way – if we're adding protectors – to be able to still manage it. If you add a protector, get it out quicker towards the end of the game and find ways to get it out with timing, add a protector, if we have to move them a little bit – all of those things are going to have to come into play if we feel like we're put in a spot where we can't do it. We believe in those guys up front and we've got to keep chipping away and asking them to do the things we know they're capable of doing on a more consistent basis, and that's for everybody – not just up front. Being consistent all around. Like I said, we're all taking turns and beating ourselves up a little bit, so it's just got to be fixed."
On what the team sees in Sims:
"He's got some traits that we're really excited about. Haven't seen – obviously, we saw the training camp in the short time we had him. But big, physical, fast, can catch the ball, runs hard – for such a big guy, he's elusive, strong, fast and powerful. Catches the ball well, like I said, smart. A lot of really good traits that we're excited to see develop and just having him out there a little bit more at a time is going to be great."
On if Sims has the ability to break tackles:
"He's put that on tape, yeah. He's put that on tape in college. We just haven't had a chance to see that yet. In college, that's definitely I think the reason we took him. You want a guy that's going to do all those things at that position. We're excited to obviously get him to that stage where we can see it come to light."
On if there has been talk of naming quarterback Josh McCown the starter again:
"Josh will be prepared to go if we ask him to go."
On if the plan is to again use tight end Luke Stocker as a lead blocker at fullback this Sunday against Cleveland with fullback Jorvorskie Lane suspended and how well he performed against Minnesota:
"Luke did great. Luke did really well. Really happy with his performance and just the first time of him having to step into that role. Without getting into game plans for this week, obviously, if he's asked to do that again, he'd be the guy to do it again based on what he did [against Minnesota]. We're excited about what he did. He did a good job."
On what has kept the offensive line from becoming a cohesive group:
"I don't know if we could put our finger on one particular thing. I think finding ways for us to jell and put something in front of them that they can all work on and work together with – I don't know individual mental errors or stuff like that. Those are the things that, again, they're showing up all over. They're not just one spot. We're focusing on and talking a lot about the offensive line – it's not just one spot. It's happening outside, it's happening in the backfield, it's happening on the perimeter. But the offensive line is a group that we're still trying to – [we're] rolling [Garrett] Gilkey in at guard and believing in both those guys there – Patrick [Omameh] and him – and continue to do so and the cream will rise. We'll come to fruition with those guys. We believe in them, we keep working them. That's all we can do – just keep your head down and keep going."
On if he thinks teams are blitzing them more because they do not respect the rushing attack:
"It depends on how you look at it. I don't see it being a lot more pressure packages – we've played some teams that are pressure package teams. We've played some teams that that's what they do. That's their scheme and we know that going in – you've got to have a plan for it. The back end of that is – and it's not the same as doing that – just the other thought to that is if you're lacking the production of run, the other way to look at it is to play coverage. Add a guy to the back end because really those guys are pretty scary. So every week's a little bit different in how they're going to see it. And I think defensively, that's what they determine us to be. That's how you have to go in and plan it is, 'OK, in the course of the game, how is it presented? Are they playing coverage? Well we've got to find a way to put some space in the run game. OK, are they playing pressure looks? We've got to help protect and then we've got some isolation, which is nice.' And at some point, you also have to be able to say, 'We're just going to do it and we're going to do it.' So we've got to continue to try to find ways to be productive."
On if that can be accomplished in game planning:
"Yeah, you can. And it's throughout the course of the game you kind of adjust it as it's going too. That's part of what you do. At the same token, you might be in a game plan where that was a little bit lower and you really want to exploit something else or try something else and you're trying to make it fit and you find something else – it happens in the course [of a game]. 'Hey, stay with this. This is productive.' That happens. That happens especially when you're having trouble staying consistent, and we've got to be more efficient. And then you find something, you stick to it a little bit, and we've got to find exactly what that happy median is between, 'We're getting off the bus doing this and that's what we're doing and this is the way we're doing it,' and, 'Hey, through the course of the game, this is working.'"
On if the play-calling duties are just his or if it is still a collective effort:
"Since we took it over, it has not changed one bit. We're all collective. There's too much work to get it done with even having a man down to be – that's just not what we're doing. We're a collective group. We're trying to put together every week, as a group, the run game, the play actions, the screens, the third-downs, the red zone, the backed up, the coming out, the two-minute, the four-minute – all those things, collectively, we try to put our heads together and put us in the best situation base on what we've put out there [in] preseason and training camp that our guys know and can do, and that's how it's been and how it will continue to go. That's the best way we see it working."QB Mike Glennon
On how frustrating the first three quarters against Minnesota were for him:
"Yeah, it was definitely frustrating because the first drive, we got some things going. We had two or three first downs or whatever and then I had a bad play. So I felt that we were finally getting past that. We were running the ball, had a few throws that went well, and then I made a dumb play right there. So that was frustrating because who knows, that might have kick started our offense for the rest of the game. With that being said, sometimes it turns into a defensive battle and our defense was doing a great job for us getting us the ball back and keeping it in a score where we could get back in it and that's what we were able to do. Obviously would like a faster start, but at least we're finishing strong and putting ourselves in position to win games. Of the games we've played, all but two – whatever the score is – we're staying with it and games are coming down to the very end."
On what Minnesota did defensively to cover wide receiver Vincent Jackson so well:
"It wasn't too much other than ordinary. We threw it to him a couple times and he was a foot away from a big third-down conversion there in the first quarter. We had some throws to him – just weren't able to connect on them. He's still a huge part of our offense and he'll continue to be. So although we didn't get it to him – like I said, sometimes there's just games, sometimes he won't get as many targets, and other games in the past, he's probably gotten who knows, probably 20 [targets]. Every game is different. You have to take it one game at a time."
On his decision to run on a third-down play against Minnesota that failed to get the first down:
"I didn't even realize until I watched the film that my foot had hit out of bounds prior to it. My eye was focused on the other foot and I knew that foot got past it so I wasn't sure. Obviously, I have to be more aware of the situation for both of my feet. I thought my one foot was obviously safe, but I had to concentrate on the other one. On the film, it was pretty evident that I had stepped out. I just wasn't aware but [I] can't let that happen because third downs are important and it would've been a conversion for us and helped keep the drive alive, if not change field position."
On why he has been sacked 10 times the past two games:
"I think a little bit of everything. I don't think you can pinpoint one part of the offense. Protection is on everybody. It's on the offensive line, it's on the quarterbacks, it's on the running backs, it's on the receivers getting open. We all play a part in it. Some of them have been on me where I need to do a better job in the pocket – sometimes it's been on the offensive line and the running backs, and sometimes it's kind of a coverage sack. It's a full team effort when it comes to protection. We'll work to get back to where we were in those other games where I think we only had one sack each game."
On if they did not throw many deep balls against Minnesota because of play calling or because of the coverage:
"Probably a little bit of both. We're going to take our shots when they're there, and we hit Mike Evans on the big one in the fourth quarter and that really got things going for that drive. They were playing some coverage that took it away. We really wanted to emphasize our run game. It's a mixture of both: what plays are called and also what the defense is giving us."
On if Cleveland's secondary is one of the more talented groups he will face:
"Yeah, they're doing a real good job. They have guys – they have three big-time corners, two real good safeties – one of their safeties is leading the league in interceptions. So it will definitely be a tough task to go up against that secondary, but, as always, we feel good about our matchup as well."
On Evans saying the biggest difference between college and the NFL is how hard guys hit and if he agrees with that:
"I think they hit a little harder. Some hits really don't hurt at all and then other hits that don't look bad are the ones that are the worst. It's a more physical league than it is in college obviously – bigger, stronger, faster, all of the above – but it's part of the game and something you just kind of get used to."
On his job on a run play from the moment after he breaks the huddle:
"Every play is different. Certain plays, a lot of times the offensive line just takes care of everything, and other times we may have to check out of it depending on the front they're playing or the coverage they're playing behind it. So it really varies depending on the play, but when we break the huddle, we're looking at the front – if it's a favorable look, we can leave the run on; if it's not, we can check out of it and communicate with the MIKE [linebacker] point, and that kind of gets everyone on the same page of where we're going with this run so they know their assignment and where they're headed."
On what has changed if anything with the team this week:
"We're going to continue to stay our course. Amp everything up a little bit, but we're going to stay the way we're taught, the way we're trained. Because we're close. Close isn't good enough obviously. But we're getting there and we just need to really just start faster and finish better, and if we can do those two things, then our season would probably be a lot different right now and it can be a lot different going forward."C Evan Dietrich-Smith
On playing on the road:
"It's part of what you do in the league, you have to go into other people's houses and play. They're doing pretty good as a team right now, but we need to take steps in the right direction and getting another road victory would be nice – it would be nice to win at home, we have to do that one – but this game is the next game in front of us and we've got to focus on winning this one."
On protecting the quarterback:
"We prep for the whole defense. They've got good edge-rushers, they're doing pretty good in that aspect right now, but then again it's going to come down to what we do. If we're not executing as an offense or as a line, then yeah [Paul Kruger] may end up with some sacks, but our efforts and the way we have to approach it this week is that we're not going to let the guys touch Mike [Glennon] and that's how it has to be every week. We haven't gotten that done in the past two weeks and it's reflected in how we're doing as a unit, which isn't very good. When you sit there and the weeks before that leading up – we had only given up three sacks in four games or something like that. It has to be week-to-week that we're doing things right and we're going to make sure that we get back on that track this week."