Rookie CB Mike Mickens (33) was drafted by Dallas in the seventh round this past April and opened the season on the Cowboys' practice squad
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have 53 spots on their active roster. They are working hard to make sure all of them matter.
Virtually every week of the Buccaneers' 2009 season has featured a tweak or two to the active roster, and Week Nine is no different. The latest addition: rookie cornerback Mike Mickens, who was plucked off the Dallas Cowboys' practice squad on Tuesday. To make room for Mickens among those 53 spots, the team released third-year cornerback Marcus McCauley.
Both Mickens and McCauley, who was signed on October 20, represent the team's efforts to find players who will "drive the bus from the bottom up," as is Head Coach Raheem Morris' chosen phrase. Other players the Buccaneers have signed since the season started with the intention of improving overall roster depth have included fullback Chris Pressley, guard Shawn Murphy, wide receiver Yamon Figurs, safety Corey Lynch and defensive ends Tim Crowder and Michael Bennett.
Mickens, a seventh-round pick in the 2009 draft out of Cincinnati, was one of three defensive backs selected by Dallas, including two former Bearcat cornerbacks (Dallas also drafted Cincinnati's DeAngelo Smith in the fifth round). He was released during the Cowboys' final roster cutdown but quickly added to the practice squad, where he spent the first eight weeks of the season. During the preseason, Mickens appeared in all four games, notching eight tackles and a pass defensed.
The 6-0, 186-pound Mickens has good size, track-star speed and a feel for the game. He might have fared better on draft weekend if not for a knee injury in 2008 that cost him three games in his senior campaign and forced him to skip both the Senior Bowl and the NFL Scouting Combine.
Mickens actually started the first 46 games of his college career before last year's injury. During that span, he racked up 233 tackles, one sack, 48 passes defensed, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. He also snared 14 career interceptions, the most ever by a Bearcat. Last year, he was a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award after grabbing four interceptions, which he returned for a total of 158 yards and one touchdown. After his injury, he did return in a reserve role to play in the Orange Bowl and contributed five tackles and a pass defensed.
In 2007, Mickens earned first-team All-America honors from the Football Writers Association, as he and Smith combined for 14 interceptions, the most by any teammates in college football. Six of those belonged to Mickens, and two were returned for touchdowns.
The 22-year-old Mickens hails from Huber Heights, Ohio, where he was not only a football star but also a prep state champion in the 300-meter hurdles.