Friday, January 19, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Lansanah, Carter to try to cover for Alexander's absence from Bucs

TAMPA — The Bucs weren't sure what they had in rookie Kwon Alexander, who turned out to be some kind of force of nature that stormed in and blew away all comers at the middle linebacker position.

"Kwon Alexander is a guy who exceeded our expectations, as much as anything where he had to be on the field and in that role," coach Lovie Smith said. "Some guys are made to be out there, to be out front.

"Kwon will make quite a few guys not be able to start."

But now the Bucs are starting over with a critical month of the season remaining thanks to Alexander's four-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing drugs. Fortunately, they have two savvy veterans who would have been capable of starting had Alexander's immense athleticism not made it an uneven playing field.

On Wednesday, the Bucs moved Danny Lansanah from strongside linebacker to Alexander's spot in the middle, where Lansanah started two games last season. Veteran Bruce Carter, a free agent from the Cowboys who was signed in the offseason to a four-year, $17 million contract, was working at Lansanah's spot.

"I did it before, it's not nothing new to me," Lansanah said. "I don't like talking about the past, but last year I proved that I could play it. If they put me there, I'm going to do it and play to the best of my ability."

Both Lansanah and Carter have been playmakers, especially in pass defense. Lansanah had three interceptions last season, including two he returned for touchdowns, the first came against Sunday's opponent, the Saints. Carter had five picks with the Cowboys last season.

"Just remembering what Danny did last year, I think he was the only player we had who scored two defensive touchdowns," Smith said. "That's more than a lot of offensive guys scored. He's been around the ball, and he's a smart player. Whenever you can play multiple positions, there's a reason he's been in the league a long time. … We're going to miss Kwon quite a bit, but we're okay moving forward."

However, Carter missed Sunday's 23-19 win over Atlanta with a concussion and still is going through the league's protocol. Though he has been cleared to practice, he must be examined by an independent neurologist before returning to the playing field.

"Bruce can play," guard Demar Dotson said. "I can't wait to see him, but I'm going to mess with him all week: 'Bruce, you have to earn your money now.' "

Of course, it would be naive to think the Bucs won't suffer a dropoff from Alexander, whose speed and sure-tackling ability are a big reason Tampa Bay is tied with Denver for the fewest rushing yards allowed per attempt at 3.5.

"Certainly Kwon is a young player that we're familiar with that can run well," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "Bruce Carter is another player that we've seen and played against. But, overall, the team speed, their effort to the ball, how the safeties are playing — all of those things contribute to the lack of leaky yards or the lack of big-play runs against their defense."

Alexander will forfeit $100,000 in pay and can't have any contact with the club until Jan. 4, the day after the team's final regular-season game at Carolina. As if the team needs more motivation, Alexander will be eligible to return for the playoffs.

"That's another motivation that we've got as a team," quarterback Jameis Winston said of Alexander. "We're fighting to get our brother back on the field because we know Kwon is the quarterback of the defense. … But I know Kwon is going to keep working. He's not going to use this as a period to just take a break, because in Kwon's mind, he's going to be preparing for a game later on this season, and that's the right mentality to have."

Comments
Rick and Tom podcast: What does it mean when Bucs GM cringes at expectations?

Rick and Tom podcast: What does it mean when Bucs GM cringes at expectations?

Bucs general manager Jason Licht told Rick Stroud that he cringed at some of the preseason expectations last season, and the outrage from some fans has been more than he expected.In their latest podcast, Rick Stroud and Tom Jones break down what it a...
Published: 01/18/18
DeSean Jackson says Jameis Winston needs to stop trying to “impress the world,” and play his game

DeSean Jackson says Jameis Winston needs to stop trying to “impress the world,” and play his game

Receiver DeSean Jackson stopped short of saying he regretted his decision to sign a three-year, $33.5-million contract as a free agent with the Bucs last March. But he certainly is disappointed in his lack of chemistry with quarterback Jameis Winston...
Published: 01/17/18
Bucs LB Kwon Alexander headed to Pro Bowl

Bucs LB Kwon Alexander headed to Pro Bowl

Kwon Alexander is headed to the Pro Bowl.The third-year Bucs linebacker, who led the NFL in solo tackles a year ago, was announced Tuesday as an injury replacement for Seattle's Bobby Wagner.Alexander, 23, won't have to go far, as the game is back in...
Published: 01/16/18

AFCCONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPJaguars at Patriots, 3 p.m. Sunday TV: CBS Line/OU: Patriots by 7½; 46½NFCCONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPVikings at Eagles, 6:40 p.m. Sunday TV: Fox Line/OU: Vikings by 3; 38½Super Bowl LIIJaguars or Patriots vs. Vikings or Eagles, ...
Updated: 10 hours ago

Shrine Game journal: Homecoming for Utah OL Salesi Uhatafe; Quinton Flowers works on snaps

ST. PETERSBURG — Salesi Uhatafe is back in his hometown, and though he moved to Texas when he was still a baby, it’s very much a homecoming as the former Utah offensive lineman plays in Saturday’s East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field."I’ll probab...
Published: 01/15/18
Iowa State’s two-way star Joel Lanning practicing at linebacker for East-West Shrine Game

Iowa State’s two-way star Joel Lanning practicing at linebacker for East-West Shrine Game

ST. PETERSBURG — Joel Lanning has the unique distinction of being listed as an "LB/QB" on the West roster for Saturday’s East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field.And while the former Iowa State star spent the entire practice at middle linebacker Mond...
Published: 01/15/18
Bucs GM Jason Licht ‘cringed’ at expectations, optimistic about future

Bucs GM Jason Licht ‘cringed’ at expectations, optimistic about future

TAMPA — It was a brutal year. That’s how general manager Jason Licht views the Bucs’ 2017 season.Start with Hard Knocks and the surrounding expectations, some he embraced and others he "cringed at." They all went unfulfilled, mostly due to injuries, ...
Published: 01/15/18
Jason Licht addresses what went wrong for the Bucs in 2017 and how they plan to fix it

Jason Licht addresses what went wrong for the Bucs in 2017 and how they plan to fix it

It was a "brutal year." That's how general manager Jason Licht views the Bucs 2017 season.Expectations, many of them he said he "cringed at," nonetheless went unfulfilled due to injuries, particularly the right shoulder sprain suffered by quarterback...
Published: 01/15/18
Bucs search for a backup quarterback becomes paramount amid NFL’s probe into Winston

Bucs search for a backup quarterback becomes paramount amid NFL’s probe into Winston

With the NFL investigating allegations against Jameis Winston that potentially could result in a suspension, the Bucs will need to address the backup quarterback position again this off-season."That's another position I always want to do whatever we ...
Published: 01/15/18
Rick and Tom podcast: Who says you need a franchise QB in the playoffs?

Rick and Tom podcast: Who says you need a franchise QB in the playoffs?

The NFL’s final four teams are set, and the starting quarterbacks are Tom Brady, Blake Bortles, Case Keenum and Nick Foles. In their latest podcast, Rick Stroud and Tom Jones break down this past weekend’s games, including the Vikings’ miraculous fin...
Published: 01/15/18