Bucs journal: J.J. Wilcox gets chance at added role for Bucs

J.J. Wilcox []
J.J. Wilcox []
Published Jul. 31, 2017

TAMPA — With solid depth at safety, the Bucs are giving newcomer J.J. Wilcox at look as a nickel defensive back, a challenge the free agent likes as an added role.

"It's new," Wilcox said Sunday after lining up in the same defense with starting safeties Keith Tandy and Chris Conte. "Dallas had me, like, second- or third-string nickel, but Tampa wanted to try something new, expand my horizons, my attributes, and it's kind of paying off."

A nickel or slot cornerback must be fast enough to cover an opponent's third receiver, but Wilcox said the position can also be tasked with covering a second tight end: "You have to be able to match up with the big tight ends — 12 personnel (two tight ends), a lot of NFL teams are going to that. If you can put a safety on a tight end and keep your linebackers in the box, it makes a difference."

The Bucs also have rookie Justin Evans, a second-round draft pick, in the mix at safety, so against a team likely to use a two-tight-end look extensively, having Wilcox at nickel could allow the defense to get the best personnel on the field. Wilcox, 26, who had 38 starts in four seasons with Dallas, enjoys the new look.

"We've been working on it all offseason," he said. "I love it. The more you can do, the better."

Martin set to play, nothing guaranteed

RB Doug Martin is taking reps with the starting offense and running as if he is preparing to play in the regular-season opener at Miami on Sept. 10.

But the reality is that Martin will miss the first three games serving the remainder of his suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing drugs.

The Bucs will use the committee approach at running back until October with Jacquizz Rodgers, Charles Sims, Peyton Barber and rookie Jeremy McNichols. But they continue to take a wait-and-see approach with Martin, who is eligible to return to practice Sept. 25. His return is not guaranteed. It's unlikely the Bucs would carry five running backs.

"I will be out for three games," Martin said. "That's the reality of the situation. And during those few weeks, I'm going to prepare myself to get my legs back under me and prepare to play."

Martin always has performed well with a carrot on a stick in front of him. As a rookie in 2012, he rushed for 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns. When the Bucs failed to pick up their fifth-year club option in 2015, Martin was the NFL's second-leading rusher with 1,402 yards and six touchdowns.

"I got a chip on my shoulder," he said. "In the offseason, I just worked my butt off. I have a lot to owe to this team, and I can't wait to get back out there."

Score the PK job tied

The Bucs' place-kicking battle between Roberto Aguayo and Nick Folk will play out until September.

It took three days, but they finally went head-to-head in a special teams period. Folk, a free-agent signing in the offseason, got the first chance, though he was quick to say there was no significance in the order and he would alternate with Aguayo throughout training camp. In a steady rain, both kickers made their first four field-goal tries before each missed his last attempt. "I had them both 4 out of 5," coach Dirk Koetter said. "But I'll be honest, I was watching the alignment up front. We'll get the tape. I thought they both missed their last one."

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Bucs bits

If DT Gerald McCoy was stung by comments made by Ronde Barber last week, he proved Sunday there is no bad blood. Barber, a former Pro Bowl Bucs cornerback, attended practice in his role as an analyst for Fox Sports and had a brief embrace and conversation with McCoy. A week ago today, McCoy indicated in a series of Twitter posts that he felt underappreciated and that someone had crossed a line. Speculation was that McCoy was reacting to comments made by Barber in a Tampa Bay Times story the day before in which he said McCoy would have a difficult time leading a defense from his position because he didn't have a personality like those of Hall of Fame DTs Warren Sapp and John Randle. "(McCoy is) a good dude and a great teammate," Barber said Sunday. … The Bucs will be in full pads today for the first time this training camp. … The Bucs signed former Titans S Marqueston Huff and former Oklahoma State WR Jhajuan Seales. To make room, they waived undrafted rookies S Alex Gray and WR Thomas Sperbeck. Sperbeck was held out Sunday.