TAMPA — Da'Quan Bowers' disappointing career with the Bucs could be nearing an end.
Bowers, the oft-injured defensive lineman, is nursing a groin strain that's hurting his chance of making the team, coach Lovie Smith said.
Bowers, who had three tackles (including one for a loss) and a quarterback hit in the preseason opener Aug. 8 at Jacksonville, did not play Saturday against the Dolphins and hasn't practiced in more than a week. It was uncertain Wednesday whether he would play Saturday at Buffalo.
Smith said he believes Bowers has the ability to play in the NFL, but he stopped short of guaranteeing Bowers do it with Tampa Bay.
"I think every day you don't practice, you're hurting your chances (of making the team)," Smith said. "We've seen enough to like Da'Quan a lot. But all the reps that he's not getting, someone else is getting them.
"The best way to beat your competition sometimes is just to stay on the field. … Da'Quan is trying to get back. Again, I think he has a future in the league, whether it be as a defensive end outside or more of a third-down rush guy inside."
A second-round draft pick from Clemson in 2011, Bowers missed the first six games of 2012 recovering from an Achilles injury he suffered in the offseason. Last year he missed three games with a knee injury. He finished with seven tackles and one sack.
WHAT RUSH? Asked how he would evaluate last year's pass rush, DE Adrian Clayborn didn't mince words.
"Our rush, on defensive line? What rush?" Clayborn said. "It wasn't that great. We weren't jelled together. We weren't working together. … I expect better this year."
Clayborn and other linemen have said they like the simplicity of this year's pass rush: basically get upfield, get to the quarterback.
"(Last year is) the past. It was a different defense. This is more geared toward getting to the quarterback," Clayborn said. "That defense last year was geared more toward stunting and confusing people and stuff like that."
INJURY UPDATE: CB Mike Jenkins, out two weeks with a hamstring injury, will miss his third preseason game Saturday, Smith said. Other players who had been held out — DE Michael Johnson, CB Alterraun Verner and DE Steven Means — are back practicing and could play. Other players remaining out Wednesday were Bowers, DE Will Gholston, RB Mike James, CB Rashaan Melvin and LB Brandon Magee.
MORE IS GOOD: The NFL has expanded each team's practice squad from eight to 10 players for the 2014 and 2015 seasons, and Smith said he likes the idea of being able to keep more players with the team.
"That's an easy one, a coach getting more players," Smith said. "I think it's a great thing.
"There are a lot of young players that just aren't ready, for whatever reason. I'd say it's universal in all the coaches loving that decision."
The league will also allow each team to place on the squad two players with up to two years of NFL experience, which could change the decisions about who is kept for the 53-man roster. Practice-squad players are free to sign to another team's active roster.
"Our roster, in my mind, has already changed based on that (practice squad) decision," Smith said.
ONE IN, ONE OUT: The team released veteran WR Lavelle Hawkins, who caught a touchdown in the final minute of Saturday's game against the Dolphins but wasn't working with any of the special teams units. With Hawkins gone, the team signed OT Edawn Coughman, who played at Division II Shaw University and briefly in the CFL in 2011. He's likely a short-term fix, with third-team tackles J.B. Shugarts and Matt Patchan (Florida, Armwood High) held out of practice with undisclosed injuries.
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