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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Leading the Way

Bucs Corey Smith and Lynaris Elpheage pace the NFL Europe League in key defensive categories as Tampa Bay’s overseas contingent continues to find success


Buc-allocated CB Lynaris Elpheage (right) makes a leaping interception during the Frankfurt Galaxy's Week One win

Week Two in the NFL Europe League was, in many ways, a carbon copy of Week One. Berlin, Rhein and Frankfurt all won again, with Amsterdam, Cologne and Scotland taking the losses. Thus, once again, five of the six players allocated to the NFLEL by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this spring were on the winning sidelines.

And, just as in Week One, defensive end Corey Smith and cornerback Lynaris Elpheage made life rough for opposing quarterbacks in Week Two. One-fifth of the way into the NFLEL's 10-game schedule, Smith leads the league with three sacks and Elpheage is on top with two interceptions.

Smith and fellow Buc Ben Claxton, Berlin's starting center, helped lead the Thunder to a 28-17 victory at Amsterdam on Saturday. Elpheage helped turn the tide in the Frankfurt Galaxy's 20-10 win at Cologne on that same day. And guard Kevin Breedlove and tackle Chris Ziemann provided fine blocking up front in the Rhein Fire's 31-3 rout of the Scottish Claymores, also on Saturday.

The only Buc to find himself on the short end of a final score was defensive tackle Damian Gregory, who started at right defensive tackle for the Claymores.

Here is how the Bucs' half-dozen NFLEL allocates fared in this past weekend of play:

  • G Kevin Breedlove, Rhein…Started at guard and helped Fire quarterbacks complete 14 of 19 passes while taking just two sacks. * C Ben Claxton, Berlin…Started at center and helped Thunder O-line allow just one sack in 28 pass plays…Provided protection for three Berlin QBs to combine for 267 passing yards, four touchdowns and one interception. * CB Lynaris Elpheage, Frankfurt…Started at right cornerback and recorded two sacks, an interception and three passes defensed…Set up fourth-quarter touchdown with 23-yard interception return. * DT Damian Gregory, Scotland…Started at right defensive tackle and recorded three solo tackles. * DE Corey Smith, Berlin…Subbed at defensive end and contributed two tackles, a sack and a stop on special teams. * T Chris Ziemann, Rhein…Subbed at tackle and on special teams in Rhein's 31-3 win over Scotland.

Smith, the first overall pick in the allocated-player draft in February, is off to a very hot start, with three sacks in two games. He is on pace for 15 quarterback takedowns; in contrast, when former Buccaneer defensive end Ron Warner led the NFLEL in that category in 2002, he finished the 10-game season with six sacks.

Elpheage, a former New Orleans Saint signed by the Buccaneers in January, is the only player with an interception in each of the NFLEL's first two weekends. He also has an impressive six passes defensed in just two contests.

All six of the allocated Bucs are seeing significant playing time, which may be the most important result of the early-going for Tampa Bay management. Young players are allocated to the NFLEL in order to give them the extended in-game action they may have trouble finding stateside. A good season in Europe can often be a catalyst for a great training camp in the summer, as it was for such Bucs as Chartric Darby and Corey Ivy.

A few wins never hurt, either. The two teams with the best records after the 10-week regular season will meet in World Bowl XI in June. At least one of the three undefeated teams will take its first loss next weekend, as the Fire and Galaxy are set to square off in Frankfurt on Saturday. Claxton and Smith, meanwhile, will try to keep the Thunder undefeated as they take on the Cologne Centurions on Sunday.

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