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Bucs Beat

Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Bucs take Marcus Mariota (in very early mock drafts)

I guess NFL Draft season is officially upon us, now that ESPN’s Todd McShay produced his first mock draft.

The Bucs currently hold the No. 1 pick, but as our Greg Auman points out here, they might not be in that position at the end of the year. Spoiler alert: McShay has the Bucs picking Oregon’s Heisman Trophy winner, QB Marcus Mariota, over Florida State’s Jameis Winston. McShay writes:

The concern I have with him is that while he's good with his anticipation and accuracy when passing from inside the pocket (and he's gotten better at it this season), he isn't great -- and that's the most important quality for QBs transitioning to the NFL level. Is that enough of a risk for the Bucs, a team in serious need of a franchise quarterback, to pass on him? Maybe, or perhaps they would wind up giving Winston a higher grade.

CBS’ draft gurus also have the Bucs picking Mariota at No. 1, with Winston going to the Titans with the second pick.

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Bucs and No. 1 pick: What to root for ...

With two weeks left in the NFL's regular season, the Bucs still stake claim to the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft, a huge asset to help build the team back from its current two-win status.

It's understandable that many Bucs fans are rooting for the team to lose its final two games, which would help lock up the No. 1 pick, and potentially, Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. It's not that simple, however -- the Titans, Jaguars and Raiders are also 2-12, and the NFL tiebreaker for draft position is based on strength of schedule. Add up the combined record of a team's 16 opponents, and the team with the worst combined record gets to pick first within a group of teams with the same record. …

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McDonald, Foster back as Bucs return to practice

Defensive tackle Clinton McDonald, who has missed three games with a hamstring injury, was back at practice for the first time Wednesday, joined by middle linebacker Mason Foster, who has missed two games with an Achilles injury.

The only active players sidelined during Wednesday's drills were safety Major Wright (ribs) and nickel defensive back Isaiah Frey (ankle), with returner/receiver Solomon Patton back practicing after missing Sunday's game with a foot injury.

With Gerald McCoy done for the season with a knee injury, it was Da'Quan Bowers who was lining up with the first-team defensive line alongside McDonald, with Akeem Spence, who has started the last three games, working on the second line, next to newly promoted rookie George Uko.

The first-team offensive line remained unchanged from Sunday, with Demar Dotson at left tackle and Oniel Cousins at right tackle, with former starter Anthony Collins not getting any reps with the first-team line. Kevin Pamphile and Garrett Gilkey got work as sixth linemen when the Bucs utilized the extra blocker in practice.

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Glennon still believes he's the Bucs QB of the future

The Bucs have been eliminated from the playoffs, have the worst record in football and currently own the No. 1 pick in a draft that's top heavy with Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks.

Sounds like a time to look to the future, right?

But despite throwing 12 interceptions and losing four fumbles, the Bucs have decided to stick with veteran Josh McCown. Does Mike Glennon, who went 1-4 as a starter this season, still think he is the team's quarterback of the future as stated by coach Lovie Smith?

“Yeah, I don’t see why not? That’s what has been told to me,'' Glennon said Wednesday. "I mean, that’s just been the communication throughout.  

"Until they tell me otherwise, that’s the approach I’ll take.''

While McCown has struggled to complete 50 percent of his passes the past four weeks and is 1-8 as a starter, Glennon has patiently waited for the call that never came. He led the Bucs to an upset comeback win at Pittsburgh in his first start of the season after McCown suffered a torn ligament in his right thumb. But Glennon lost his next three games and has 10 touchdowns and six interceptions. …

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Bucs sign DL Lawrence Sidbury

TAMPA – The Bucs have signed DL Lawrence Sidbury, the team announced Wednesday morning. He takes the roster spot of CB Crezdon Butler, who has been released.

Sidbury will add depth to a Bucs defensive line that will be without star Gerald McCoy (knee) for the rest of the season. The 6-foot-3, 269-pound Sidbury was a fourth-round pick in 2009. He played in 48 games over four years with the Falcons. He was on IR last season for the Colts and spent training camp with the Texans.

Sidbury, a University of Richmond product, will wear No. 77.

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New to Bucs' practice squad: CB Varmah Sonie

On a day where the Bucs lost an unusual name in Crezdon Butler, they added another, signing cornerback Varmah Sonie of Northern Iowa to the practice squad.

Sonie, 24, is the second player the Bucs have signed this year from the Arena Football League's Portland Thunder -- the first, defensive end T.J. Fatinikun, has earned his way into the rotation at end, with six tackles off the bench.

Sonie, 5-foot-8 and 175 pounds, was a first-team All-Arena selection after getting nine interceptions and a team-record 86 total tackles as a rookie with the Thunder. The Bucs were the first NFL team to bring him in for a workout, flying him in Monday after seeing tape from his Arena season. He had been limited by a sprained knee after the season, and had returned this fall to his hometown of Apple Valley, Minn., where he worked as defensive backs coach at Apple Valley High School.

"It really hasn't hit me yet that I'm in the NFL," Sonie said Tuesday night, eager for his first practice Wednesday. "I knew I belonged here and I just needed an opportunity to show it. God blessed me with an opportunity, so I'm thankful for a chance to show I can play." …

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After injuries, Bucs promote three from practice squad

One day after placing three players on injured reserve, the Bucs filled up the openings by promoting three players from their practice squad: WR Tavarres King, DT George Uko and TE Evan Rodriguez.

DT Gerald McCoy (knee), TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins (back) and WR Louis Murphy (ankle) are all done for the season, and the final two games will give the Bucs a chance to evaluate three young players. The Bucs also signed former San Jose State receiver Chandler Jones, an undrafted rookie, to fill one of the openings on the practice squad.

King, 24, was a fifth-round pick of the Broncos in 2013 after scoring 17 touchdowns in his final two seasons at Georgia. His best game in college came at Raymond James Stadium, catching six passes for 205 yards and a touchdown in a loss to Michigan State in the Outback Bowl after his junior year.

Uko, 22, went undrafted after leaving USC after his junior year, spending time in the preseason with the Saints before being cut. He had five sacks for the Trojans in 2013, splitting time between end and tackle, though he's worked inside at tackle for the Bucs. …

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WR Vincent Jackson is Bucs' Man of the Year

Vincent Jackson makes a first down catch during the second quarter of the Dec. 7 Lions game at Ford Field in Detroit.

Getty Images

Vincent Jackson makes a first down catch during the second quarter of the Dec. 7 Lions game at Ford Field in Detroit.

For the second straight year, receiver Vincent Jackson has been named as the Bucs' Man of the Year, making him one of 32 players up for the NFL's Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.

Jackson, one of the team's most active players in community service, has put considerable time into his efforts for military families, including publishing a book he wrote, "Danny Dogtags," about the challenges children face while relatives are deployed in military service.

Jackson, 31, needs just 69 receiving yards to reach 1,000 for the fourth year in a row and the sixth time in the last seven seasons. He leads the Bucs with 66 catches.

"We admire and support the important work that these players and so many other NFL players are doing to serve their communities," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. "The NFL is filled with outstanding young men who help schools, shelters, and countless other organizations and good causes. We thank our players for recognizing the positive impact they can have in the lives of their fellow citizens and seizing that opportunity to make difference."

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Notes: Dotson eager for shot at left tackle

TAMPA -- Demar Dotson had never played left tackle in an NFL game before Sunday's game, but as he gets adjusted, he's excited about getting a chance to make it his future home in the league.

"It was a little different and a little awkward. My balance felt off a little bit because I was so used to being the at the right," Dotson said after sliding over from starting at right tackle in the first 12 games of the season. "But it's nothing I can't work at, and in due time ... I'm going to put in the work and I'm going to get better ...I’m going to put 100 percent effort in to being the best left tackle I can be."

Dotson moved to left tackle and Oniel Cousins to right, leaving high-priced free agent Anthony Collins as a healthy scratch on the inactive list. Collins had missed the previous game with an elbow injury, and Smith said he'll have a chance to compete this week.

"You give other guys an opportunity and you kind of like what you see a little bit from there," Smith said. "Anthony was back and is pretty much healthy now and gave us a good look out there last week and we’ll see how it goes this week." …

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Season is over for Bucs McCoy, Seferian-Jenkins and Murphy

Gerald McCoy, who played only 18 snaps in Sunday's 19-17 loss at Carolina before suffering a right knee sprain, will be placed on injured reserve, coach Lovie Smith said Monday.

AP photo

Gerald McCoy, who played only 18 snaps in Sunday's 19-17 loss at Carolina before suffering a right knee sprain, will be placed on injured reserve, coach Lovie Smith said Monday.

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Bucs' Gerald McCoy, ASJ, Murphy all done for season

Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy is done for the season after injuring his knee in Sunday's game, with rookie tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins and receiver Louis Murphy joining him on injured reserve, coach Lovie Smith said.

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Bucs McCown disagrees with fumble ruling in 19-17 loss to Panthers

Bucs quarterback Josh McCown thought it was an incomplete pass. And say this about McCown – the man has a lot of experience throwing passes that don’t connect with anyone.

Having missed more than 50 percent of his receivers the past three weeks, McCown launched a ball Sunday as his arm was hit by Carolina safety Roman Harper that traveled 19 yards downfield in the fourth quarter. But the play was challenged by Panthers coach Ron Rivera and referee Ron Tolbert reversed the original call, ruling it was a fumble recovered by cornerback Bene Benwikere.

The sack-fumble led to the last of four Graham Gano field goals and was the difference in the Bucs’ 19-17 loss to the Panthers at Bank of America Stadium.

“No, I didn’t understand it,’’ McCown said of the ruling. “I thought my arm was going forward. Again, I don’t understand how a ball goes that far downfield in that way and not…I don’t know, (Harper) certainly didn’t push it forward.

“I was throwing the ball. I felt like I threw it. I felt like he hit it as I was throwing.’’ …

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Panthers' Olsen, Benjamin find holes in Bucs defense

Greg had 10 catches for 110 yards on Sunday, joining Kelvin Benjamin (eight for 104) over 100 yards for the day.

AP photo

Greg had 10 catches for 110 yards on Sunday, joining Kelvin Benjamin (eight for 104) over 100 yards for the day.

CHARLOTTE -- Throughout Sunday's loss to the Panthers, the Bucs defense found itself unable to stop Derek Anderson's top two targets -- tight end Greg Olsen and rookie receiver Kelvin Benjamin -- from getting open in the middle of the field.

"It was frustrating, because the whole game plan, you already knew that 88 (Olsen) was their guy on third down, 88 and 13 (Benjamin)," linebacker Lavonte David said. "You have to take your hat off to them, but It's something we have to do better."

Olsen, who had eight catches for 83 yards in the first meeting with the Bucs, had 10 for 110 on Sunday, joining Benjamin (eight for 104) over 100 yards for the day. The Panthers' first three third-down conversions came on throws to those two, and as the Bucs sought a final stop with 3:11 left in the game, Benjamin twice got open for first downs to drain precious time off the clock.

"We just tried to be there for DA and try to be there for the offense, get us moving down the field to put points on the board," said Benjamin, a first-round draft pick from Florida State. …

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McCoy leads long list of Bucs sidelined by injuries

Gerald McCoy left Sunday's game after hyperextending his right knee late in the first quarter.

AP photo

Gerald McCoy left Sunday's game after hyperextending his right knee late in the first quarter.

CHARLOTTE -- For the second time this season, the Bucs face the prospect of playing without their defensive leader in defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who left Sunday's game after hyperextending his right knee late in the first quarter.

"Gerald's one of the best players in the league, so (we) responded OK," coach Lovie Smith said of the defense's effort with him on the sidelines. "We hung in there, but we're different without him."

McCoy missed one game in September with a broken hand, and last week, he had a scare with a knee bruise that brought trainers onto the field to attend to him for several minutes. He chose to return to the game, later wondering if it was the smartest decision.

McCoy declined to speak to reporters, and left the locker room wearing a large brace on his injured right knee. Smith said after the game that while the injury was to the same knee but a "totally different injury." The team's other starting defensive tackle, Clinton McDonald, was already out, having missed his third straight game with a hamstring injury. The next two defensive tackles, Akeem Spence and Da'Quan Bowers, each had three tackles in Sunday's loss. …

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Takeaway, taken away: Flag negated Bucs' INT

The penalty on defensive end Larry English, pictured earlier this season, negated an interception in Panthers territory and was a major missed opportunity.


The penalty on defensive end Larry English, pictured earlier this season, negated an interception in Panthers territory and was a major missed opportunity.

CHARLOTTE -- For a Bucs defense that's struggled to create takeaways and set the offense up with short fields, the penalty on defensive end Larry English, negating an interception in Panthers territory was a major missed opportunity.

"I was surprised by the call," said English, a backup who was flagged for roughing the passer when his hand hit the helmet of Panthers quarterback Derek Anderson after he threw the INT. "I have to go back and see it on tape. I was just trying to get pressure on the quarterback, to affect the throw and mash his throwing hand. I guess maybe it must have grazed the helmet or something like that. I don't know."

The Bucs had just had a major setback, as an official review overturned a ruling of an incomplete pass by Bucs quarterback Josh McCown, calling it a fumble that gave the Panthers the ball, leading 16-10 on the opening play of the fourth quarter. Instead of setting the Bucs up at the Carolina 31-yard line, it gave them 15 yards on the drive that resulted in a field goal and the winning margin in the game. …

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