TAMPA — CB Ashton Youboty was on the Bucs' radar when he came out of Ohio State in 2006, but he didn't find his way onto the team's roster until Monday.
Tampa Bay signed the free agent to a two-year contract with the hope he could add depth and increase the competition in the secondary, where Aqib Talib and Myron Lewis are missing with hamstring injuries.
Youboty spent five seasons with the Bills, who made him a third-round draft pick. His role has been mostly at nickel back, but the Bucs aren't wedded to anything. Youboty is expected to play Thursday against the Patriots.
"The sooner the better," he said Monday, after joining the Bucs for afternoon practice. "I already have a grasp of the base concept. I'll pick up the nickel (position) as time goes by and see what happens."
Youboty, 27, said Buffalo's scheme under defensive coordinator Perry Fewell was very similar, so he's familiar with many of the concepts. He likely will step in and create competition with players such as Lewis, Elbert Mack and seventh-round pick Anthony Gaitor.
Because Youboty's deal contains no guaranteed money, the Bucs aren't under any financial pressure to keep him on the final roster. That probably made the deal very appealing to the Bucs, who were surprised he wasn't already on another roster.
"When a talented guy like Youboty doesn't get picked up, we're going to make room for him and get him on the squad," said defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake, who scouted Youboty before the 2006 draft.
Youboty has played in 43 games, including 13 last season. Whether he can duplicate that in Tampa Bay is up to him.
"We'll just get those guys out there and let them compete," coach Raheem Morris said. "Right now, there's an opportunity to see some other people. We always talk about long-term thinking. … You never know what's going to happen."
McCOY'S RETURN: DT Gerald McCoy missed the preseason opener Friday against the Chiefs with a shoulder injury and is itching to return after also missing the final four games of last season.
"The game is different," he said. "That's where you get the live bullets. In practice, you're going against guys who know all your moves. You see them every day. … Practice is just to work on skills.
"The game is where you flourish and actually get to judge where you're at. (Defensive line) coach (Keith) Millard told me he rarely got to the quarterback in practice because he's going against guys who know all (his) moves and they know what's going to happen. They know all our calls; we know all their calls."
McCoy participated in a full-pads practice Monday with no limitations and seems on pace to play Thursday night against New England.
BIGGER ROLE: Second-year LB Dakoda Watson could be on the field more this season as Morris has included him in the team's so-called "Redskin" defensive package. The 3-3-5 formation allows Watson to line up as an edge rusher, something he did often as a Florida State Seminole.
While Quincy Black performed that role more often last year, Watson will fill it because Black is taking over at middle in nickel packages, including the Redskin. MLB Mason Foster is not a part of nickel packages at this time.
"With someone like me, who likes to come off the edge, I think (Morris) is going to use my ability to help the team as best we can," Watson said. "I'm looking forward to it because I think it'll help me put my best work forward."
Stephen F. Holder can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3377.