That group showed progress in last Saturday's follow-up against Miami, if not necessarily a quantum leap, with second-year player
"Pat and Oniel, they're doing a good job," said Dietrich-Smith. "They've been earning their reps. Obviously, [the coaches] are giving them to them. We'll see how it goes this week. I'm expecting to see improvement from us as a front. By the time this game comes around, you should be seeing more of what we are as blockers."
The Bucs are still working to determine their best options at the two guard spots, and since those positions flank Dietrich-Smith on either side, those are very important decisions for him. Just getting a chance to work with the same group several weeks in a row is helpful.
“I think we’re taking steps in the right direction, that’s for sure," he said. "Having some consistency with the guys being next to me is definitely starting to help because we can start learning how to communicate with each other nonverbally, not always having to make lengthy calls. You kind of just say one word and the guy just knows what you mean, just little nuances where you’re not always having to talk so much at the line. Everything is a little more nonverbal and you’re not tipping your hand. Defenses aren’t going to be able to pick up on your calls and those kinds of things.
C Evan Dietrich-Smith has seen good things from starting guard candidates Patrick Omameh and Oniel Cousins
"The consistency of knowing who was going to be there and they’re going to be there day-in and day-out for you, that’s going to help with the process.”
* The Buccaneers released WR Lavelle Hawkins on Wednesday morning, and they had an idea of who they wanted to get to fill his roster spot. They just had to wait for the results of the waiver wire to come down from the league office at 4:00 p.m.
Tampa Bay had put in a claim on first-year offensive tackle Edawn Coughman, who had been waived by Buffalo on Tuesday. That claim was successful, which means Coughman should join the Buccaneers on the practice field on Thursday.
The 6-4, 313-pound Coughman played two seasons of college football at Shaw University in Raleigh North Carolina before signing with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League in 2011. He then broke into the NFL as a free agent with the Seattle Seahawks in 2012, spent the 2013 season on the Dallas Cowboys' practice squad and was signed by the Buffalo Bills early in 2014.
The Buccaneers needed a little extra depth to share reps throughout the week at offensive tackle, with undrafted rookies
Click here to WATCH the Bucs vs. Bills Game LIVE Online via NFL Pre-Season LIVE!
* The NFL announced two rule changes regarding the practice squad on Tuesday, expanding each team's allowed number of players from eight to 10 and creating two spots that can be used on players with up to two seasons of accrued free agency credit. Theoretically, those two spots could be filled by a player who had seen action in as many as 32 NFL games over two years.
It should come as no surprise that Lovie Smith was pleased by that announcement, as were his peers in the coaching profession. Players have to like the creation of 64 more jobs during the regular season around the league, and coaches are always eager to keep as many talented prospects as possible in the fold.
“That’s an easy one: a coach getting more players," said Smith. "I think it’s a great thing. They add more players. There’s a lot of young players that just aren’t ready for whatever reason. So I’d say it’s universal in all the coaches of course loving that decision to add two more football players to our squad. And we have a good group of young players. You can’t keep everyone. There are a lot of players that deserve to stay in the league, and as many as we can keep in the league and continue to develop, it’s a good thing for our game.”
While the expansion from eight to 10 players will keep more players around in total, the second rule change could very well affect which players the Buccaneers keep, even on the 53-man roster. The opportunity to keep some more experienced veterans on hand will likely play into how team's address depth at certain positions on the regular-season depth chart.
“It affects a couple of our players," said Smith. "A couple that come to mind. As much as adding two football players, the requirement on how and who all can stay does affect [my decisions]. Our roster, in my mind, has probably changed just based on that decision.”
For instance, the elimination a few years ago of the "inactive third quarterback" spot on game day prompted many teams to stop keeping a third passer on the active roster. Teams who carried just two QBs among their active 53 would then carry a third one on the practice squad, largely to run the scout teams in practice but also to develop for the long term. Due to practice squad restrictions, those third quarterbacks were usually young players with very little regular-season experience, such as Jordan Rodgers, who was on the Bucs' practice squad for most of last season.
Now that quarterback could be a player with a little more NFL seasoning. As an example, the Buccaneers are carrying four quarterbacks during the preseason, led by the likely regular-season duo of
“I’ve seen good play from Michael," he said. "But the dominating play that I feel like we’re going to get? No we haven’t seen that. But we haven’t seen that from any guys on our football team.
Two other Buccaneer defenders who have shown promise this spring and summer are having a hard time solidifying their spots on the 53-man roster because injuries are keeping them from the field, in practice and/or in games. Defensive end
“I think every day you don’t practice you’re hurting your chances," said Smith. "We’ve seen enough to like Da’Quan a lot, but the reps that he’s not getting, someone else is getting them. The best way to beat your competition sometimes it’s just to stay on the field. You can’t get Wally Pipped. Da’Quan is trying to get back and again I think he has a future in the league whether it be as a defensive end outside or a more of a third down rush-guy inside.
“Melvin has shown us enough to like him a lot, good size. I would say that he’s a tough guy, he will tackle, he’s got good size…but again there’s a lot of guys like that on the sideline. He has to figure out a way to stay on the field and right now he’s losing that battle.”