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Bucs Shepard could have bigger role in offense

Russell Shepard's biggest worth to the Bucs is as a special team player and he helped down a pair of punts inside the 5-yard line Monday night against the Bengals. But Shepard is emerging as a reliable receiver, where his role could soon expand.

Shepard had two catches for 44 yards, including a 22-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Mike Glennon on a fade route during an all-out blitz by the Bengals Monday.

An undrafted quarterback from Louisiana State in 2013, Shepard has lobbied for more playing time on offense and defense. Now he may get his wish.

Receiver Mike Evans, who has not had a catch this preseason, was forced to leave Monday night's game in the first quarter with a hamstring strain. Although the injury is not considered serious, it's unknown whether he will play Saturday against the Browns.

Rookie Kenny Bell, a fifth-round pick from Nebraska, has not shown up in preseason games as a receiver.

Bucs coach Lovie Smith said Shepard could soon have a bigger role in the offense.

"I've seen it happen a few times, where I've been coaching, other places where you give a guy something to do,'' Smith said. "Initially, for Shepard, it was as an ace special teams player and you just see how competitive he is. He'll tell you, hey, he's always in my ear about playing corner. Of course, we know he can play a little bit of quarterback. But he's really grown as a receiver and that's good to see.''

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