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Bucs Beat

Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Bucs add Jets rookie CB Dixon to the practice squad

Cornerback Brandon Dixon, Jets' sixth-round pick this year out of NW Missouri State, has joined the Bucs practice squad.

Dixon tweeted Sunday 'Tampa Bay Bucs, here I come.' Three more spots are available on the 10-man practice squad. The Bucs announced they had signed quarterback Mike Kafka, running back Jeff Demps, receiver/returner Solomon Patton, linebacker Brandon Magee, defensive tackle Matt Masifilo and tight end Cameron Brate to the practice squad Sunday.

Dixon's twin brother Brian, who was an undrafted free agent who signed with New Orleans, made the Saints' 53-man roster. It's just a coincidence Brandon and Brian went to play for twin brothers -- Jets coach Rex Ryan and Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.

Both ran 4.41 in the 40-yard dash. Brandon was invited to the NFL scouting combine, Brian did it at at NW Missouri State.

 

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Bucs claim Browns guard Gilkey, add 6 to practice squad

The Bucs have tweaked their initial 53-man roster, claiming second-year guard Garrett Gilkey from the Cleveland Browns, while adding six players they had cut on Saturday to their practice squad.

Those six players are quarterback Mike Kafka, running back Jeff Demps, receiver/returner Solomon Patton, linebacker Brandon Magee, defensive tackle Matt Masifilo and tight end Cameron Brate. Four more spots are available on the 10-man practice squad.

Gilkey, 24, was seventh-round draft pick with Cleveland in 2013 out of Division II Chadron State. He played in six games as a rookie, with a start at left guard and all 66 snaps in the season finale against Pittsburgh. He played left tackle in college, but worked at guard with the Browns, where his offensive line coach last year was George Warhop, now the Bucs' line coach.

To make room for Gilkey, the Bucs waived undrafted rookie center Josh Allen, who had made the initial 53-man roster.

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Surprises: Bucs cut safety Wright, rookie Patton

The Bucs are finishing their cut to get to the 53-man NFL limit, and they're doing it with two surprising move: releasing safety Major Wright and rookie return specialist Solomon Patton.

The two former Gators had both been seen as safe bets to make the final roster -- Patton had been handling both punt and kickoff returns the past two weeks, and Wright was the team's No. 3 safety behind starters Mark Barron and Dashon Goldson. Wright suffered a back injury in last week's game at Buffalo and didn't play in Thursday's preseason finale, but the injury wasn't believed to be anything longterm.

With Wright's release, the Bucs have only four safeties on roster -- Barron, Goldson, top backup Keith Tandy and Bradley McDougald, who is likely to still miss a few weeks as he recovers from a knee injury suffered last week. It's possible the Wright cut was made in anticipation of a corresponding signing of a player available from another team. …

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Ex-Gators RB Demps among Bucs' final cuts

The Bucs went into Saturday needing to cut eight players to reach the NFL limit of 53 players, and the first player out in that final wave of cuts is former Florida running back Jeff Demps.

Demps, a world-class sprinter who was part of the U.S. silver medal 4-by-100 relay in 2012, had limited success in the preseason, totaling 59 yards on 20 carries in Thursday's finale. He was waived Saturday despite injuries to the position, with rookie Charles Sims out three months with an ankle injury and second-year pro Mike James sidelined the last two weeks with a shoulder injury.

Demps' release bodes well for fullback Jorvorskie Lane, who should be able to play in the opener despite an injury to his left hand that kept him out of Thursday's game. The Bucs have two healthy tailbacks for sure in starter Doug Martin and top backup Bobby Rainey.

2 p.m. update: Undrafted rookie tight end Cameron Brate has been waived. Another practice-squad candidate, and he's got a Harvard degree to fall back on. Three cuts left to get to 53, and Bucs still have 11 defensive backs on roster -- injuries may play a role in what happens there ... …

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Bucs cut PK Connor Barth, go with rookie Murray

The Bucs made a bold move Friday, electing to go with rookie place-kicker Patrick Murray over reliable veteran Connor Barth, who was released.

Murray, the undrafted free agent from Fordham, won the job based on his toughness and versality. He was an All-America punter and place-kicker at Fordham two years ago.

The release of Barth ends his remarkable run of consistency with the Bucs after six seasons. He's a career 84 percent career field goal kicker and perfect on all 134 point after attempts.

Barth was scheduled to make  $2-million in base salary and $1.15-million in roster bonses this year. He was attempting to make a comeback with the Bucs after missing 2013 when he tore the Achilles on his right kicking leg in a charity basketball game just a week before  camp. Both kickers were 2-for-2 in field goal atttempts in the preseason. …

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Bucs teammates elated to land Pro Bowl guard Mankins

TAMPA -- Whatever disappointment there was in the Bucs' locker room after a largely irrelevant 24-10 loss to the Redskins in Thursday's preseason finale, it disappeared at the mere mention of new Bucs guard Logan Mankins, the six-time Pro Bowler acquired Tuesday from the Patriots.

"A Logan Mankins, you can't even expect to get a guy like that," defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. "When you get a guy like that, it's like a dream come true. An All-Pro who can help you get better in practice, and your overall team gets better, on and off the field."

Mankins, 32, met teammates for the first time Thursday and watched the final preseason game, and he'll be quickly inserted in at left guard as the Bucs prepare for next weekend's season opener at home against Carolina. Another former Patriot, Bucs linebacker Dane Fletcher, was thrilled to be reunited with a leader from his New England teams. …

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Bucs make first 13 cuts, including DE English, Meredith

Defensive end Larry English, the former first-round pick who was challenging Da'Quan Bowers for a roster spot, is among 13 players who have been cut by the Bucs as the team trims its roster from 75 players to the final 53. Gone, too, is veteran offensive lineman Jamon Meredith, who started 20 games in the past two seasons but had fallen out of the starting lineup in preseason.

English, who had two sacks last weekend against Buffalo, had a quiet game in Thursday's preseason finale against the Redskins, with one assisted tackle and an offsides penalty (which was declined) in 39 snaps. The Bucs still have Scott Solomon on roster as another challenger to Bowers, who has been sidelined the last three games of preseason.

Meredith, who was due to make just over $1 million in base salary, is yet another change on the offenseive line, which will have four new starters this season. His release likely means the Bucs have confidence in rookie Kevin Pamphile as the top backup at tackle. …

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Askew, Lewis among 7 confirmed Bucs cuts

Undrafted rookies Nate Askew and Keith Lewis, who came up with end-zone interceptions in Thursday's preseason finale, were still among seven players confirmed as cuts as the Bucs trim their roster from 75 to 53 players by Saturday afternoon.

Also confirmed Friday morning: cornerbacks Marc Anthony and Kip Edwards, fullback Lonnie Pryor, defensive end T.J. Fatinikun and linebacker Ka'Lial Glaud. We're working to confirm additional cuts this morning, and Lovie Smith will address the media at 2 p.m. today and may be in position to confirm the initial wave of cuts. The Bucs and all NFL teams have until 4 p.m. Saturday to cut their roster to 53 players.

Askew and Lewis are both prime candidates to rejoin the Bucs as members of the 10-team practice squad, which teams can start signing players to at noon on Sunday. 

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Notes: Rookies step up with end-zone INTs

TAMPA -- Given their last opportunity to make a case for the Bucs' regular-season roster, a pair of undrafted rookies came up with end-zone interceptions in Thursday's game against the Redskins.

CB Keith Lewis -- from all-but-unknown Virginia-Lynchburg -- intercepted a Colt McCoy pass in coverage to end one Redskins drive, and with 18 seconds left in the first half, LB Nate Askew of Texas A&M came up with a deflected pass on second and goal to stop another threat.

"We told the guys to do something to make us put them on the team," coach Lovie Smith said at halftime. "Making big plays like that will at least make us take note."

On a third down from the Bucs' 20, Lewis ran stride for stride with Redskins receiver Aldrick Robinson, making a leaping grab for the pick and a touchback.

"Just man coverage, and I had to come up with a big play," Lewis said. "It's big to be able to show the whole team what I can do. I could have played better though. I'm not satisfied at all."

Askew deflected any praise to fellow linebacker Danny Lansanah, who tipped the pass straight up into the air on the goal line, making an easy grab for the rookie. …

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Starters watch as Bucs fall 24-10 in preseason finale

TAMPA -- Nearly all the starters had the night off -- even backup Mike Glennon only played one series -- and the Bucs went through the motions in finishing the preseason with a 24-10 loss to the Redskins on Thursday night.

With reserves -- many of which will be cut in the next 48 hours -- getting most of the snaps, the Bucs were outgained 445-137 with four minutes to play. There were flashes of positive play from three undrafted rookies -- receiver Solomon Patton had a 25-yard touchdown catch, and cornerback Keith Lewis and linebacker Nate Askew had interceptions in the end zone to spoil Redskins drives.

The Bucs finish the preseason 1-3 and now have important decisions to make -- which 22 players must be let go by Saturday afternoon to get from 75 players to the final maximum of 53. Newly acquired guard Logan Mankins, the six-time Pro Bowler from the Patriots, did not play Thursday night but spoke with local media and will be ready for next week's season opener against the Panthers.

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Preseason finale: Bucs trail Redskins 24-10 late

Greetings from Raymond James Stadium, where the Bucs will close out the preseason tonight against the Redskins, with nearly all the Tampa Bay starters expected to have the night off.

We'll have updates throughout the game here -- and more immediately on Twitter at @gregauman, @MBakerTBTimes and @NFLstroud -- so follow along while you watch Mike Glennon and a band of backups close out the preseason.

10 p.m.: Washington has extended its lead -- short TD by Silas Redd makes it 24-10 with 4:07 to play. Redskins have outgained the Bucs 445-137, so could be much worse.

9:35 p.m.: Solomon Patton makes a great move on the sideline and gets a 25-yard touchdown on pass from Mike Kafka. Patton had said he wanted to show something at receiver in addition to his returns, and he's done that impressively. Redskins 17-10, 3:51 left in the third.

9:25 p.m.: Redskins answer as Colt McCoy gets an 80-yard touchdown pass to Lache Seastrunk -- Anthony Gaitor missed him on a bad angle and he flew down the Bucs sideline for a 17-3 lead. …

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What to watch for: Bucs' final position battles ...

Connor Barth has done nothing in preseason to hurt his position, but Patrick Murray has turned coaches' heads.

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Connor Barth has done nothing in preseason to hurt his position, but Patrick Murray has turned coaches' heads.

The Bucs' final preseason game is tonight at Raymond James Stadium against the Redskins, and while most starters will get the night off entirely, the backups stepping in will help determine the last roster spots as the team trims its roster to 53 players.

Don't underestimate the possibility of the Bucs scouring the waiver wire, finding the best players cut loose by other teams to address positions where depth is still a concern within the current roster.

To simplify things, we'll presume that 42 roster spots are already spoken for -- we have a list at the bottom of the post -- and we'll also make a case for nine players likely to be cut regardless of how they play tonight: QB Mike Kafka, FB Lonnie Pryor, TE Cameron Brate, OT Edawn Coughman, DE T.J. Fatinikun, LB Nate Askew, CB Marc Anthony, CB Anthony Gaitor and CB Kip Edwards. Most of those are still practice-squad possibilities, but it's unlikely they'll make the 53 from our perspective. …

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For Bucs on bubble, preseason finale far from meaningless

TAMPA -- For most of the Bucs' starters, it's a night off.

On the other end of the roster, however, tonight's preseason finale against the Redskins is the last chance. One more game to convince the Bucs you belong on the 53-man roster, which is why fullback Jorvorskie Lane will still play with his left hand heavily wrapped after a "deep, deep bruise" last week, and why cornerback Anthony Gaitor is playing safety for the first time since high school.

"I have to show I'm worth being on this roster, that I give something to this defense," said Larry English, a former Chargers first-round draft pick who is challenging for a job at defensive end. "I'm just trying to make a difference every snap that I'm out there, to show them I can get out there and work."

English, who joined the Bucs two weeks ago, halfway through preseason camp, had two sacks in Saturday's game at Buffalo, and he's battling another former high-round pick Da'Quan Bowers for a backup job. Bowers has missed the last two games with a groin injury and isn't likely to play tonight, and between injuries and starters resting, English should have a long final audition. …

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Who is Logan Mankins? Glimpse at new Bucs guard

We still don't know when Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins will join the Bucs here in Tampa or when he'll first speak with local media, but you can learn a lot about the 32-year-old by reading stories from his outstanding nine-year run with the Patriots.

Best story I've found? This 2005 piece from Jerome Solomon, then with the Boston Globe, looking at the frightening accident that changed Mankins' life as a teenager and his life growing up in a small town in the mountains of northern California, better known for winning $10,000 in rodeo roping competitions than anything involving football.

More fun reading from the Globe, this in today's paper in reaction to the surprise news of losing a veteran cog of the Patriots' consistent winners over the last nine years -- a 110-34 record since 2005, missing the playoffs once, winning at least 10 games every season since he arrived. This columnist says it "feels like the Bucs plundered the Patriots," and this story said the Mankins trade "wallops you out of nowhere."

We'll be writing a lot about Mankins in coming days, but here's a good start ...

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Ex-USF guard Warren excited for reunions in Tampa

Jeremiah Warren started all 38 games in his final three seasons as an offensive lineman at USF, and the 26-year-old is excited to return to Tampa after being claimed off waivers by the Bucs on Tuesday.

"I had just gotten back home to see family and got the call out of nowhere. It was a blessing in disguise," Warren said from his home in Panama City. "I look forward to playing back in Raymond James Stadium again. It's just like coming home for me."

Warren, who will join the Bucs on Wednesday, was at USF from 2007-11 and has been close to the NFL in each of the last two seasons. He was cut in preseason by the Patriots in 2012 and spent the year on the team's practice squad, attended the Bucs' rookie minicamp in spring 2013, had brief offseason stints with the Cardinals and Saints and wound up spending 10 weeks last season on the Browns' practice squad.

His offensive line coach in Cleveland was George Warhop, who is now the Bucs' offensive line coach, so there's a familiarity there that could help him stick in Tampa, if only on the team's practice squad. …

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