Jamel Dean Jersey

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There was a time when Jamel Dean thought this day would never come.

It was the fall of 2016. The 6-foot-1, 206-pound cornerback had already overcome two serious injuries to the same knee, transferred schools and sat out what should have been his freshman season. And right before he was finally going to get onto the field, he suffered a serious injury his other knee, sidelining him for another year.

“He was like, ‘Well, maybe this is just not for me, so I’ll just give up,'” his aunt, Tinita Brown, told the Montgomery Advertiser. “We were like, ‘Jamel, it’s just a setback. Do you really want to play football?’ He was like, ‘Yes, I love it.’ ‘Well, you got to fight for it. It’s not going to come to you easy. You got to fight for it.’”

Dean did exactly that. On Friday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected the former Auburn cornerback with the 94th overall pick in the third round of the 2019 NFL draft.

It marks the fourth straight year that the Tigers have had a defensive back selected, following Blake Countess in 2016, Rudy Ford and Joshua Holsey in 2017, and Carlton Davis in 2018. Dean will rejoin his former teammate in Davis, who went to the Bucs with the 63rd overall pick of the 2018 draft.

“He’s a wonderful person and he’s a great player too. He’s had some adversity with his knees, but since he’s been healthy he’s one of the better defensive backs, I feel like, since I’ve been here,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said last month. “He’s going to be a big-time pro.”

It’s the outcome many expected for Dean when he was a four-star cornerback out of Cocoa, Florida, ranked 29th at his position in the Class of 2015. Former Auburn defensive backs coach Greg Brown described Dean as “the total package.”

The only thing that ever held him back were injuries. Dean tore his ACL and meniscus during his junior season, the same year he committed to Ohio State. He recovered in time to play his senior season at Cocoa High, then tore the meniscus again in that same knee before a postseason all-star game.

The Buckeyes’ medical staff disqualified Dean from competition, deeming his knee injury to be that serious. A second opinion from renowned surgeon Dr. James Andrews stated that he would be ready to resume full activity that summer with continued rehab, but Ohio State wasn’t willing to offer him any more than a medical hardship, meaning he would be on scholarship but not part of the football team.

Dean transferred to Auburn instead.

“He basically gave up his senior year of high school on the promise that he was going to get taken care of, and he didn’t get taken care of,” said former Cocoa head coach John Wilkinson, who is now at New Smyrna Beach High. “Thank God that Auburn took a chance on him.”

That chance more than paid off when Dean finally did get on the field in 2017. He started two seasons at cornerback in 2017 and 2018, totaling 73 tackles, 17 pass breakups and two interceptions over 26 games while allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete just 40.2 percent of the 92 passes thrown into his coverage during that time, per Pro Football Focus.

If that wasn’t good enough, Dean wowed scouts when he ran a 4.30-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, which was the fastest among corners and second-fastest among all players in Indianapolis.

“He was inconsistent, but he tested off the charts. He obviously has the length and size,” ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said. “You watch him, and one game, he’ll look like he had the chance to be an early round pick, the other, he looked like more of a later round guy. I never thought he tackled well enough; he wasn’t reliable there. He was inconsistent in coverage. But, I think the potential, because of that workout, made him attractive at this point.”

Dean not only joins a former teammate in Tampa Bay, but also a secondary that proved to be one of the worst in the NFL last season, allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete a league-worst 72.5% of their passes. The Bucs added Dean and fellow 2019 draft pick Sean Bunting (No. 39 overall out of Central Michigan) to the returning tandem of Davis and Vernon Hargreaves in attempt to shore that unit up.

After spending nearly two years not knowing if he would even play football in college, let alone in the NFL, Dean won’t be intimidated by the big stage.

“There aren’t many dudes who have had three knee surgeries and still continue to play football,” Dean said. “That lets you know that I know how to handle adversity.”

Sean Bunting Jersey

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TAMPA, Fla. (AP) – The Tampa Bay Buccaneers hope they’re finally getting it right on defense.

After selecting linebacker Devin White in Thursday’s first round, the Bucs reiterated their commitment to improving on defense by selecting Central Michigan cornerback Sean Bunting in the second round and Auburn cornerback Jamel Dean and Kentucky safety Mike Edwards in the third round on Friday night.

The Bucs were one of the NFL’s most productive teams on offense last year but missed the playoffs for the 11th consecutive season because of an inconsistent pass rush and an inability to keep opponents out of the end zone.

New coach Bruce Arians and general manager Jason Licht are determined to change that, bringing in three potential starters in free agency and using the club’s first four picks in this week’s draft to bolster a unit that ranked 24th in total defense while allowing 29 points per game – second-most in the league in 2018.

“When Bruce came in … we knew we had to address that side of the ball,” said Licht, who’s leading his sixth draft as Bucs GM.

The pass rush and a leaky secondary have been liabilities throughout the GM’s tenure.

Including the three players added Friday, the Bucs have drafted six defensive backs since 2016, though Licht said that’s not necessarily “an indictment on the players who are here.”

“You’re always trying to get better,” he said, adding that a lack of depth in the secondary was a problem last season, when the Bucs finished 5-11 for the second straight year.

“Competition is a beautiful thing in this league,” said the GM, who lured Arians out of retirement and back to the sideline in January.

Bunting was the seventh player taken in the second round, 39th overall. Dean and Edwards were selected 94th and 99th, respectively, with picks obtained when Tampa Bay traded No. 70 overall to the Los Angeles Rams.

Bunting is the first cornerback drafted out of the Mid-American Conference school in 34 years and the highest drafted player from Central Michigan since offensive lineman Eric Fisher was the No. 1 overall pick in 2013.

“It was just a blessing, honestly. I couldn’t process the moment when it happened,” Bunting said of getting the call from the Bucs. “I could only kind of smile and stare at the TV screen.”

In Tampa Bay, he’ll join White, Dean and Edwards as part of a potential fix for one of the NFL’s worst defenses.

White, an inside linebacker out of LSU, was the fifth pick of the opening round. The Bucs selected him even though Josh Allen, the top-rated edge pass rusher in the draft, was still available.

Arians and Licht said the 6-foot, 237-pound White fits everything they were looking for in a leader and versatile defender.

“The tape speaks for itself,” Arians said. “People say: ‘You need a pass-rusher.’ He’s pretty good at that and we do like to blitz up the middle – quarterbacks don’t like pressure up the middle. He fits everything that we want as a human being and as a football player. I really couldn’t be any more ecstatic.”

White and Bunting, who had nine career interceptions in college, will get an opportunity to compete for starting jobs as rookies in the new 3-4 scheme being installed by Bucs defensive coordinator Todd Bowles.

“I would say my best attribute is being able to take the ball out of the air,” Bunting said. “I’m a ball hawk. I consider myself a receiving defensive back. That something I take pride in, taking the ball away and giving it back to the offense.”

___

Devin White Jersey

Louisiana State linebacker Devin White poses with his new jersey after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected White in the first round at the NFL football draft, Thursday, April 25, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn.(AP Photo/Steve Helber)

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are counting on Devin White to help them become relevant again.

The powerful and speedy LSU linebacker was the fifth pick in the NFL draft on Thursday night, joining a porous defense making the transition to a 3-4 scheme after allowing the second-most points in the NFL last season.

Coach Bruce Arians and general manager Jason Licht selected the 6-foot, 237-pound White over edge pass rusher Josh Allen and tackle Ed Oliver and plan use him, along with veteran Lavonte David, at inside linebacker in the system being installed by defensive coordinator Todd Bowles.

“Coach Todd told me getting you will be like getting a new shiny, pretty car and I’m going to use you and I’m going to drive you to the fullest,” White said. “I’m ready for it. I’ve been put in this situation for a reason. I’m ready to show everybody that I’m the guy for the middle of that defense.”

The Bucs are coming off a 5-11 finish that cost former coach Dirk Koetter his job and haven’t made the playoffs since 2007— the second-longest drought in the league.

White was the first linebacker selected Thursday night and the first Tampa Bay has taken in the first round since Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks was the 28th pick in 1995.

Improving the pass rush is a priority, which would have been one reason to opt for Allen, who had 17 sacks at Kentucky last season.

Licht said White, who converted to linebacker after being recruited to LSU as a running back, is an ideal fit for the Bucs, who lost another former LSU linebacker, Kwon Alexander, to the San Francisco 49ers in free agency this offseason.

“We talked about these guys over and over. We watched every play they’ve ever played in college. and we felt very comfortable that we made the right decision,” Licht said. “Devin’s a linebacker, but he’s also an attacking player, he’s a pressure-type linebacker. He can get to the quarterback as well.”

The GM also raved about White’s leadership qualities and versatility.

“You have linebackers that cover and don’t play the run that great. You have guys who can play the run who can’t cover that great,” Licht said. “He can do both exceptionally well, in addition to blitzing, which is an art itself.”

Licht is also banking on White having an immediate impact on a unit that finished 24th in total defense and allowed 29 points per game last season.

At best, Tampa Bay’s success in the draft has been spotty under Licht, who’s in his sixth year with the team.

Mike Evans (first-round, No. 6 overall in 2014) has developed into one of the NFL’s top receivers, Jameis Winston (No. 1 overall, 2015) still has a chance to prove he’s the team’s long-term solution at quarterback and tight end O.J. Howard (20th, 2017) is coming off a productive — albeit injured-shortened — first two seasons in an offense that ranked among the league’s best in 2018.

But the defense has continued to struggle under Licht’s watch, with Vernon Hargreaves III (cornerback, 11th overall 2016), Noah Spence (edge rusher, second round 2016) and M.J. Stewart and Carlton Davis (cornerbacks, second round 2018) among the young players who’ve yet to contribute significantly.

And that’s not to mention, Roberto Aguayo, the kicker the Bucs traded up to select in the second round three years ago. He was a major disappointment as a rookie and was released after just one season.

The selection of White comes a year after Tampa Bay invested heavily in free agency to revamp the defensive line, bolstered the pass rush by trading for Jason Pierre-Paul and drafted defensive tackle Vita Vea in the first round, No. 12 overall.

Arians and Licht still faces a decision on the future of six-time Pro Bowl tackle Gerald McCoy, who’s due to earn $13 million in 2019.

The 10th-year pro did not participate in this week’s voluntary mini-camp and unless he’s traded, released or agrees to a significant pay cut, his hefty salary will make it difficult to free enough money to sign the club’s draft picks.

Mike Alstott Jersey

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Isaiah Roque is one of the best players from the Houston, TX area in the Class of 2022.

The 5-foot, 131-pound Roque, who attends John H. Guyer High School, is a versatile player that works as a fullback, running back and linebacker.

Roque has played for the HAFL Summercreek Bulldogs white junior team (2014), HAFL Summercreek Bulldogs maroon junior team (2015), Humble War Eagles select (11u), HAFL Atascocita white senior team (2016) and Texas Footwork Elite 7on7 (14u).

During his outstanding youth football career, Roque already received plenty of recognition such as being selected to the HAFL Hit Squad All Star senior team in 2016.

Roque is humbled for the opportunities to showcase his skills against the best of the best.

“It has shown me how hard I’ve worked and my progress from when I first started to now, and how much I’ve improved,” Roque said. “It was challenging but fun competition to go against. Also I learned a lot.”

No matter the opponent, on each snap Roque is determined to give it his all.

Roque is going all out.

The motor is always at full throttle whenever Roque steps between the lines.

“At running back it’s to hit the hole hard or find another one if the main one is closed. Also to truck or juke the person in front of me and score. At fullback it’s to find the first person trying to tackle the running back and put them on their back,” Roque said. “At middle linebacker it’s to read the formation and try to figure out where the play is going. Also to stay in my zone and watch for the crossing routes on pass plays and find the ball and go to it on a run.”

Roque has great passion and energy whenever he’s on the gridiron. Roque tells why he enjoys the game of football so much.

“The thing I love most about playing the game of football is the contact and intensity,” Roque said. “I love to be able to express my emotions in a positive way.”

Roque has learned many valuable lessons from playing football that he applies to his everyday life.

The main one is applying perspective to all situations.

“Football has taught me so much about life,” Roque said. “Such as to keep pushing through the pain because there is always something better in the end.”

Roque recalls his favorite football memory.

“Having a great defensive game. I had three sacks in the first half along with many tackles also throughout the game. The offense was also doing great,” Roque said. “It is my favorite memory because it hyped the team up and gave everybody the confidence we needed to win the game.”

Texas Footwork founder Darren Hendricks has trained and coached Roque for the past two years.

Hendricks explains the best parts of Roque’s game.

“At fullback and running back he is very good at running precise routes. He’s always in the right place,” Hendricks said. “He was one of the most improved kids on my 7-on-7 team through catching the ball, getting faster. He never tried to do too much while still doing what the team needed.”

Roque takes his role as one of the leaders on the team very seriously. Roque makes sure he’s a daily positive influence on his peers.

“I encourage my teammates on and of the field. I tell them if I see something i think could help us with the next play or drive. I’ll sub out with anyone if they’re tired, it doesn’t matter their position. I do anything to help around,” Roque said. “I tell everyone don’t get too high or too down because the game can turn in one play.”

Hendricks adds that Roque is one of those consummate teammates that every squad needs to be successful.

“He celebrates with every kid through a high-five or a pat on the back,” Hendricks said. “He’s just one of those kids that enjoys the success of his teammates.”

Roque is appreciative of having amazing male role models that are supportive.

“My coaches have helped make me a better player and person,” Roque said. “Such as not everything is going to go the right way so get back up and keep going. To get back up and keep going when you get knocked down.”

Hendricks is an advocate of Roque’s capabilities.

“In the championship game against the Goon Squad, they threw it across the middle and he was where he was supposed to be,” Hendricks said. “They tipped the ball up and he had the presence of mind to grab the ball and run for the touchdown that ultimately won the game for us, which was our first tournament championship.”

In addition to making clutch plays, Roque also has a high level of football IQ as well.

Roque has excellent football awareness that puts him in position to thrive.

“Since his dad is a coach I know he studies the plays a lot and spends a lot of time off the field just trying to get to know the playbook,” Hendricks said. “He makes sure he does everything right because he’s a perfectionist. He’s one of those kids that you can depend on as a coach.”

Roque is on the grind to perfect and hone his craft in any way possible.

“He’s one of those kids that has an extreme amount of heart. He has great work ethic,” Hendricks said. “He’s the first one there in the weight room and the last one to leave. If you try to give him a lighter weight that most kids his age can do, he doesn’t want it. He wants to do what the high school kids do. He’s the kind of freshman that’s going to challenge a varsity kid for his position.”

Hendricks explains why he compares Roque to this player.

“He’s like Mike Alstott,” Hendricks said. “This kid, believe it or not, can squat probably around 320 pounds right now. He’s extremely strong and physical.”

Meanwhile, Roque patterns his play after these standouts.

“I look up to Ray lewis and Leonard Fournette,” Roque said. “I love the intensity they play with and they both hit hard.”

Roque is constantly striving for greatness in everything that he does.

“My goal on and off the field is to be a better person and player,” Roque said. “I want to make my family proud of me in all that I do.”

Before the pros, Roque dreams of being the next great Notre Dame Fighting Irish player.

“They produce the best players in the NFL and they have a great tradition,” Roque said. “I would love to be a part of their program.”

Roque lists history as his favorite subject in school.

“I like to learn about how people used to live and how different it is now,” Roque said.

Hendricks outlines the next areas of improvement for Roque.

“Just to continue to learn in different positions. Just continue to expand his knowledge at different positions,” Hendricks said. “Don’t just get tied down to the positions you play right now.”

Hendricks believes the sky is the limit as long as Roque continues to stay hungry.

“He can go to college and play for somebody,” Hendricks said. “He has all the natural ability in the world.”

Ronde Barber Jersey

Ronde Barber to set pace at RR

Starkey Speedway in Roanoke, a quarter-mile dirt track that was the site of several NASCAR races in the early years, closed in the mid-1960s, years before Ronde Barber was born.

While missing out on a dirt-track NASCAR race might seem a disappointment — or might not — Barber made do as an athlete. The Roanoke native received a football scholarship from the University of Virginia. He started three seasons at cornerback, graduated from the McIntire School of Commerce, was a third-round draft choice of Tampa Bay and played 16 years with the Buccaneers.

And Barber will scratch his NASCAR itch Saturday night at Richmond Raceway when he drives the pace car for the first few warm-up laps of the Toyota Owners 400.

He’ll buzz around the track at the speed of 45 miles per hour, which sounds like the perfect speed to him.

“I anticipate this being light lifting,” he said, laughing. “Nothing heavy, like throwing out the first pitch of a baseball game.”

Throwing the first pitch is harder than it looks, and many celebrities and athletes make it look pretty difficult and embarrassingly memorable.

While it’s possible to put the pace car into a wall, it’s not likely if a simple rule is followed: keep it on the road.

Barber, 44, said he has done pace car training. He also was taken around a track at something approaching race-day speed.

“I don’t think I ever went that fast going from Roanoke to Charlottesville,” Barber said, laughing.

He’s doing his 45-miles-per-hour Saturday in Richmond because Fox Sports, for whom he works as a game-day NFL analyst, asked if he was interested.

Fox will carry the race Saturday night, weather permitting.

Barber will begin his seventh season as a game analyst for Fox this fall. And if his playing career is any indication, he’s in it for the long haul.

Barber not only played 16 seasons in the NFL, he holds the record for most consecutive starts at cornerback in NFL history, 215. And he has the most consecutive starts as a defensive back in NFL history, 200.

“My last year, the Bucs moved me to safety,” Barber said. “But they started me in the first game that season [2012] at cornerback, so I could get to 200.”

Barber’s streak could have been 223. But during his third season, he didn’t start in the ninth game because of a hamstring injury. He did go into the contest, and has a streak of 224 consecutive games played.

That doesn’t happen by accident. Barber’s longevity, consistency and availability involved some luck and a great deal of preparation.

“The lucky part is avoiding getting caught up in a pile of players where something crazy happens,” Barber said. “But I definitely took care of myself.

“I saw three or four practitioners a week for massage, muscle activation, chiropractic work. It was a process. Over the course of a 17-, 18-, 19-week season, you have to put in a lot of work to take care of your body. It’s almost a 24-hour-a-day job, and I was willing to do that. It paid off.”

It was the NFL, though. From the first day of training camp to the last day of the season, pain, or at least discomfort, is involved.

“You don’t play that many games and not play hurt or play through something,” Barber said. “I just always found a way. I was not very keen on watching somebody else do my job.”

Barber also is lucky that finding a way to play doesn’t affect him now.

“I wake up feeling fine,” he said. “I’m active. I still try to stay in shape. I haven’t let myself go.”

Add that with 47 career interceptions, five Pro Bowl appearances, three NFL All-Pro first team selections, the only Tampa Bay player with at least 40 interceptions and 20 sacks in his career, plus a significant role in the Bucs’ victory over Oakland in Super Bowl XXXVII, and it could or should lead to a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Barber simply said, “I hope so.”

At the moment, he describes himself as one of the “giddily obnoxious” Virginia fans over the Cavaliers’ national championship in men’s basketball.

“It’s almost like it was destined to happen,” he said.

Barber, whose twin brother Tiki was a star running back at Virginia, played 10 seasons in the NFL with the New York Giants and gained 10,449 yards rushing, also is heartened by the recent performance of the Virginia football program.

“I see progress,” he said. “Bronco [Mendenhall] has a plan. You can see he’s committed to what he’s doing. He’s got what he wants in a quarterback [Bryce Perkins]: someone he can trust to make plays and who gives him a chance to win.”

Every year, Barber progresses as an analyst for Fox. He puts in the time, studies film of NFL players and just as he did during his playing career, shows up and gets the job done on Sundays.

Now, if he can keep that pace car in the road Saturday night, he’ll be giddy about one more thing.

Demar Dotson Jersey

TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have lost two members of their starting offensive line — center Ali Marpet and right tackle Demar Dotson — as both will be placed on injured reserve.

Marpet left Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons with a knee injury after getting rolled up on and did not return.

Dotson also suffered a knee injury but did return to the Sunday’s game. He told ESPN on Wednesday that he tore his posterior cruciate ligament.

“As far as Ali goes, I think he played his best football the last two weeks of the season,” Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said. “As far as Demar Dotson goes, I think Dot — in my three seasons here — had his best season overall. I think Dot was holding down the right tackle spot well, especially in pass protection. It’s disappointing that you take two guys that are playing well on a team that needs more consistent play and they are out, but that is the worst part of this game and something that is uncontrollable [are] injuries.

“To my knowledge, those are both in the six-to-eight-week category injuries that would not require surgery. I am not a doctor, but that is what I’ve been led to believe.”


Buccaneers offensive linemen Demar Dotson and Ali Marpet are both heading to the injured reserve with knee injuries. Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire

Sunday’s injuries depleted a Tampa Bay offensive line that was already missing left guard Evan Smith due to a concussion.

The Buccaneers are now in a challenging situation because starting quarterback Jameis Winston was cleared Monday to resume throwing after suffering a sprained AC joint in his throwing shoulder — an injury that forced him to miss three games.

The expectation was that, if all went according to plan, Winston would start this week against the Green Bay Packers. But his injury, the result of a hard hit from Chandler Jones in Week 6, could be worsened by a hard blow.

The Bucs have promoted tight end Alan Cross, defensive end Patrick O’Connor and as previously reported by ESPN, wide receiver Jesus “Bobo” Wilson from the practice squad, and signed cornerback Deji Olatoye to the active roster. The Bucs also waived veteran tight end Luke Stocker and defensive end Darryl Tapp on Tuesday.

Bryan Anger Jersey

Buccaneers punter Bryan Anger had a fantastic game in his team’s win 26-24 win over the Giants on Sunday. Anger punted four times for an average of 49.8 yards, including two gems—he had a 53-yarder downed at the 3-yard line and a 62-yard boomer downed at the 11.

The NFL took notice of this performance and apparently wanted to make sure no funny business was going on. So, the league did what leagues tend to do when this sort of thing happens: they drug tested Anger the morning after the game.

As mentioned previously, this isn’t all that uncommon in professional sports. Pat McAfee, the former Colts punter-turned-Barstool Sports radio host whose tweet is embedded above, was himself “randomly” tested in 2013 after he delivered a crushing hit on then-Bronco Trindon Holiday.

It appears the NFL is watching for off-the-field activity that might suggest drug use, as well. Last year, McAfee was tested after he tweeted a fire emoji on 4/20.

This isn’t just limited to football, either. Milwaukee Brewers slugger Eric Thames hit 11 homers in his first 24 games of the season after spending three years playing in Japan. That raised suspicions—perhaps rightfully so, as there is, er, a history of steroid use in baseball—to the point that Thames was tested four times before he hit his 12th homer. And after he hit the 12th, you best believe he was tested yet again.

I don’t have an issue with testing someone who’s playing extremely well, particularly if the performance is uncharacteristic. Like, if a guy isn’t that good then hits 11 homers in the first month of the season (like Thames), those are the guys the leagues should be testing. Let’s just not pretend these tests are “random.”

Chris Conte Jersey

LOREN ELLIOTT | Times Tampa Bay Buccaneers strong safety Chris Conte (23) celebrates after returning an interception for a touchdown during the first half of a game between the Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., on Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016.

At some point — and this is as hard a sell as hard sells get, I know — Twitter was good. It might’ve been, like, two weeks in 2009, but for some amount of time, it wasn’t an online Hell World, populated solely by ghouls, morons and dead-eyed media jackals.

That’s no longer the case. The morons have free run of the place, and they will until the blessed day the site boards up for good. Hopefully, it’s soon. Hopefully, it’s very soon.

For the time being, we still catch glimpses of Good Twitter in ephemeral morsels. They’re blips on a radar screen, but they count nonetheless. On Monday, for whatever portion of the population watches “Monday Night Football,” that happened. Vance McDonald stiff-armed Chris Conte to the Crossroads, and people enjoyed themselves for a little.

This made McDonald, the Steelers’ very-good-when-healthy-but-rarely-thus tight end, happy.

A few hours before, after the Steelers’ 30-27 win over Conte and the Buccaneers, McDonald was less charitable and much more funny.

“Just punish him. Inflict as much force on him as possible,” he told reporters. “It’s simple. Just crush him. That’s what I was looking for.”

Indeed. With that, imagine McDonald on the team plane headed home, looking through his phone and finding stuff like this.

Now, the ol’ “Wikipedia page edit” trick is as old as it gets. It’s an online roast standard. Seeing someone’s page locked as a result is a little more rare, though, so points are due.

Another semi-regular occurrence: Nashville TV reporter Chris Conte catching shrapnel after football Chris Conte’s yearly humiliation. TV Conte has fun with it …

Ryan Smith Jersey

Buccaneers cornerback Ryan Smith didn’t see a whole lot of playing time as a rookie in 2016 and notched only a single tackle in that season. The former fourth-round pick started off last year coming off the bench, but he came on strong enough that after former first-round pick Vernon Hargreaves continued his struggles as an outside corner, the Bucs decided to move Hargreaves inside to nickel and name Smith the starter in his place on the outside.

Smith went on to start 10 out of 15 games (the Bucs’ first game of the season was cancelled due to a hurricane) and racked up 62 tackles to go along with five passes defensed and two forced fumbles. That was a nice little bounce-back season, but I think he still has plenty of room to grow this year.
What Smith did really well last year was tackle.

Whether against the run, or when he had to take a guy down out in space, Smith came in under control with his feet underneath him, then exploded out of his hips and wrapped up his opponents. And he never seemed to hesitate no matter how big or small the guy with the ball was. Smith threw his body around with reckless abandon to get them on the ground, regardless.

He also appeared to have a really good grasp of where he was supposed to fit in the grand scheme of the defense. When he had to come up and play the run, he made sure to be in the right lane in relationship to his help. When he was dropping in coverage, he always seemed to keep his eyes in the right place, and he was rarely caught out of position. There is a lot to be said for a guy who doesn’t beat himself, one who consistently puts himself in position for success — and that describes Smith’s film to a T.
Where I believe he will really break out this year is in the interception and pass breakups department.

One of the things I hate about the Bucs’ coverage scheme under Mike Smith is how often the cornerbacks have to play off coverage. It’s one of the main reasons I think Hargreaves struggled on the outside in the first place: He was used to being more aggressive in challenging receivers at the line and trying to go after the football. Hargreaves looks like a brand new dude inside at the nickel position because he can play at the line of scrimmage a lot more when covering the slot receiver.

But, I digress …

But, I digress …

On the other hand, I will concede that when you have corners who are comfortable playing off a lot, there are opportunities to make plays on short passes because they can see everything coming. Being comfortable means they don’t bail out of there every time on the snap of the football. They have a feel for the route combinations they are about to see, and that allows them to pounce on short passes at times and make some big plays.

Having that kind of confidence and technique playing off coverage usually takes time, however, because nobody wants to end up on SportsCenter for getting Moss’d. And if you get caught flat-footed on a slant-and-go or any variation of that route, that’s exactly what would happen.
Smith seemed to be very concerned about ending up on the Not Top 10 list last season, even in off coverage.

He made sure to stay over the top of his guy in coverage, which was good when it came to protecting against deep balls, but pretty lame when it came to taking calculated risks to try to make big plays rather than just settling for tackles.

To his credit, after a pass was thrown to his man short, Smith was really good about sticking his foot in the ground and hauling ass and unloading on the receiver in an effort to dislodge the ball before it was secured. In fact, that’s how he got several of those five breakups last season. But waiting to break until after the ball has already been thrown isn’t likely to result in many pass breakups, let alone interceptions.

Now after almost a full season as the starter, Smith should be ready to start taking a few more chances. I believe that Smith will start to trust his own instincts more, especially because he showed he had enough speed to run downfield with most NFL wide receivers.

Last year, Smith proved he has the talent to be a starting corner in this league. This year, I think he will show that he can be a good starting corner in this league. And it starts with creating more turnovers and getting his hands on more footballs. I believe when it’s all said and done, Ryan Smith will lead the Bucs in interceptions this season.

Peyton Barber Jersey

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Bucs re-signed RB Peyton Barber to a one-year, $2.125 million contract.

A restricted free agent, Barber was not tendered but received a contract worth slightly more than the original-pick designation. The Bucs’ ho-hum starter last year, Barber managed 3.7 yards per carry with only 20 catches. He would be better off as Tampa Bay’s top backup in 2019.

Peyton Barber rushed 15 times for 66 yards and caught his lone target for a gain of two in Tampa Bay’s Week 17 loss to Atlanta.

Starting all 16 games, Barber managed 963 total yards with six touchdowns, holding off second-round disappointment Ronald Jones for primary back work but losing passing-down opportunities to Jacquizz Rodgers. Barber has fallen below 4.0 yards per carry in back-to-back years. An impending restricted free agent, Barber should have to compete to keep his starting job in 2019.

Peyton Barber rushed 17 times for 43 yards in the Bucs’ Week 16 loss to the Cowboys.

He caught all three of his targets for 13 yards and had several other touches called back on penalties. Barber is about as useless as they come if he doesn’t score touchdowns because he cannot break any big plays. Finding a playmaker running back should be a top order of business for the Bucs in the offseason if they have decided second-round rookie Ronald Jones is not the answer. Barber will round out 2018 with the Falcons in Week 17.