Bucs might look to involve Lorig, others
One of the reasons the Bucs have not been as aggressive in attempting perimeter runs is because of the lack of aggressive blocking from their tight ends.
For all of Kellen Winslow's and Jerramy Stevens' talent in catching footballs, the strength of their games has never been run blocking. That has affected the ability of running back Cadillac Williams and other backs to get to the outside, where they have been met by numerous defenders.
Which brings us to rookie Erik Lorig, a seventh-round pick from Stanford who arrived here as a defensive end but has been permanently moved to offense.
Lorig was promoted back to the active roster from the practice squad last week and has been working as tight end and fullback and could see some playing time as early as this Sunday. You can tell the Bucs are serious about this because on Sunday, when the majority of his teammates were still enjoying their weekend off, Lorig was at One Buc Place studying the offensive playbook with assistant coaches.
"I think you’ll see an increased role on his part," offensive coordinator Greg Olson said. "It’s probably (too) early to say right now, but we spent time over this weekend with him. He was in here (Sunday). . . We like what we saw last week during the bye week. We played him at both the fullback position and the tight end position (in practice)."
You might be wondering what this says about John Gilmore, who is more of a blocking tight end and would seem capable of helping the Bucs in the running game. But one drawback to putting him in the game in running situations is that it basically tips off the defense. Gilmore is rarely used as a receiver and is not viewed as a threat in the passing game. Lorig, however, is more athletic and does have some experience as a receiver, spending his first two years at Stanford as a tight end. But Lorig's biggest advantage over Gilmore might be his athleticism, a part of his game that coach Raheem Morris has raved about. His versatility doesn't hurt, either.
"He gives you that extra roster spot because he’s able to do two different things," Olson said, talking about Lorig's ability to play tight end or fullback. "And he looked very good at it. This week, we’ll take a look at him through practice, and if we feel good about it, we’ll get him up and see if he can help us out in terms of what we’re doing with the running game and the ability to block."
Lorig isn't the only player the Bucs are considering bigger roles for. Morris said defensive end Michael Bennett is in competition to be activated for the first time this season. As the Bucs attempt to find more of a pass rush, they might look to involve different personnel. Bennett is one of the team's better pass rushers, but his coaches have questions about his discipline and ability to play within the defense. Bennett also has been criticized by his coaches for his inconsistency. But he clearly has ability and might finally be able to display it.
Finally, receiver Preston Parker is a player who is making strides, Olson said, with the Bucs projecting him as a slot receiver. Parker performed some kick return duties against the Steelers and could continue to have a role there. In terms of him finding a place as a receiver, that might take a bit longer because he has more competition in front of him. But the Bucs aren't ruling it out, either.
"He's got great speed and great strength," Olson said. "He's not afraid to go in the middle and those are great attributes you're looking for in that slot guy that's fearless over the middle.
"We're just trying to find ways to get our best 11 on the field. And he's certainly done some things that earn him the right to get more reps in practice so we can get a chance to see what he's all about."