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Bucs Beat

Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Koetter's right: Run it 40 times, you usually win in NFL

If you're not asking him about injuries or maybe who might in theory might step up in case of a widely expected injury, Bucs coach Dirk Koetter can engage in some insightful conversations about NFL playcalling and all the ways a coach might measure success on a play.

There's been a lot of talk about run-pass balance, what with Jameis Winston topping 50 passes in each of the last two Bucs games -- again, that's predicated by the Bucs falling behind and needing to throw a lot to try to catch up later in games.

But Koetter pointed out that as a general rule, if you get to 40 carries running the ball in an NFL game, there's a good chance you're going to win. It's a correlation deal more than causation: If you can run the ball that much, it means you're having success, dictating the line of scrimmage and likely have been staked to an early lead where you want to salt away the clock with a slow, steady diet of running plays. …

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Debut just first step for Bucs rookie safety Ryan Smith

Ryan Smith said he continues to learn the Bucs' defensive scheme better each week.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Ryan Smith said he continues to learn the Bucs' defensive scheme better each week.

It was only six snaps, all on special teams, but for Bucs rookie safety Ryan Smith, Sunday's game against the Rams was a big first step, making his NFL debut after being inactive in the Bucs' first two games.

"It felt great to get back out there for my first NFL game," Smith said Thursday, preparing for Sunday's game against the Broncos. "It was a very cool feeling, a blessed feeling. I'm making the best of my opportunity, but I've got more to do."

Smith was limited at the start of the season by a hand injury suffered in the final preseason game. The Bucs have not used their backup safeties much at all, leaning heavily on starters Chris Conte and Bradley McDougald, with third safety Keith Tandy logging only 25 defensive snaps in three games.

Smith, a fourth-round draft pick in April, played at Division II North Carolina Central, so Sunday was the biggest crowd he'd ever played in front of -- the Eagles play in a 10,000-seat stadium, but he played to bigger crowds at East Carolina in 2014 (42,758) and at Duke last season (33,941). …

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Lingerie football player bailed out Seferian-Jenkins

Adrian Purnell, right, was honored among the LFL's 20 hottest athletes in a release earlier this year.

Getty Images (2012)

Adrian Purnell, right, was honored among the LFL's 20 hottest athletes in a release earlier this year.

One small note from Friday's arrest of then-Bucs tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins on a charge of driving under the influence: The tight end, since waived by the Bucs and claimed by the Jets, was released on a $750 cash bond supplied by another football player.

The wrinkle? The football player's name is Adrian Purnell, and she plays in the Legends Football League, a 7-on-7 women's league formerly known as the Lingerie Football League. She is listed as a tight end -- same as Seferian-Jenkins -- and played this year for the Atlanta Steam and previously for the Tampa Breeze -- she went to Tampa's Jefferson High and was making the weekly drive from Tampa to Atlanta with teammates during the season.

Purnell, 28, tweets frequently about the Bucs, including Seferian-Jenkins in a hashtag before his final game, played two weeks ago against the Cardinals. She was honored among the LFL's 20 hottest athletes in a release earlier this year. Seferian-Jenkins did not speak to reporters when he was released from jail and picked up by an unknown woman Friday afternoon. …

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Bucs' Mike Smith on failing defense: 'The sky is not falling.'

Mike Smith said a big part of the problem is the growing pains that come with a new system and players have taken turns making mistakes.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Mike Smith said a big part of the problem is the growing pains that come with a new system and players have taken turns making mistakes.

Mike Smith can find a 101 reasons why the Bucs defense has given up the most points in the first three games of the season in club history.

Poor execution, mental breakdowns, missed tackles and bad calls have all contributed to the league's worst defense in points allowed with an average of 33.7 per game.

But the Bucs defensive coordinator said despite allowing a combined 101 points to the Falcons, Cardinals and Rams, the situation is not as dire as it appears.

“Let me tell you this: the sky is not falling,'' Smith said Thursday. "That’s for sure. I know everybody is frustrated in terms of what we have put out there the first three games, nobody more than me. It’s not any one player’s fault, it’s not any one coach’s fault, it’s my responsibility to make sure our guys understand what we’re trying to get accomplished. And we have not played the type of football that we need to play in the first three football games. We’ve given up way too many explosive plays and it is a handful of plays, but that’s what the NFL is all about. …

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Bucs' Mike Evans eager for Broncos' physical corners

Mike Evans ranks among the NFL's top five in yards (301), receptions (21) and touchdown catches (3).

LOREN ELLIOTT | Times

Mike Evans ranks among the NFL's top five in yards (301), receptions (21) and touchdown catches (3).

Bucs WR Mike Evans is off to a strong start, ranking among the NFL's top five in yards (301), receptions (21) and touchdown catches (3), but he'll have a real challenge this week as Denver comes to Tampa with two Pro Bowl cornerbacks in Aqib Talib and Chris Harris.

Evans has already matched his touchdown total for all of 2015 in the first three games this season, but he'll need a strong game to extend his streak to four straight games getting into the end zone.

"They're both really physical at the line of scrimmage, so I've got to be as physical as those guys," Evans said Wednesday after watching footage of the Broncos. "They're two Pro Bowl guys, so I like the challenge."

Evans could line up against Talib in the former first-rounder's return to Tampa after being traded away during the 2012 season. Talib is dangerous not only to intercept passes, but take them for touchdowns -- he has five pick-sixes in 33 games with Denver, and nine for his career. …

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Center Joe Hawley (ankle) joins four Bucs on injury report

Bucs center Joe Hawley, who had a Rams defensive lineman land on his ankle from behind in Sunday's loss, was held out of Wednesday's practice, along with four players who missed Sunday's game with injuries.

Hawley was injured on the first play of the fourth quarter Sunday, and while trainers attended to him on the field, he returned after missing only one snap, so it's unlikely his injury is severe. Hawley was blocking Pro Bowl defensive tackle Aaron Donald when another lineman fell on his ankle. If Hawley were unable to play Sunday, the Bucs would turn to backup Evan Smith, their starting center in 2014 and at the start of last season.

Four Bucs players who were injured in the loss at Arizona and did not play in Sunday's game did not practice again Wednesday: RB Doug Martin (hamstring), DE Robert Ayers (ankle), TE Luke Stocker (ankle) and WR Cecil Shorts (hamstring). 

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Jameis Winston: Seferian-Jenkins will be 'amazing' with Jets

Austin Seferian-Jenkins was claimed off waivers by the Jets on Monday and could play for New York this weekend.

LOREN ELLIOTT | Times

Austin Seferian-Jenkins was claimed off waivers by the Jets on Monday and could play for New York this weekend.

It was an abrupt departure for Bucs tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins last week, arrested Friday morning on a charge of driving under the influence and waived by the Bucs hours later, but his Tampa Bay teammates said Wednesday they expect him to bounce back with the Jets.

"I know Austin's going to grow up and Austin's going to do an amazing job in New York," quarterback Jameis Winston said Wednesday. "He is an outstanding player, and I'm excited for his future. You fall down, you bounce back. That's just life."

Seferian-Jenkins was claimed off waivers by the Jets on Monday and could play for New York this weekend. If convicted on his DUI charge, he'll face a suspension of at least two games, but that would likely come after the end of this NFL season. Winston said he was "hurt" by Friday's news because of the amount of time he'd spent with Seferian-Jenkins in their time as teammates. …

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Bucs Jameis Winston carrying a historically heavy workload

Jameis Winston has thrown 142 passes in the first three games of the season.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Jameis Winston has thrown 142 passes in the first three games of the season.

Jameis Winston has been shouldering a heavy workload on his right shoulder. Historically heavy.

Since 1960, among first and second-year quarterbacks, only Drew Bledsoe (143 attempts) has thrown more than Winston's 142 passes in the first three games of the season.

"My job is just to do whatever coach Koetter asks me to do,'' Winston said. "Obviously, the way the games of been playing out, we have had to be in more paasing sitiutions. I just do what I'm coached to do. Go out there and try to get wins.''

Of course, there are reasons why Winston's pass attempts have been pumped up each week. The Bucs fell behind quickly at Arizona and Winston trieed to throw them back in the game to no avail. The Bucs lost 40-7.

Then in last Sunday's game against the Rams, Winston was sacked and lost a fumble. He was forced to take to the skies for 58 pass attempts. …

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Bucs' Vitale not surprised by Broncos QB Siemian's success

Trevor Siemian is off to a 3-0 start as starter for the defending Super Bowl champion Broncos.

AP photo

Trevor Siemian is off to a 3-0 start as starter for the defending Super Bowl champion Broncos.

The success of Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian, off to a 3-0 start as starter for the defending Super Bowl champs, is no surprise to Bucs tight end Danny Vitale, who played three seasons with him at Northwestern.

"The one thing about him which a lot of people have found out is just the composure that he has," Vitale said. "Always calm, cool, collected. What I liked about him personally was he was a little bit of a goofball all the time, just a fun guy to be around. I'm not surprised he's seeing a lot of success."

The two Wildcats alums have remained friends -- Vitale is on the Bucs' practice squad, while Siemian has been the surprise winner of a QB derby that once included veteran Mark Sanchez and a high draft pick in rookie Paxton Lynch.

Vitale said his first impression of Siemian was a strong one -- Vitale's very first college game had Northwestern in a dogfight with Syracuse, and Siemian came off the bench to throw a touchdown with 44 seconds about for a 42-41 win. …

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Bad Defense 101: Bucs giving up record high in points

Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley (30) runs through the Bucs' defense for a first down in the third quarter on Sunday.

LOREN ELLIOTT | Times

Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley (30) runs through the Bucs' defense for a first down in the third quarter on Sunday.

As you may have read, the Bucs defense has struggled in the first three games of the season, especially in Tampa Bay's last two losses, giving up 40 points to Arizona and 37 points to Los Angeles in dropping to 1-2 on the season.

Along the way, they've hit two unfortunate lows -- they have the NFL's worst scoring defense, giving up 101 points (33.7 per game), and in doing so, they're the first team in 41 seasons of Bucs football to give up 100 points in the first three games of the season.

In each of the three previous seasons, only one NFL team has been bad enough to give up 100 points or more in the first three games: the 2015 Bears, the 2014 Jaguars and the 2013 Giants, all of which finished with losing records. There's hope yet, though: in 2012, the Bengals and Redskins both gave up 100+ in the first three games, and both went on to finish 10-6 and make the playoffs. …

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Brand-new QBs? Bucs have lost six straight against them

Trevor Simien threw for four touchdown passes to lead the Broncos past the Bengals on Sunday.

AP photo

Trevor Simien threw for four touchdown passes to lead the Broncos past the Bengals on Sunday.

It's a difficult thing, jumping into the NFL as a young quarterback, so you'd think the chance to face an inexperienced passer would be a successful proposition for an NFL defense.

Not so for Tampa Bay.

As Denver's Trevor Siemian comes to town for just his fifth NFL game, the Bucs have struggled against young QBs in recent years. Since the start of the 2012 season, quarterbacks playing in their first five NFL games are 6-0 against the Bucs -- in the same span, no other NFL team has taken more than three such losses.

It's a mixed bag of quarterbacks in the six that have beaten the Bucs -- the Titans' Marcus Mariota last year, the Vikings' Teddy Bridgewater and the Rams' Austin Davis in 2014, the Jets' Geno Smith and the Eagles' Nick Foles and Redskins' Robert Griffin in 2012. You'd think a young QB would be interception-prone, but those six combined for eight touchdown passes against the Bucs, with just one interception in 210 pass attempts. …

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Bucs' Cherilus, Evan Smith get cameos as 'jumbo' blockers

The Bucs' two backup offensive linemen, tackle Gosder Cherilus and guard/center Evan Smith, both saw action as extra blockers against the Rams.

DIRK SHADD | Times (2015)

The Bucs' two backup offensive linemen, tackle Gosder Cherilus and guard/center Evan Smith, both saw action as extra blockers against the Rams.

Last year, when the Bucs lost fullback Jorvorskie Lane and assorted tight ends to injuries, they frequently used backup offensive lineman Kevin Pamphile as a sixth lineman or "jumbo" tight end and had success with the look as they sought to assert their running game.

The Bucs hadn't used the jumbo package in the first two games this season, with Pamphile thrust into a starting role at left guard, but when tight end Luke Stocker went down with an ankle injury, Tampa Bay brought it back in Sunday's game against the Rams.

The Bucs' two backup offensive linemen, tackle Gosder Cherilus and guard/center Evan Smith, both saw action as extra blockers, with Smith lining up twice as a 308-pound fullback, and Cherilus lining up on eight plays as a "jumbo" tight end. Those plays accounted for two touchdowns and a 23-yard play, so they were certainly a successful addition to the offense. …

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Report: Jets claim TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, waived by Bucs

Austin Seferian-Jenkins finished his Bucs career with 45 catches for 603 yards and seven touchdowns.

JIM DAMASKE | Times (2014)

Austin Seferian-Jenkins finished his Bucs career with 45 catches for 603 yards and seven touchdowns.

Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, waived by the Bucs on Friday after his arrest on a DUI charge, has been claimed by the New York Jets on Monday, ESPN reported.

Seferian-Jenkins, a former second-round draft pick who caught a 30-yard touchdown in the Bucs' season opener, didn't have to wait long for a second chance after he was pulled over at 3:42 a.m. Friday. He faces the misdemeanor count of driving under the influence, as well as a misdemeanor charge relating to court provision requiring him to have an Interlock Ignition Device on any car he drives as a result of a 2013 DUI arrest in Washington.

The Jets' move could make for an interesting storyline next year if he's still on their roster, as New York is scheduled to play the Bucs in Tampa.

Seferian-Jenkins, 23, saw his first two seasons with the Bucs limited by multiple injuries, and he finished his Bucs career with 45 catches for 603 yards and seven touchdowns. If he is convicted of the DUI, he would face a suspension of at least two games under the NFL's substance abuse policy, with the commissioner allowed to extend any suspension because of his prior guilty plea from the 2013 DUI charge.

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After Hargreaves, Bucs' draft picks off to quiet start

Vernon Hargreaves continues to be an every-down player in the Bucs secondary, with another five tackles in Sunday's loss to the Rams.

LOREN ELLIOTT | Times

Vernon Hargreaves continues to be an every-down player in the Bucs secondary, with another five tackles in Sunday's loss to the Rams.

First-round draft pick Vernon Hargreaves continues to be an every-down player in the Bucs secondary, with another five tackles in Sunday's loss to the Rams, but the rest of Tampa Bay's 2016 draft class is off to a quiet start.

The Bucs' two second-round picks didn't show up much Sunday, as defensive end Noah Spence played only 12 snaps with no tackles, despite starter Robert Ayers being inactive. Kicker Roberto Aguayo had two costly misses, on the extra point on the Bucs' first touchdown and also a 41-yard field goal attempt in the third quarter as the Bucs tried to extend their lead on the Rams.

Even if the Bucs are hesitant to use Spence in the base defense, where he'd have to play against the run as well as the pass, he played in barely a third of the 35 snaps the Bucs lined up in their nickel defense, with two undrafted rookies (DaVonte Lambert and Channing Ward) playing more snaps Sunday. Spence has only one tackle -- a sack against Arizona -- in his three games. …

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Bucs rookie Lambert to start at DE for Ayers vs. Rams

Davonte Lambert made his NFL debut last week at Arizona.

LOREN ELLIOTT | Times

Davonte Lambert made his NFL debut last week at Arizona.

The Bucs have undrafted rookie DaVonte Lambert starting at defensive end today against the Rams -- not second-round pick Noah Spence -- with starter Robert Ayers out with an ankle injury.

Lambert made his NFL debut last week at Arizona and didn't have a tackle in 29 snaps, but showed enough that he'll start opposite Will Gholston in what is a very young group of defensive ends. Three of the five ends dressing today are rookies in Lambert and Spence, along with undrafted rookie Channing Ward, who will make his NFL debut after being inactive the first two weeks.

The Bucs' inactives were fairly predictable, with third QB Ryan Griffin and four injured players -- RB Doug Martin, Ayers, TE Luke Stocker and WR Cecil Shorts -- along with rookie offensive linemen Leonard Wester and Caleb Benenoch.

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