Protecting QB among Bucs' offensive issues

Despite protection issues, QB Josh McCown says it felt good to take a hit against the Jaguars.
Despite protection issues, QB Josh McCown says it felt good to take a hit against the Jaguars.
Published Aug. 15, 2014

TAMPA — QB Josh McCown has the ability to scramble when the blocking breaks down, but he knows he has to do a better job of protecting himself.

On the first play of the Bucs' second offensive series against the Jaguars on Friday, McCown picked up his fumble and rushed for 9 yards before taking a pretty big hit from DE Sen'Derrick Marks.

"There's always that moment in preseason when you escape the pocket and go, 'Oh, yeah, nobody is blowing a whistle,' " McCown said Thursday. "It was good, though. You kind of get that first hit, get a little banged up and feel like it's football again. So that was certainly the case, and it felt good."

The offensive line played poorly in the 16-10 loss in the team's first preseason game as McCown was sacked once, fumbled twice (losing one) and threw an interception. The Bucs have tried different combinations at guard this week in hopes of ironing out their protection problems and having a better showing against the Dolphins at home Saturday.

"We realize what's at stake this week," coach Lovie Smith said. "We want to play a lot better. Any time you open up the season — preseason, regular season, whatever — you get a chance to start off in front of your fans at home, and it's kind of special."

BUCS SIGN FORMER FIRST-ROUND PICK: DE Larry English was selected 16th overall by the Chargers in the 2009 draft, one pick before QB Josh Freeman went to the Bucs. Freeman is out of football, but English was signed by the Bucs on Thursday.

In San Diego, English struggled with injuries and ineffectiveness at outside linebacker in the Chargers' 3-4 scheme, recording 11 sacks in 52 games during five seasons. He will be an outside rusher for the Bucs.

"He's a good football player," Smith said. "Injuries have kind of held him up a little bit. But he's what we're looking for: speed, edge rusher. I had a chance to see him work out a little bit (Wednesday). … We'll try to give him a couple reps this weekend."

INJURY UPDATES: RB Charles Sims was wearing a walking boot during practice and will not play Saturday. Sims left Tuesday's practice with a right ankle injury, and Smith said Sims was in a cast. "That's normally not a good thing," Smith said. "He won't play in the immediate future."

CB Mike Jenkins didn't practice and won't play Saturday. CB Alterraun Verner participated but will also be held out. DE Steven Means, DL Da'Quan Bowers and T J.B. Shugarts didn't practice, but Smith didn't rule them out, either. Cornerbacks Rashaan Melvin and Keith Lewis returned for individual work but didn't participate in 11-on-11 drills.

CHANGING OF THE GUARDS: The team used its third different combination of guards in their past four practices, with Thursday's lineup featuring Oniel Cousins at left guard and Patrick Omameh at right. Kadeem Edwards was the second-team left guard, with Jace Daniels at right.

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"I've talked about giving guys an opportunity to show us what they have," Smith said. "We'll follow that same script.

"I realize we need to get five guys working together as soon as we can."