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Bucs Beat

Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Donteea Dye making case to stick with Bucs as cuts approach

Donteea Dye, pictured, is competing against special-teams standout Russell Shepard, as well as other young receivers like Evan Spencer.

ANDRES LEIVA | Times

Donteea Dye, pictured, is competing against special-teams standout Russell Shepard, as well as other young receivers like Evan Spencer.

The Bucs' fourth and fifth receiver jobs remain largely up for grabs with two preseason games remaining, but Donteea Dye, holding down the kickoff return job and making plays on offense, is making a case to stick around through final cuts.

"He's battling. You can see not only his work at wide receiver, but he's doing good things on special teams," coach Dirk Koetter said after Wednesday's practice. "When you're talking about your fourth and fifth wideouts, they have to play on special teams as well. He's making a good case."

Dye missed the Bucs' final cuts last year as an undrafted rookie out of Division III Heidelberg, but made it to the practice squad and after injuries was promoted to the 53-man roster. He caught his first pass in Week 7 and finished with 11 catches for 132 yards, including a touchdown against the Redskins.

Dye has gotten the first look on kickoff returns since the Jaguars game, with rookie safety Ryan Smith next on the list. The Bucs had only one kickoff return against the Jaguars, but Dye took it out 31 yards to the 32. …

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Bucs see confidence building in rookie Vernon Hargreaves

Vernon Hargreaves, left, has started working with the first-team defense, both at outside cornerback and inside at nickel.

LOREN ELLIOTT | Times

Vernon Hargreaves, left, has started working with the first-team defense, both at outside cornerback and inside at nickel.

Bucs rookie Vernon Hargreaves made a splash with two interception in Saturday's preseason win against the Jaguars, and then Tuesday's joint practice with the Browns saw the first-rounder pick off Robert Griffin III twice in 7-on-7 work.

Hargreaves has started working with the first-team defense, both at outside cornerback and inside at nickel, and linebacker Lavonte David said his recent surge went hand-in-hand with the former Wharton and Gators star simply building some self-confidence.

"His confidence skyrocketed since Day 1. Skyrocketed," David said. "All you need, for a rookie, all you need to do is just make some plays, make plays here and there and your confidence boosts and your game takes over. That's what's been going on. You can tell he's carrying himself different now, has a little swagger to him. He's making plays and that's the reason we got him. He's doing what he's supposed to do."

Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said after reviewing tape of Tuesday's practice, Hargreaves popped out to him.

"Vernon Hargreaves, two more interceptions yesterday, one beautiful play," Koetter said.

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Bucs guard Ali Marpet in walking boot at practice

There's no immediate word on the severity of Ali Marpet's injury.

LOREN ELLIOTT | Times

There's no immediate word on the severity of Ali Marpet's injury.

The Bucs, already missing a starting guard due to injury, had starting right guard Ali Marpet with a boot on his right foot, watching Wednesday's joint practice with the Browns.

There's no immediate word on the severity of Marpet's injury. He was not on crutches and was walking on the boot going out to the practice field.

The Bucs are already short-handed at guard with J.R. Sweezy sidelined by a back injury that will likely keep him out for the first five games of the season. Rookie guard Caleb Benenoch, a top backup, just returned to practice Tuesday after missing three weeks with a foot/ankle injury.

The Bucs will likely shift backup center Evan Smith to right guard while Marpet is sidelined -- he stepped in as the starter last year when Marpet was injured. After Smith, the Bucs have no guards with established NFL experience, with Benenoch, Josh Allen and Ben Gottschalk as the top options.

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McCoy's encouragement to Bucs kicker Aguayo: 'Stay the course'

Gerald McCoy said Tuesday that he's made a concerted effort to encourage Roberto Aguayo to remain confident and push through his current problems.

LOREN ELLIOTT | Times

Gerald McCoy said Tuesday that he's made a concerted effort to encourage Roberto Aguayo to remain confident and push through his current problems.

As Bucs rookie kicker Roberto Aguayo has struggled in his first two preseason games with three missed kicks, defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said Tuesday that he's made a concerted effort to encourage the second-round pick to remain confident and push through his current problems.

"One thing I've done with him is go to him and encourage him. He's a rookie," McCoy said. "He was drafted high as a kicker, so a lot of expectations come with that with being the guy. Who better than me to go talk to him about being drafted high and being expected to be the guy right away? Especially with me struggling the way I did early on with injuries and not living up to expectations, who better to go talk to him? I just go encourage him and say 'Hey, listen, stay the course. It'll come along.'"

McCoy, the third overall pick in the 2010 draft, missed 13 games in his first two seasons due to injuries and had a combined four sacks in those two years. He's bounced back to make the Pro Bowl in each of the last four years, however. The Bucs gave up a fourth-round pick to move up 15 picks and into the second round to make Aguayo the highest-drafted kicker since Sebastian Janikowski in 2000. …

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Browns QB McCown says 2-14 year with the Bucs was 'tough'

Josh McCown was the Bucs' starting quarterback under Lovie Smith when the team went 2-14, leading to the No. 1 pick and the drafting of Jameis Winston.

AP photo

Josh McCown was the Bucs' starting quarterback under Lovie Smith when the team went 2-14, leading to the No. 1 pick and the drafting of Jameis Winston.

Browns quarterback Josh McCown tried to warn his teammates about the heat and humidity of Tampa Bay before practice Tuesday. But the climate change that has occurred within the Bucs organization since he played here in 2014 is even more startling.

McCown was the Bucs' starting quarterback under Lovie Smith when the team went 2-14, leading to the No. 1 pick and the drafting of Jameis Winston. McCown called that season one of the toughest in his career.

"This is definitely a point in my career, and more than anything, just from the standpoint of learning, because that was a tough, tough year,'' McCown said. "I think more than anything you just realize within yourself and others that you're resilient, that you can bounce back. I learned a ton about myself, I learned a ton about the game that year and I think I'll be better for it. The main thing is, sometimes you go through bad things in life and it's about forgetting that and moving on. I want to move on but I want to hold fast to some of those things I learned because I think it will serve me for the rest of my life. …

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'No juice': Koetter again unhappy with Bucs' offense

 Bucs coach Dirk Koetter was less than pleased by his offense's work Tuesday in the first of two joint practices with the Browns.

LOREN ELLIOTT | Times

Bucs coach Dirk Koetter was less than pleased by his offense's work Tuesday in the first of two joint practices with the Browns.

As was the case in last week's first joint practice with the Jaguars, Bucs coach Dirk Koetter was less than pleased by his offense's work Tuesday in the first of two joint practices with the Browns at One Buc Place.

"No juice. No juice," Koetter said. "No one wanted to practice today. ... We had balls tipped, we had poor throws and we had bad protection. Bad combination. ... Overall, a bad day on offense. I wasn't on the dfefensive field and Coach (Mike) Smith said we did fine over there."

The Browns defense had a handful of interceptions against the Bucs -- Jameis Winston had a pass picked off by Joe Haden, and Mike Glennon had a pass tipped off the hands of receiver Kenny Bell and to cornerback Jamar Taylor. Koetter said the team also struggled from a blocking standpoint handling the Browns' 3-4 defensive front, giving them work against a look they'll see in Week 2 against Arizona.

"Today's a good example of why we want to work against a 3-4," Koetter said. "I would hate for that to be a game and be our first exposure to a 3-4."

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Browns to watch vs. Bucs: McCown, Murray return to Tampa

Patrick Murray, the Bucs' 2014 kicker and one of two kickers released after Roberto Aguayo was drafted, is playing against the Bucs on Friday night.

Getty Images

Patrick Murray, the Bucs' 2014 kicker and one of two kickers released after Roberto Aguayo was drafted, is playing against the Bucs on Friday night.

So the Cleveland Browns are in town, with two days of joint practices with the Bucs leading up to Friday's preseason game at Raymond James Stadium. It's the first home game for the Bucs, who will unveil their cool new video boards, but first, here are five Browns storylines to follow:

1. Homecoming, Part 1: As if there weren't enough escalating drama in Roberto Aguayo's first NFL preseason -- missed PAT in first game, two missed field goals in second game -- he's in outright soap-opera mode this week. It's not enough that Pat Murray, the Bucs' 2014 kicker and one of two kickers released after Aguayo was drafted, is playing against the Bucs on Friday night. He also gets to share a practice field with Aguayo for two days.

Murray, who missed last season with an ACL injury, could get the Browns' job at 25 -- he's connected on his only field-goal attempt, from 46 yards, and made his only extra point last week, while challenger Travis Coons missed his. His stats two years ago -- 20-of-24 on field goals, 31-of-31 on the old shorter PATs -- would be an acceptable season for most NFL kickers. …

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Rookie DT DaVonte Lambert makes most of snaps vs. Jaguars

With Gerald McCoy held out of Saturday night's preseason game with a minor ankle injury, the Bucs' other defensive tackles had an extra opportunity to showcase their skills as the team continues to search for its fourth defensive tackle.

The player that stepped up the most? Undrafted rookie DaVonte Lambert, who came up with three tackles, as many as the other six defensive tackles combined. The former Auburn player also dropped a Jaguars running back for a 4-yard loss, making a case for an earlier look in Friday's preseason home game against the Browns.

"I felt like I did good, but at the same time, looking at film, I can do a lot of things better, technique-wise," said Lambert, a 6-foot-2, 282-pound lineman who played defensive end at Auburn but is working as a three-technique defensive tackle with the Bucs. "Playing behind Gerald, I've been studying him a lot, talking to him about pre-snap indications, like run or pass. I've learned a lot for him." …

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Bucs first pick Hargreaves earns time with the starting defense

Vernon Hargreaves, right, had been playing the inside slot position on nickel passing downs when opponents went to three receivers.

CHRIS URSO | Times

Vernon Hargreaves, right, had been playing the inside slot position on nickel passing downs when opponents went to three receivers.

Vernon Hargreaves' two interceptions against the Jaguars Saturday proved he knows how to take the ball away. Now he may take somebody's job away.

The Bucs rookie cornerback got repetitions with the starting defense Monday, coach Dirk Koetter confirmed.

"He was going to start working there today. He started working with the ones at corner as well,'' Koetter said.

Hargreaves had been playing the inside slot position on nickel passing downs when opponents went to three receivers. His first INT Saturday came from that position when he drifted into coverage and made a leaping grab a pass from Jags quarterback Chad Henne. Hargreaves took advantage of Henne again near the start of the second half with an interception from his cornerback position.

The difficult catches illustrated Hargreaves superior hands and ball skills.

“Yeah, heck, I’m thinking about moving him to receiver,'' Koetter said. "Those were two great catches. Two beautiful plays. He ranged on the one when he was in nickel. Brent Grimes might argue, but you’re not going to see a whole lot of better catches than those two plays.'' …

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Browns practices help Bucs prepare for 3-4 defenses ahead

The Bucs have two joint practices and a game this week against the Browns, and one benefit will be preparing Dirk Koetter's offense for 3-4 defenses, which they'll see in at least six games this season.

The 3-4 look -- with three down linemen and four linebackers, requiring a different blocking scheme for an offensive line -- will be back for the Bucs in games against the Cardinals, Broncos, 49ers, Bears, Chiefs and Chargers.

"We're going to see like eight 3-4 teams over the course of the year, so two extra days of working against a 3-4 are huge," Koetter said.

Koetter said the Browns offense uses some zone read plays as well, so the Bucs defense will get some practice against zone-read schemes. Koetter said the Browns have averaged "six or seven" zone read plays a game, which will help the Bucs for later this season against teams like the 49ers, Seahawks and Panthers. …

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Bucs' Aguayo over-thinking? 'Sit back, relax and kick it.'

Roberto Aguayo missed a 32-yard field goal on the Bucs' opening drive and later a 49-yard kick in a 27-21 win over the Jaguars Saturday.

LOREN ELLIOTT | Times

Roberto Aguayo missed a 32-yard field goal on the Bucs' opening drive and later a 49-yard kick in a 27-21 win over the Jaguars Saturday.

Struggling Bucs place-kicker Roberto Aguayo said he needs to stop 'over-thinking,' his mechanics during field goal and extra point tries. The second-round pick from Florida State missed a 32-yard field goal on the Bucs' opening drive and later a 49-yard kick in a 27-21 win over the Jaguars Saturday. He went 3-for-3 on extra points and connected on two other field goals in two games.

“At the end of the day they’re both misses,'' Aguayo said Monday. "There are some makes where I didn’t hit it well. At the end of the day, you got to have the makes.

“It’s all good. You guys have a job to have media coverage. At the end of the day, with my whole career and what I’ve done, misses are rare with me. Like I said, there are a lot of people that miss sometimes. I miss at practice sometimes. It is what it is. There’s a lot of pressure on me so if you guys come to be after a miss, it’s news I guess you could say.''

Aguayo said he hopes to iron out his problems in practice this week. The Bucs begin joint workouts with the Browns Tuesday. …

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Cameron Brate back at Bucs practice, others still sidelined

Tight end Cameron Brate took a shot to the neck/head in the end zone in Saturday's win against the Jaguars.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

Tight end Cameron Brate took a shot to the neck/head in the end zone in Saturday's win against the Jaguars.

Bucs tight end Cameron Brate, who took a shot to the neck/head in the end zone in Saturday's win against the Jaguars, was back and practicing as normal as the Bucs returned to practice Monday in preparation for Friday's home game against the Browns.

Brate had said after the game that he was "fine," but two other players injured Saturday were held out Monday. WR Evan Spencer, who left the game with a knee injury, watched practice from the sidelines, while S Keith Tandy, who took a hit to the head while making a tackle, worked out with a trainer on a side field. LB Daryl Smith, who hasn't practiced since before the team went to Jacksonville last week, also worked out with Tandy and the trainer.

One player making a step toward a return is rookie guard Caleb Benenoch, who had missed three weeks of practice after suffering an ankle injury in the first week of training camp. Benenoch was dressed Monday and working out with a trainer on a side field, testing his ankle by running. …

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Bucs' Kenny Bell sees 'urgency,' says 'my break will come'

Kenny Bell has had four passes thrown his way in two games, but hasn't caught any, with an offensive pass interference penalty against the Eagles and a holding call against the Jaguars.

Gary McCullough/The Florida Times-Union via AP

Kenny Bell has had four passes thrown his way in two games, but hasn't caught any, with an offensive pass interference penalty against the Eagles and a holding call against the Jaguars.

Bucs receiver Kenny Bell, part of a logjam of receivers competing for the team's backup jobs, has no catches, a costly fumble and two penalties in the first two preseason games, so there's a sense of urgency as the NFL's first cuts loom next week.

"There's always urgency to make plays and prove you belong here," Bell said. "That certainly hasn't gone away."

Bell had first crack at the Bucs' kickoff return job, but lost a fumble on the opening kickoff against the Eagles, with receiver Donteea Dye getting the first look Saturday against the Jaguars. He has had four passes thrown his way in two games, but hasn't caught any, with an offensive pass interference penalty against the Eagles and a holding call against the Jaguars.

"It's a big week. Obviously, I haven't had the production I wanted in terms of yards and catches in games, but I'm playing good football," said Bell, a fifth-round pick in 2015 out of Nebraska who spent last season on injured reserve with a hamstring injury. "There's things I'm doing on film. I'm doing it the right way. I'm doing what they're asking. So I've got to just keep plugging away and my break will come." …

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Bucs rookie Hargreaves on INTs: 'Everything's about the ball'

"The game's about the ball. That's the money," Vernon Hargreaves said in the locker room after the Bucs' win.

LOREN ELLIOTT | Times

"The game's about the ball. That's the money," Vernon Hargreaves said in the locker room after the Bucs' win.

Former Wharton and Gators cornerback Vernon Hargreaves, the Bucs' first-round pick in April, made his first big splash in Saturday's preseason win against the Jaguars, getting two of Tampa Bay's four interceptions in a 27-21 win.

"The game's about the ball. That's the money," Hargreaves said in the locker room after the win. "Everything's about the ball. So I try to find a way to stay close to it and get my hands on it."

Late in the first half with the score tied and 19 seconds remaining, Hargreaves made a high leaping interception of a Chad Henne pass, picking it up near midfield and returning it to the Jaguars' 19, with a facemask penalty taking the ball to the 9-yard line. That set up a Roberto Aguayo field goal for a 17-14 lead at halftime. Then on the first drive of the second half, Hargreaves did it again, leaping and intercepting a deep ball from Henne for a second pick just 1:15 into the half.

"I'm just trying to make a play -- that's all it was," Hargreaves said. "Sticking to my keys, reading the quarterback and at the end of the day, you have to make a play." …

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Resurgent Seferian-Jenkins getting reps with Bucs' starters again

Two weeks after he was relegated to backup status at tight end, Austin Seferian-Jenkins has shown enough improvement that he'll split reps with Cameron Brate working with the first-team offense, coach Dirk Koetter said Sunday.

Seferian-Jenkins had three catches for 36 yards in Saturday's win, including an 18-yard catch in traffic that drew an additional 15 yards for an unnecessary roughness penalty, setting up a touchdown early in the fourth quarter. Asked if he was pleased with how the third-year pro had responded to his demotion, Koetter said he's liked what he's seen.

"Very much, very much," Koetter said. "In fact, we're going to even out those reps with the first group with Cam and Austin. Austin's worked his way right back in there and when he got moved down the depth chart, all you can ask a player when he gets moved down is that he competes and does better and tries to get back up there, and he's done that. Now he's not perfect by any means and Cam's had a fantastic camp -- he did not have a great night catching the ball last night -- but we're going to need both those guys." …

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