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Tampa Bay Bucs to face Jaguars without Doug Martin tonight

One of the key elements to the Tampa Bay Bucs won’t make an appearance in tonight’s preseason game.

The Bucs will hold out running back Doug Martin, who has sore ribs, as a precautionary measure against the Jacksonville Jaguars when the teams meet tonight at 7:30 p.m.

Martin figured to be a central figure for both teams. Last season, in a 38-31 victory, Martin ran for 123 yards against the Jags. But in the Bucs’ preseason opener against Philadelphia, the Bucs ran only for 31 yards on 21 carries. Establishing Martin seem to be a key factor for the Bucs; stopping him seemed to be vital for the Jags.

Without him, the Bucs may have to rely more on the passing of quarterback Jameis Winston, who was seven-of-nine throwing against the Eagles.

The Jags, meanwhile, while try to establish free agent Chris Ivory. In last year’s game, Jacksonville ran for only 55 yards, and 21 of those were by Blake Bortles.

There are clear goals for the Bucs in the game. They had five turnovers last week, they had seven dropped passes and 10 penalties. The Jags lost, too, but only after their first team staked them to a 10-0 lead.

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FSU fans should pay attention to Bucs-Jags preseason game

Now, this is an NFL game made for Jimbo Fisher.

Just imagine Fisher, the FSU football coach, kicking of his shoes and turning up the volume. Imagine him taking a break from the films for once. Imagine him making popcorn.

Here it is, the football version of All My Children.

Playing there for the Bucs is Jameis Winston, the former Heisman winner. He was the No. 1 draft pick and had a great rookie season.

Playing over there for the Jags is Jalen Ramsey, the former defensive back who is off to great reviews in Jacksonville.

Playing with Ramsey is linebacker Telvin Smith and receiver Rashan Greene.

Playing with Winston is kicker Roberto Aguayo.

Shoot, Fisher might get so excited he throws a flaming spear into the carpet.

All five of the players started for FSU during the national title run after the 2013 regular season. Of course, there are others. Carolina has Kelvin Benjamin and the Raiders have Mario Edwards and the Ravens have Timmy Jernigan. Success has scattered other FSU players across the NFL.

But for a night, five of them will reunite. Fisher should be proud.

Winston told ESPN he is looking forward to going against Smith.

“That’s what I love, and that’s why I’m really excited, just to be playing against him,” Winston said. “Just to get that feeling back, because I know he’s very passionate and I know he’s going to bring it and he’s not going to take any plays off.”

Ramsey, on the other hand, has talked up Winston.

“Jameis always gets me better,” said Ramsey, who was selected fifth overall by the Jags in this year’s NFL draft. “I love going against Jameis. He made me a better player my two years in college with him, and today was good work with him as well.”

They play against each other Saturday night. Fisher should be paying attention.

After that, he has a lot of new players to get ready to be pros.

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Bucs’ offense more crisp in second workout vs. Jags

Tampa Bay Bucs coach Dirk Koetter was happier with his team’s second day of practice against the Jacksonville Jags.

Koetter had thought his team lacked energy in the first day of practice against the Jags, but picked it up on Thursday.

“I thought we got really good work,” Koetter said. “Now again, I’m only seeing one field until we watch the tape. It was good. That was really good two-minute work, where we got four drives, two on each side. I thought our team had a much crisper approach than we did yesterday, so I’m pleased with that.”

Koetter was especially pleased with his team’s two-minute drills against Jacksonville.

“All I saw was those two two-minute drives, and we got two stops there in two minutes,” Koetter said. “The best pass coverage is a good pass-rush, and you see we had a little juice on that pass-rush with the four-man rush. That helps your pass coverage. It was good. Our defense continues to build confidence. And I’m happy to see our first offense go down and get a score.”

Koetter said quarterback Jameis Winston benefitted from the practices against the Jags.

“Well, competition against different looks is always good,” Koetter said. “Jameis going against some of his old Florida State guys, they get a little healthy competition going there. That linebacker they have, [Telvin] Smith, they were talking a lot today back and forth.”

Koetter didn’t talk to his offensive players about Wednesday’s problems.

“I really didn’t have to,” Koetter said. “The players knew. When they watched the tape, they knew. Those guys did a good job. Offensively, they knew that wasn’t our best effort or the right kind of effort, and so it was much better today.”

Koetter said tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins had a good practice.

“He got a lot of balls thrown his way. Any of the skill guys, the receivers and tight ends, sometimes (it’s) luck of the draw; they just don’t get very many balls that day. Austin got a lot of balls thrown his way. We actually held Cam (Brate) out of some reps today just [because] we wanted to give some other guys a chance to get some catches, and Austin had a good day. Probably had his best day of camp.”

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Bucs sluggish in first practice against Jacksonville Jaguars

Playing against a different team was supposed to make the Tampa Bay Bucs energized Wednesday.

It had the opposite effect.

The Bucs were sluggish, according to head coach Dirk Koetter, in their first practice against the Jacksonville Jags. The teams practice against each other again today before playing in Saturday night’s exhibition game.

“I thought offensively, we were a little bit sluggish,” Koetter said. “But maybe that’s due to Jacksonville playing good on defense. I’ll know when I watch the tape. I just didn’t think we had much juice today on offense. It happens.”

Koetter wouldn’t guess as to a reason.

“Well, anything I say on that would be like we’re making excuses,” Koetter said. “The bottom line is, I just didn’t think we were as crisp on offense as we have been in our own practices. But, again, it’s a different environment, so it was a good experience for us.”

It was in Jacksonville, in 2007, that Koetter first met coach Mike Smith.

“We had quite a year that year in 2007,” Koetter said. “I was in the press box with Mike that year, and I saw the best defensive coordinator that I’d seen. Now, it was my first year in the NFL, so all I had seen was college guys. But I saw a defensive coordinator who was a great teacher and an extremely hard worker and always had his guys ready to play.”

Koetter said the goals for the Bucs’ defense to get better are easy.

“We’ve got to create more turnovers,” he said. “We’ve got to get off the field on third down, and we’ve got to cut our penalties.”

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Bucs sign tackle Demar Dotson to a contract extension

Demar Dotson is a rich man. But he remembers the journey that got him here.

Dotson, a former basketball player at Southern Miss, did not play football in Pop Warner, or junior high, or high school. He played one year for South Miss, but that was on the defensive line. He was an undrafted free agent who caught on with the Tampa Bay Bucs.

“Everything I have in life, I work for it,” Dotson said. “I came in as a rookie and didn’t even have a pair of shoes and a pair of cleats to come out here. I had to work myself up, and I think that’s just what God made me. A guy that just [has to] always stay humble because maybe if I get things too easy, I’ll get unhumbled. So I think that just having things come hard, it keeps me humbled every day, it keeps me on my knees and it keeps me grateful.”

Dotson is the longest-tenured Bucs’ player. NFL.com said he received $6-million a year.

In 2012, Dotson started 15 games and was part of an offensive line that tied for the third-fewest sacks allowed in the NFL (26), while helping pave the way for rookie running back Doug Martin’s 1,454 rushing yards – the second-most in a single season in franchise history. From 2012-14, Dotson started 47 consecutive games, helping anchor the offensive line.

 “Individually, (the goal for) me is to go out there and be the best right tackle I can be,”  said Dotson, 30. “I believe that I can be the best right tackle in this game, and I think collectively as a unit we just (have) to buy into what (offensive line coach] George [Warhop] is teaching us and go out there and put it on the field. I think that, as a coach, in Warhop, we’ve got a guy with so much great experience and he’s a great teacher of this game.

“So I think that [if] we buy in and do what he tells us to do, I think as a collective unit we can be better. You see what those guys did last year, and those guys went out there and they fought. And I’m sitting on the sideline like, ‘Man, I wish I was out there with them.’”

Dotson missed most of 2015 with an injury, but head coach Dirk Koetter has called him the team’s best lineman.

“It is a little chip on my shoulder because I know that everything you get you’ve got to prove, and if you want it you’ve got to go out there and get it,” Dotson said. “I started to realize I know this thing didn’t come easy, so I’m determined. Even though I got it, it’s no backing off, it makes me want to go harder because I feel that if a team is willing to invest in you and show you some, I call it love, then it’s my job to go out there and give it back to them. So with them willing to invest in me like that, I know one thing, they’re going to get my best.”

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Quarterback Jameis Winston thinks the Bucs ‘did ok’ on offense

Perhaps the problem here are expectations.

Two days after the Tampa Bay Bucs opened their preseaon schedule with nine points, five turnovers, seven drops, 10 penalties and 31 yards rushing against the Philadelphia Eagles, quarterback Jameis Winston said he thought the Bucs “did okay” in their first effort.

Is this the part where we say “congratulations.”

To give Winston credit, he did say the team has to play better in the games to come.

“We had a good game plan together,” Winston said. “And we just went with it, we just went with the flow. Typically, you try to be vanilla, but we just wanted to see how we would do against another defense instead of playing against our guys. And in my eyes, we did okay. But for future reference, we want to be way better than what we did, we want to be more consistent.”

To be fair, Winston did hit seven of nine passes and led the team on a scoring drive. On the other hand, his fumble set up an Eagles’ touchdown.

“I just dropped the ball,” Winston said. “I was actually getting ready to throw it, and he just batted it down. Great play. That guy (defensive tackle Fletcher Cox) is a hundred-million dollar man. Just got to hit my check-down and be a little bit more decisive and get it to Doug Martin.”

Winston conceded that four offensive turnovers (plus one on special teams) were too many to overcome.

“We’ll never be where we should be because like I said, we’ll never arrive,” Winston said. “Our objective is always to get better, but if you look at the box scores, our offense did a good job. It’s just really hard to win games with four turnovers, especially with my fumble being inside the 10 (yard line). You look at the whole game, the two turnovers that we had on their side of the field, if they don’t get those turnovers inside their own 10-yard line they, don’t score.”

 Winston has said that the Bucs have to develop a mentality that they have to hate losing.

“I’m not talking about individual players, I’m talking about a mentality,” Winston said. “I would never call out my teammates and say guys need to start hating to lose. It’s a mentality that you’ve got to have, and it’s an easy choice. It’s a choice; you’ve got to want to win. As a team, we have to make that choice together. I’m not saying just because I want to win doesn’t mean that someone else wants to win, I’m saying all of us have to be together and be on the same page because if we’re on the same page and we have the same common goal, the same focus, we’re going to win a lot of football games.”

The Bucs play in Jacksonville Saturday night.

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After further review, Bucs still weren’t good enough

Dirk Koetter can live with the plays where the Eagles beat his Tampa Bay Bucs.

He has a little more problem with the plays where the Bucs beat the Bucs.

Tampa Bay lost its first preseason game to Philadelphia, 17-9, fumbling deep inside its 20 twice in the first five minutes to gift-wrap touchdowns to the Eagles. The Bucs struggled protecting the ball, avoiding penalties, holding onto passes and converting third down.

“Before you start winning games, you’ve got to stop losing them,” Koetter said. “And in two of the three phases last night we beat ourselves. And that’s taking nothing away from Philly — they did what they did — I’m coaching this team not that team. Defensively, [we] played good enough to win. [The] other two phases, we beat ourselves. It starts off with turnovers — five turnovers, four on offense, one on special teams — and penalties and lack of execution, lack of precision and detail more than anything else on offense. And I know we have it in us because I’ve seen it, I’ve seen it in practice. We had a little flash of it in that third drive, but that’s pretty much it.

“As a team, and right now our team is 90 guys, eventually it’s going to be 53 guys, bottom line is we have to get better, we have to practice winning. And that’s what that whole compete theme is all about, our guys have been doing a pretty good job. Right now in that game last night our defense did a lot better job than the rest of our team.”

The Bucs’ defense played good enough, Koetter said.

“When you look at our defensive goal chart, our defensive drive chart, our defense nailed it,” Koetter said. “(Held) the team to under 200 yards on offense, [gave] up 17 points in an NFL game. Under 200 yards and 17 points, you’re going to win most of those games. We were just so poor on turnovers on the other side of the ball and put them in such horrendous field position that we put our defense in. But you look at the drive chart on the game and you’d take that every week.”

Koetter didn’t seem particularly concerned that the Bucs’ ran for only 31 yards on only 21 attempts.

“I think you can disagree all you want, but we’ve been pretty good at running the football,” Koetter said. “I think we have a pretty good grasp on what it takes to run the ball. We have two really good backs, one of which didn’t play last night. Take this for what it’s worth: To be a successful run team you need to repeat runs and you need to keep feeding your ball carrier the football and we did neither of those last night because we’re rotating too many guys. The ones played 16 plays and Doug (Martin) had not many carries. We’re wanting to run certain plays to work on certain schemes, but you’re not repeating them. If a run’s going, we might call the same run four or five times in a game. I don’t think we called any runs last night more than twice in the game.

“We weren’t productive, the other thing is Philly played a lot of eight-man box on us and when you really look at the tape, on the interior of the line we blocked them okay and in an eight-man spacing defense they force you to cut it back to the unblocked player. And their unblocked player made the tackle almost every time. Again I would say that if we had Doug and [running back] Chuck [Charles Sims] in there every time, Doug and Chuck have shown that they’re either going to break that tackle or make that guy miss. But Philly did a nice job, they were challenging us more to throw the ball. And there’s tricks where we can run the ball more efficiently against an eight-man front, but those weren’t things that we were going to work on last night.”

Koetter liked what he saw from backup receivers Russell Sheppard and Donteea Dye.

“We had seven drops last night,” Koetter said. “We can’t drop the ball seven times. You’re just not going to win games like that. That’s a little bit further down than four turnovers, but it still happened. As far as the wide receivers, in particular, I thought two guys stepped up and showed that they’re in the mix and that’s Shepard and Dye.”

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Bucs start off preseason schedule with sloppy loss to Eagles

It’s only preseason. Repeat that to yourself a few hundred times.

It doesn’t count. It’s just practice. It’s pretend football.

Got it?

The Bucs opened their preseason play Thursday night in the worst possible way, giving up a touchdown on a turnover inside a minute, then doing it again inside of five minutes in a 17-9 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

“Not how I drew it up,” said coach Dirk Koetter.

Yeah, yeah. It doesn’t count. But if you were hoping the Bucs would open their preseason looking like a team that had made great progress from last year’s 6-10 record, well, you’ll have to wait for another week.

Pretty much, this is how it went:

Worst start: Five seconds into the game, returner Kenny Bell fumbled the opening kickoff. The Eagles recovered, and three plays later, Ryan Matthews ran it in from the five.

Whoops, they did it again: On the Bucs’ second possession, quarterback Jameis Winston had the ball knocked away by Fletcher Cox, who recovered on the 12. Chase Daniels ran this one in for a 14-0 lead. In all, the Bucs had five turnovers in the game.

Best Hope: After his fumble, quarterback Jameis Winston actually played fairly well. He hit seven-of-nine passes for 97 yards, a rating of 148.6. He hit wide receiver Russell Sheppard with a 26-yard touchdown.

Running on Empty: The Bucs simply couldn’t run the ball against the Eagles. They ran it 21 times for 31 yards. Newly rich running back Doug Martin carried it five times for 13 yards, and six of those came on his first run.

Rough start: Roberto Aguayo (yes, he was drafted in the second round) hit the upright on his first NFL extra point. He did hit a 38-yard field goal later.

Best unit: The Bucs’ regular rotation had four sacks in the first half. “It would be hard to find fault with them,” said Koetter.

Déjà Vu: The Bucs, one of the most penalized teams in the NFL last year, were called 10 times for 92 yards.

Third and nowhere: The Bucs were three of 14 on third down.

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Bucs debut under Dirk Koetter, but the play matters more than the score

It is, of course, the biggest game of Dirk Koetter’s life. And we’ll all forget it in a matter of hours.

When Koetter leads his Tampa Bay Bucs onto the field against Philadelphia Thursday night, it will be notable because it’s Koetter’s first game. Just that.

Oh, you want to see the Bucs have more good plays than bad. You want certain individuals to shine. You want your team to win, because that’s always preferable to the alternative.

But, really, as you judge Koetter, this is what you want to see.

You want to see efficiency, especially in the end zone.

You want to see discipline, especially when it comes to penalties.

You want to see crispness, especially when it comes to play-calling.

You want the team to run well. You want to see a big pass or three. You want to see a pass rush. You want to see cornerbacks actually in the picture when the Eagles throw to their receivers.

But the final score? That isn’t going to be remembered very long.

Remember 1976? John McKay lost 13-7 to the Dolphins. But he went 2-4 in the preseason. The regular season wasn’t as good. He went 0-14.

Remember 1985? Leeman Bennett lost 42-27 to Pittsburgh on his way to a 1-3 preseason. And a 2-14 regular season.

In 1987, Ray Perkins lost 31-30 to Cincinnati, then won his next two games. He went 4-11 during the season.

In 1991, Richard Williamson’s team beat Cleveland 23-10 and went 3-1 in the preseason. He went 3-13, however.

A year later, Sam Wyche lost to Denver 31-10 on the way to a 1-3 preseason. In the regular season, his team went 5-11.

In 1996, Tony Dungy lost 13-10 to the Dolphins and went 1-3 in the preseason. He went 6-10 in the regular season.

In 2002, Jon Gruden beat Miami 14-10 in a 3-1 preseason. The Bucs went 12-4 and won the Super Bowl in his first year.

In 2009, Raheem Morris lost to Tennessee 27-20 in a 1-3 preseason. His first team went 3-13.

In 2012, Greg Schiano beat Miami 20-7 in a 2-2 preseason. His first team was 7-9.

In 2014, Lovie Smith lost 16-10 to Jacksonville in a 1-3 preseason. The Bucs were 2-14 in the regular season.

No one remembers any of them. Like most preseason games, the play — or lack of it — is far more important than the result. Remember, all that matters in preseason is that the tickets are full priced.

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Bucs have to improve in red zone to get better as a team

This is where it begins, in the shadow of the opponent’s goalposts.

On first down-and-opportunity. With the cannons firing. With hope in the air.

With the Tampa Bay Bucs, trying once again to stop treating the red zone like the dead zone.

The Bucs had a sprightly little offense a year ago, with Jameis Winston throwing for more than 4,000 and Doug Martin running for more than 1,400 and Mike Evans catching passes for more than 1,200. In all, the Bucs gained more yardage than all  but  four other NFL teams.

But not in the red zone. In the red zone, the Bucs were only the 22nd-best team in the league. Translation: Too many field goals, not enough touchdowns.

And this year? This year, the Bucs have to be better.

Bad news: In Tuesday’s practice, Tampa Bay was 0-for-9 in the end zone.

“My impression was the defense kicked butt,” coach Dirk Koetter said. “The offense was 0-for-9 inside the 10; that’s a great job by our defense.”

Okay, okay. That’s the problem with scrimmaging. Every time you feel good about one aspect (“Yay, the defense played great.”) there is another side of the ball to consider. (“Ouch. The sky is falling.”)

“Our defense did a great job today,” said tackle Demar Dotson. “We went 0-for-9, and they just had the better day today. We have to come out here and the next time we get the opportunity, we’ve got to do better. We’re not going to harp on it, we are just going to watch the film and get better at it.”

If there is a bright spot, the Bucs play the Eagles Thursday. Philadelphia was 31st in the league in red-zone defense last year (one spot ahead of the Bucs).

For Tampa Bay, however, the challenge is clear. Conquer the red zone. It leads to the end zone.

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