Friday, May 25, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs' Oniel Cousins aims to replace Carl Nicks

TAMPA — Positivity has helped Oniel Cousins last for six seasons in the NFL, and as he enters the Bucs' preseason opener Friday battling for a starting job at guard, that relentless optimism is carrying him again.

"My goal is to start and help this team win," he said. "I try to think positive in every play. I like to get after it. I like to have fun with the guys. Wherever the game goes, it all depends on the offensive line."

As the Bucs look to bounce back from a 4-12 record, guard is perhaps their biggest question mark, especially after former Pro Bowl player Carl Nicks was released following his lingering toe injury. Four players of varying experience are battling for two starting spots, and their play in four preseason games will be a key.

Cousins, 30, has started just nine games in six NFL seasons, establishing himself as an injury replacement but little more. One guard spot could go to Jamon Meredith, who has 20 starts for the Bucs in the past two seasons, but none of the other potential starters has played in an NFL game.

"Training camp is a grind, but I embrace the grind and going through it with these guys," said Cousins, who was born in Jamaica and grew up in Brooklyn and later California, discovering football when he was a sophomore in high school. "Whatever my role is, I'm going to do my best to get it done here."

Last year, when Cleveland's starting right guard, Shawn Lauvao, was lost to an ankle injury in preseason, Cousins played every snap in the Browns' first four games, including two wins. But once Lauvao returned in Week 5, Cousins was relegated to the extra-point team, with 21 snaps on offense the rest of the season.

His contract with the Bucs is modest — a base salary of $730,000, the league minimum for a player of his experience, and a signing bonus reportedly worth $65,000. So while he's competing for a starting job, a poor month ahead could cost him his job, as was the case in 2011 when he was cut in preseason by the Ravens, then claimed off waivers by the Browns.

There, he spent the next three years with offensive line coach George Warhop, who joined Lovie Smith's staff this year. Warhop said familiarity will help Cousins in terms of understanding how he wants his linemen to practice and perform, but he'll have to earn a job — in the starting lineup and on the roster — with his production on the field.

He's battling two unproven players in rookie Kadeem Edwards and second-year pro Patrick Omameh, and that lack of experience gives Cousins the chance to claim the job.

"All of them have the same opportunity," Warhop said. "It's not only for (Cousins), it's for Jamon, it's for Kadeem, it's for Pat. They're all going to get reps with the first group. I'm familiar with Oniel, but his opportunity is no different than the rest of those guys."

Cousins has shown promising flashes in his NFL career — his first career start came at right tackle for Baltimore in 2009, helping Ray Rice rush for a then-career-high 166 yards in a 48-3 drubbing of Detroit. He went on to start three games, including two wins, then returned to a backup role.

The next month will see the position battles shake out, but Cousins is optimistic about the line as a whole being a Bucs strength.

"We're definitely confident — we're working as a team," he said. "We're lifting each other up, and that's what it's all about. The line plays together no matter who's in there, whether it's a starter or the sixth man or the seventh man. If you're not starting, you're one play away from being in there, so my mentality never changes."

Contact Greg Auman at [email protected] and at (813) 226-3346. Follow @gregauman.

 
Comments
Bucs’ Ali Marpet: NFL flip-flopping on anthem policy ‘a little bit odd’

Bucs’ Ali Marpet: NFL flip-flopping on anthem policy ‘a little bit odd’

TAMPA — This much is clear: The National Football League is focused on getting rid of kneeling players.That was the league's announcement Wednesday in requiring players to stand during the national anthem before games or possibly have their tea...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Bucs sign defensive tackle Vita Vea, cornerback Carlton Davis to four-year deals

Bucs sign defensive tackle Vita Vea, cornerback Carlton Davis to four-year deals

Two high draft picks that could earn starting jobs signed four year contracts with the Bucs Thursday.The team signed Washington defensive tackle Vita Vea, the team's first-round pick.Terms of the deal were not released, but Vea  is expected to r...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Bucs union rep Ali Marpet questions legality of the NFL’s new anthem policy

Bucs union rep Ali Marpet questions legality of the NFL’s new anthem policy

Bucs offensive lineman Ali Marpet questioned the legality of the NFL's new  policy that requires players to stand for the national anthem if they are on the field during the performance but gives them the option to remain in the locker room if t...
Published: 05/24/18
Licht promotes three in Bucs’ scouting department

Licht promotes three in Bucs’ scouting department

The dust has settled from another NFL draft, and Bucs general manager Jason Licht has made three promotions in his scouting department as a new year of player evaluation begins.Byron Kiefer, entering his 14th season with the Bucs and fourth as a nati...
Published: 05/24/18
NFL’s new anthem policy requires players to stand on sideline or remain in locker room

NFL’s new anthem policy requires players to stand on sideline or remain in locker room

ATLANTA — The NFL and the owners of its 32 teams enacted a new national anthem policy Wednesday designed, they said, to compel players to stand if they’re on the sideline for the playing of the anthem prior to a game."Clearly our objective as a leagu...
Published: 05/23/18
Bucs bring back Lakewood’s Bernard Reedy to compete for WR/KR job

Bucs bring back Lakewood’s Bernard Reedy to compete for WR/KR job

Lakewood grad Bernard Reedy, who handled the Bucs' kickoff and punt returns for much of last season, is back with Tampa Bay again.Reedy, 26, was signed on Wednesday, one day after the Bucs began OTA workouts. Thomas Sperbeck, the former Boise State r...
Published: 05/23/18
NFL policy: Players can stay inside during anthem if they won’t stand

NFL policy: Players can stay inside during anthem if they won’t stand

NFL owners passed a new policy Wednesday with the hopes of moving on from boycotts and political turmoil related to some players protesting by not standing during the national anthem before games.Under the new policy, NFL players are not required to ...
Published: 05/23/18
New Super Bowls: Arizona in 2023, New Orleans in 2024

New Super Bowls: Arizona in 2023, New Orleans in 2024

And you thought our headline would be "Mariota hosts NFL draft before Winston."The NFL owners are meeting in Atlanta this week, and that means a new batch of future Super Bowls getting announced for their homes.A year ago, Tampa got the huge news, an...
Published: 05/23/18
Winston: Bucs’ Ryan Jensen ‘one of the toughest, meanest, baddest centers’

Winston: Bucs’ Ryan Jensen ‘one of the toughest, meanest, baddest centers’

It's hard to miss new Bucs center Ryan Jensen at OTA workouts this week, with his long red hair visible from across the field even when he's wearing a helmet."Any recommendations for anti frizz shampoo and conditioner?" Jensen wrote on Twitter with a...
Published: 05/23/18
Gerald McCoy appreciates help on D-line, but knows it will take more than names on paper

Gerald McCoy appreciates help on D-line, but knows it will take more than names on paper

TAMPA — He's 30."I know. I'm getting old," Gerald McCoy said Tuesday, shaking his head.He's still a young man, of course. But in football years, McCoy has finally reached a black balloon birthday. This is his ninth season with the Bucs, which i...
Published: 05/22/18