TAMPA — Four days before the most important game of the Bucs' preseason schedule, six players listed on the defensive two-deep depth chart were held out of Tuesday's practice with various injuries.
The newest addition to the list was DE Michael Johnson, who has a knee bruise, joined as a spectator in defensive line drills by Will Gholston (shoulder) and Da'Quan Bowers (groin). The other cluster of injuries is in the defensive secondary, where CB Mike Jenkins (hamstring) remains out, as does S Major Wright (back) and CB Rashaan Melvin (ankle).
"(Johnson) should be good to go," said coach Lovie Smith, whose team plays Saturday afternoon at Buffalo. "(CB) Alterraun Verner (hamstring) is getting better but this is his first work in a long time so we'll ease back into the mix."
The only players Smith has said are likely out Saturday are Gholston and RB Mike James (shoulder). DE Steven Means, who sat out last week's loss to Miami with a groin injury, was back at practice. "He's improved a lot quicker than we thought he would," Smith said. "Guys need to make the football team and they need to get out there. Every rep they miss, of course, someone else is taking advantage of."
Go lefty: WR Mike Evans played exclusively on the right side of the formation during his two seasons at Texas A&M. So he carried the football in his right hand.
That was what led to his fumble through the end zone after a 41-yard reception instead of a touchdown against Miami. As he ran down the left sideline with a pass from Mike Glennon, CB Brent Grimes stripped the ball just before Evans reached the goal line. The ball rolled through the end zone for a touchback.
"I wasn't comfortable holding it in my left so that's another thing I need to practice on, holding the ball in my outside arm, whatever sideline I'm on," Evans said. "If it's in the right (arm) and I'm holding it tight, it wouldn't have come out. But holding it in my left, it wouldn't have happened at all."
This and that: NFL cuts start next week, as rosters will be reduced from 90 to 75 players Tuesday, then down to the final 53 on Aug. 30. But two more hopefuls per team will have jobs, as the league announced it was expanding practice squads from eight players per team to 10 for the next two seasons. Eight current Bucs were on Tampa Bay's practice squad at some point last season. … Rookie G Kadeem Edwards said he played exclusively at left guard in college but has cross-trained at both guard positions in recent weeks. … Smith points to Buffalo's 57 sacks last year, second in the league, as another strong challenge for his offensive line. "That's getting after the passer. They have legitimate rushers," he said.
Times staff writer Rick Stroud contributed to this report. Contact Greg Auman at [email protected] and (813) 226-3346. Follow @gregauman.