TAMPA — Bucs undrafted rookie LB Riley Bullough is perhaps the surprise star of HBO's Hard Knocks and has been productive in two preseason games, but Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said Tuesday that he's caught in a numbers game competing for a backup spot on the Tampa Bay roster.
The Bucs are likely to keep five linebackers on their 53-man roster, and Lavonte David, Kwon Alexander and rookie Kendell Beckwith have three of those locked up, with returning players Adarius Glanton and Cameron Lynch competing with second-year pro Devante Bond and rookies for the last spots.
"It's a numbers game everywhere," Koetter said. "Riley's doing fine. He's an excellent communicator, a tough guy, good in the run game. It's going to come down to numbers. We can't just say we have 10 linebackers we want to keep. It has to add up to 53, and you have to have two-deep in a game when you only have 46.
"He's improving. When he's out there, he makes plays. He's fighting a numbers battle."
'Nothing long term'
The Bucs had two key starters sidelined in Alexander (left hamstring) and G J.R. Sweezy (undisclosed) but Koetter said it's "nothing long term" for either. With Sweezy out, the Bucs had Joe Hawley at right guard, with LG Kevin Pamphile working at right tackle while Demar Dotson (groin) is out another week. Evan Smith filled in at left guard for Pamphile. Glanton filled in for Alexander at middle linebacker and drew praise from Koetter. "Adarius did everything he's ever been asked," Koetter said. "Last year when he got in a game, he made plays. He was a stalwart on special teams. He made plays, that's what backup players do. They make plays when they get their opportunities and eventually they may get a chance to move into the starting lineup and he's a good example of that."
Just 12 days before final cuts, the Bucs have added another position battle, signing back long-snapper Andrew DePaola to compete with veteran Garrison Sanborn. DePaola, 30, has been the Bucs' snapper for the past three years, and is making an impressive recovery from the torn ACL he suffered in last year's season finale against Carolina in January. Sanborn, who had been the Bills' snapper for eight seasons, has had the position to himself for the offseason and in the first two preseason games. "DePo played really well for us last year," Koetter said. "He had a very unfortunate injury at the end of the season. He played so well for us, Jason (Licht) kind of had it in the back of his mind all long that if DePo made it back before the season, we'd like to bring him in here and take a look at him and see where he's at. Today's just the first day of that … we'll see what it looks like." To make room for DePaola, the Bucs waived-injured CB Jude Adjei-Barimah, who had surgery last week after a patellar fracture and is likely to miss most of the season.
Jameis jersey sales surging
Two weeks into the national publicity of HBO's Hard Knocks, Bucs QB Jameis Winston's No. 3 jerseys are selling well, as he made the biggest leap in this week's jersey report from Dick's Sporting Goods. Winston jumped 35 spots in one week, from No. 66 in last week's jersey rankings to No. 31 this week, a leap that ties Pittsburgh's Le'Veon Bell (54 to 19) for the biggest gain of the week. Winston remains the top-selling Bucs jersey overall in their rankings, at No. 43 across the league since the draft, ahead of rookie TE O.J. Howard (86th) and WR Mike Evans (94th). Bucs jerseys saw a minor uptick as well, moving from 29th out of 32 teams last week to 26th this week. For the season, the Bucs rank 28th in overall jersey sales, ahead of the Jaguars, Saints, Jets and 49ers.