Sunday, February 25, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs turn to young players Jones, Lambert to fill pass-rush hole

TAMPA — As the Bucs move forward without DE Jacquies Smith, lost to a season-ending knee injury Sunday, they'll look to second-year pro Howard Jones and rookie DaVonte Lambert to pick up larger roles in the outside pass rush.

"Howard's a good pass rusher,'' coach Dirk Koetter said of Jones, who had five sacks last season. "Howard's got speed off the edge … and Lambert obviously is a guy that we were excited enough about him to keep him here on the 53 (roster). His versatility, again a guy that can play inside or outside, kind of in the Robert Ayers mold, enough though he's a young guy. You have to develop your young guys in the NFL."

Lambert has been listed as a defensive tackle, but was moved to a second-team defensive end on the depth chart this week and said he has worked at both positions in practice. Lambert, who was inactive for Sunday's game, would be better suited to line up outside in the base defense, while Jones is better suited to be a "DPR" or "designated pass rusher" from the outside in the nickel package.

"It's going to allow some young guys to get some opportunities to play," defensive coordinator Mike Smith said. "Lambert is going to get an opportunity to get some snaps. Howard's had some production in this league … he's going to get an opportunity to rush the passer."

The Bucs added starting DE Robert Ayers to their injury report as being "limited" in Thursday's practice with an ankle injury. His absence would be a major setback to the pass rush against Arizona.

MORE HONORS: Bucs QB Jameis Winston continues to pull in accolades for his four-touchdown game in Sunday's win over Atlanta, getting voted Thursday as the NFL's FedEx Air player of the eeek for Week 1.

Winston beat out the Saints' Drew Brees and the Lions' Matthew Stafford for the weekly passing honor — he was 23-for-32 for 281 yards and four touchdowns in the Bucs' 31-24 win Sunday. It's his second time winning the honor, having won in Week 11 last season after he threw five touchdowns in an easy win over the Eagles. Winston was also honored as the NFC offensive player of the week as well.

THIS AND THAT: Ayers was the only Buc limited by injury in Thursday's practice. The Cardinals had six players limited by injury and two others held out entirely. … The Chiefs on Wednesday waived CB KeiVarae Russell, who they'd drafted in the third round in April with the first of two picks acquired from the Bucs when Tampa Bay traded up to take PK Roberto Aguayo. The Bengals claimed Russell off waivers Thursday. … Due to a stat correction from the NFL, an incompletion originally credited to Winston was removed, thanks to a penalty accepted on the play. The change moves Winston up to fifth in the NFL in completion percentage.

Contact Greg Auman at [email protected] and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.

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