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Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Koetter: 'Hard Knocks' star Bullough caught in numbers game

Bucs rookie linebacker Riley Bullough is battling for the final spot on Tampa Bay's 53-man roster.

LOREN ELLIOTT | TIMES

Bucs rookie linebacker Riley Bullough is battling for the final spot on Tampa Bay's 53-man roster.

Bucs undrafted rookie linebacker Riley Bullough is perhaps the surprise star of HBO's "Hard Knocks" and has been productive in two preseason games, but Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said Tuesday that he's caught in a numbers game competing for a backup spot on the Tampa Bay roster.

The Bucs are likely to keep five linebackers on their 53-man roster, and Lavonte David, Kwon Alexander and rookie Kendell Beckwith have three of those locked up, with returning players Adarius Glanton and Cameron Lynch competing with second-year pro Devante Bond and rookies for the last spots.

"It's a numbers game everywhere," Koetter said. "Riley's doing fine. He's an excellent communicator, a tough guy, good in the run game. It's going to come down to numbers. We can't just say we have 10 linebackers we want to keep. It has to add up to 53, and you have to have two-deep in a game when you only have 46. Riley's doing fine. He's improving. When he's out there, he makes plays. He's fighting a numbers battle." …

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Snap count: Bucs bring back Andrew DePaola to compete

Bucs long-snapper Andrew DePaola, who was signed back on roster Tuesday, is helped off the field after suffering a knee injury during last year's season finale against Carolina.

LOREN ELLIOTT | TIMES

Bucs long-snapper Andrew DePaola, who was signed back on roster Tuesday, is helped off the field after suffering a knee injury during last year's season finale against Carolina.

Just 12 days before the NFL makes its final cuts, the Bucs have added another position battle, signing back long-snapper Andrew DePaola to compete with veteran Garrison Sanborn.

DePaola, 30, has been the Bucs' snapper for the past three years, and is making an impressive recovery from the torn ACL he suffered in last year's season finale against Carolina in January. Sanborn, who had been the Bills' snapper for eight seasons, has had the position to himself for the offseason and in the first two preseason games.

"DePo played really well for us last year," coach Dirk Koetter said. "He had a very unfortunate injury at the end of the season. He played so well for us, Jason (Licht) kind of had it in the back of his mind all long that if DePo made it back before the season, we'd like to bring him in here and take a look at him and see where he's at. Today's just the first day of that ... we'll see what it looks like."

To make room for DePaola, the Bucs waived-injured cornerback Jude Adjei-Barimah, who underwent surgery last week after a patellar fracture and is likely to miss most of the upcoming season.

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'Hard Knocks' effect: Jameis Winston jersey sales surging

Bucs QB Jameis Winston holds up his No. 3 jersey during his introductory press conference in 2015.

EVE EDELHEIT | TIMES (2015)

Bucs QB Jameis Winston holds up his No. 3 jersey during his introductory press conference in 2015.

Two weeks into the national publicity of HBO's "Hard Knocks," Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston's No. 3 jerseys are selling well, as he made the biggest leap in this week's jersey report from Dick's Sporting Goods.

Winston jumped up 35 spots in one week, from No. 66 in last week's jersey rankings to No. 31 this week, a leap that ties Pittsburgh's Le'Veon Bell (54 to 19) for the biggest gain of the week. Winston remains the top selling Bucs jersey overall in their rankings, at No. 43 across the league since the NFL draft, ahead of rookie tight end O.J. Howard (86th) and receiver Mike Evans (94th).

Bucs jerseys saw a minor uptick as well, moving from 29th out of 32 teams last week to 26th this week. For the season, the Bucs rank 28th in overall jersey sales, ahead of the Jaguars, Saints, Jets and 49ers.

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And the most-searched NFL player in Florida is ...

Bucs fans gather at Raymond James Stadium during the 2016 NFL Draft.

LOREN ELLIOTT | TIMES

Bucs fans gather at Raymond James Stadium during the 2016 NFL Draft.

The Bucs just faced the Jacksonville Jaguars in preseason, and open their 2017 season at the Miami Dolphins. So with the state's NFL competition ahead of and just behind the Bucs, who do you think is the NFL player most searched on Google by Floridians?

We posted a generic Bucs photo as the image on this story to give you an extra minute to think on the challenge and not give away the answer. It's not Jacksonville's Blake Bortles or rookie running back Leonard Fournette. It's not Miami's Ndamukong Suh or injured quarterback Ryan Tannehill or even new quarterback Jay Cutler.

No, the most searched NFL player in Florida is a tie between two Bucs teammates, according to a study by CableTV.com and Go.Frontier.com. Receiver Mike Evans -- who turned 24 on Monday --got his name on the map as winning the state of Florida's searches, though the fine print credits him as being tied with quarterback Jameis Winston. …

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Cannon Fodder podcast: Looking back at Bucs-Jags, ahead to 'Hard Knocks'

Greg Auman discusses the Bucs' win over the Jaguars in this week's Cannon Fodder podcast.

AP photo

Greg Auman discusses the Bucs' win over the Jaguars in this week's Cannon Fodder podcast.

Greg Auman looks back on the weekend, with depth moves at tackle and cornerback, smart plays from Thursday's win in Jacksonville and what might be ahead on Tuesday's "Hard Knocks" episode on HBO, in our latest Cannon Fodder podcast. Listen below:

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Josh Huff among those making case to be Bucs' No. 5 WR

Bucs WR Josh Huff catches a pass in Sunday's practice, with defensive back Cody Riggs in coverage. Huff is battling for the fifth and likely final receiver spot on Tampa Bay's 53-man roster.

LOREN ELLIOTT | TIMES

Bucs WR Josh Huff catches a pass in Sunday's practice, with defensive back Cody Riggs in coverage. Huff is battling for the fifth and likely final receiver spot on Tampa Bay's 53-man roster.

The Bucs' top four receivers are etched in granite with Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Adam Humphries and rookie Chris Godwin.

But the drive for No. 5 has turned into quite a competition. In Thursday’s 12-8 preseason win at Jacksonville, it was Bernard Reedy who stood out with a 29-yard kickoff return and two receptions for 16 yards. In Sunday’s practice, it was Josh Huff’s turn, as the former Eagles kick returner/receiver had a good day catching the football.

Freddie Martino stepped into a big role late last season and finished with eight catches for 142 yards, including a touchdown in a win over the Chicago Bears.

So what will determine that fifth spot? Special teams or the ability to play receiver?

"We've got to just have the best players," coach Dirk Koetter said. "The fifth receiver, they’ve got to be able to play special teams but they also got to be able to go in and play all three spots.

"(Huff) had a really nice day. Josh Huff and Freddie both and Reedy. Again, those three guys have been the most consistent." …

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Bucs rookies take shot at former kicker Roberto Aguayo

A screenshot from Bucs WR DeSean Jackson's Instagram story shows Bucs rookies taking a shot at former kicker Roberto Aguayo in a skit for the rest of the team Sunday night.

INSTAGRAM

A screenshot from Bucs WR DeSean Jackson's Instagram story shows Bucs rookies taking a shot at former kicker Roberto Aguayo in a skit for the rest of the team Sunday night.

It has been a rough weekend for Roberto Aguayo.

The former Bucs kicker, cut by Tampa Bay and claimed by the Bears last weekend, missed his first kick with Chicago on a 49-yard field goal on Saturday night.

And now Sunday, days after his difficult departure from Tampa Bay was aired on HBO's "Hard Knocks," the Bucs rookies are taking shots at him.

Sunday night had the Bucs rookies putting on a show for the rest of the team in One Buc Place's main auditorium, and as part of that, they came up with a list of "10 Things You Won't See During Camp," which was likely meant to stay within One Buc Place. Receiver DeSean Jackson posted a video to Instagram on Sunday night, however, and it showed that No. 9 on the list read "Roberto making his kicks ... Roberto making the team ... You know what, nevermind."

Jackson has since deleted the video, but with cameras all over One Buc Place, you wonder if the scene will show up in a future episode of "Hard Knocks."

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Demar Dotson should be back next week from groin injury

Bucs tackle Demar Dotson, shown last year when he signed a three-year contract extension, should only miss a week of practice with his groin injury and can return healthy for the Bucs' season opener at Miami in three weeks.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

Bucs tackle Demar Dotson, shown last year when he signed a three-year contract extension, should only miss a week of practice with his groin injury and can return healthy for the Bucs' season opener at Miami in three weeks.

The Bucs got good news on starting right tackle Demar Dotson, whose MRI showed only a mild right groin sprain and should be back at practice next week.

Dotson said he actually suffered the injury in practice Tuesday and came out after 11 snaps in Thursday's preseason win at Jacksonville. Dotson was relieved to have only a low-grade sprain, and should be able to return healthy for the Bucs' season opener in three weeks at Miami.

"It's not too bad," Dotson said. "It was more a precautionary thing to get it tested out. I had the same one last year in the preseason and missed a few days. It's just the wear and tear of training camp, but we know the protocol to get it back."

The Bucs have limited proven depth at tackle, so keeping Dotson healthy is a major plus entering the season. The Bucs will likely have two second-year players as their backup tackles in Caleb Benenoch and Leonard Wester, and could use starting left guard Kevin Pamphile there if necessary as well. Benenoch was also sidelined with a minor injury Sunday, so Wester took reps as the first-string right tackle.

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No touchdown, but fun lesson for Bucs' Adam Humphries

Bucs WR Adam Humphries runs to the end zone with QB Jameis Winston trailing -- his alert play wasn't a touchdown because teammates cannot advance a fumble in the final two minutes of a half.

NFL GAME PASS

Bucs WR Adam Humphries runs to the end zone with QB Jameis Winston trailing -- his alert play wasn't a touchdown because teammates cannot advance a fumble in the final two minutes of a half.

It didn't end up being a touchdown, but one of the Bucs' biggest hustle plays in Thursday's win over Jacksonville saw receiver Adam Humphries scoop up a loose ball just before halftime, after what looked like an incompletion but was correctly ruled a Jameis Winston fumble.

Jacksonville's Dante Fowler got to Winston and hit the ball as he was starting his throwing motion -- the ball came out at an angle that looked like a pass, and five Jaguars players were around the loose ball, but only Humphries went after it. With Winston running at him and urging him to go, Humphries took off to the end zone for what was initially signaled as a touchdown on the field. As it turns out, in the final two minutes of a half, a player cannot advance a teammate's fumble. …

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Practice everything: Bucs took a safety to seal win

Bucs punter Bryan Anger, shown in minicamp this summer, took a safety in the final minute of Thursday's preseason win in a rare chance to practice endgame strategy.

LOREN ELLIOTT | TIMES

Bucs punter Bryan Anger, shown in minicamp this summer, took a safety in the final minute of Thursday's preseason win in a rare chance to practice endgame strategy.

Preseason games offer NFL teams a chance to practice everything, and the Bucs even worked on rare endgame strategy, taking a safety in the final minute of Thursday's win at Jacksonville.

Up 12-6 and punting from their 9-yard line with 39 seconds left, the Bucs lined up punter Bryan Anger in the end zone. But rather than punt -- where the Bucs risk a blocked kick for a touchdown, or a long return to set up a short field -- Dirk Koetter instructed Anger to stall, run off as much as clock as possible, then run out of the back of the end zone to concede a safety.

In the final minute of a game, there's little difference between a six-point and four-point lead, and the gambit allowed the Bucs to make a much safer free kick, which set the Jaguars up at their 35-yard line. They'd still get to the Bucs' 35, but the strategy paid off in sealing the Bucs' win -- and gave them practice for if they had to do the same in the regular season. …

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Simeon Rice takes time to work with Bucs defensive ends

Former Bucs great Simeon Rice, right, works with current Bucs defensive end Noah Spence as Ryan Russell looks on after practice Saturday.

LOREN ELLIOTT | TIMES

Former Bucs great Simeon Rice, right, works with current Bucs defensive end Noah Spence as Ryan Russell looks on after practice Saturday.

Simeon Rice spent extra time after training camp practice Saturday working with Bucs defensive ends Noah Spence and Ryan Russell, the way he did with rookies during his playing days as one of the most dominant pass rushers in NFL history.

Rice ranks 19th on the league’s career sack list with 122 and forced 25 fumbles during 12 seasons, including six with the Bucs.

Now a filmmaker, Rice has become the answer to a trivia question as the last Bucs player to record 10 or more sacks in a single season, which he accomplished in 2005. In fact, Rice averaged double-digit sacks for his career.

"It was great," Spence said. "He taught me things in five minutes I never thought to put into my game. He made me think about stuff I have to work on. It was a blessing to have him out here today."

Rice, 43, said he has been impressed with what he has seen on film of Spence, the Bucs second-round draft pick from Eastern Kentucky in 2016. Spence had 5.5 sacks as a rookie last season but played with a torn labrum in his right shoulder, which required surgery after the season. …

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Bucs-Jaguars was NFL's lowest-rated ESPN game since 2005

Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston talks with head coach Dirk Koetter during Thursday's 12-8 win over the Jaguars.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston talks with head coach Dirk Koetter during Thursday's 12-8 win over the Jaguars.

It is just the preseason, and it is the Jaguars, but Thursday night's Bucs-Jags preseason game earned a 1.6 rating on ESPN, which is the lowest-rated preseason game (excluding NFL Network) in 12 years, according to Sports Media Watch.

The 1.6 rating is the lowest for any ESPN preseason game since a tape-delayed 2005 game between the Falcons and Colts, which drew a 1.5 rating.

The site also reported that the Bucs-Jaguars' games 2.6 million viewers makes it the least-watched (non-NFL Network) preseason game in more than a decade -- the previous low was 2.8 million viewers for a 2008 game between the Jaguars and Redskins.

While the audience is low by NFL standards, the Bucs-Jags game still had the largest cable audience Thursday night among adults between ages 18 and 49, with a 0.9 rating in that demographic.

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Chasing 125: Bucs hope to hit rushing goal more often

Bucs coach Dirk Koetter, shown in minicamp in June, said his team sets a goal of either rushing for 125 yards -- as they did in Thursday's preseason win at Jacksonville -- or averaging 4.5 yards per carry.

LOREN ELLIOTT | TIMES

Bucs coach Dirk Koetter, shown in minicamp in June, said his team sets a goal of either rushing for 125 yards -- as they did in Thursday's preseason win at Jacksonville -- or averaging 4.5 yards per carry.

Ever so often, Bucs coach Dirk Koetter pulls back the curtain a bit and shares some of the stats that matter to him most as a coach.

On Friday, he was happy to report that the Bucs, by rushing for 130 yards in Thursday's 12-8 preseason win over the Jaguars, had checked off one of their statistical goals for the team in any game: rushing for 125 yards or averaging 4.5 yards per carry.

It's an interesting threshold -- teams often set specific goals to remind players of their importance, whether it be winning the turnover battle or hitting a certain percentage on third downs. Go back a year or two, and the 125-yard mark is one that illustrates how much the Bucs missed a consistent running game last season, especially compared to 2015, when Koetter was Tampa Bay's offensive coordinator.

How many times did the Bucs rush for 125 last season, or average 4.5 per carry? They did so exactly once -- rushing for 249 yards against a historically bad 49ers run defense in their road win. They came awfully close in their season-ending win against Carolina -- 25 rushes for 112 yards, which works out to 4.48 yards per carry. We'd understand if they round up and count that one. …

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Bucs mull options at right tackle as Dotson awaits MRI

Bucs right tackle Demar Dotson suffered a groin injury in the first quarter of Thursday's preseason game at Jacksonville.

LOREN ELLIOTT | TIMES

Bucs right tackle Demar Dotson suffered a groin injury in the first quarter of Thursday's preseason game at Jacksonville.

Right tackle Demar Dotson, the Bucs' most experienced offensive lineman, will undergo an MRI on his injured groin Saturday, three weeks before the season opener.

How would the Bucs replace Dotson if he had an extended absence? Second-year pro Caleb Benenoch, potentially the top backup at both tackle spots, filled in Thursday night when Dotson was hurt after only 11 plays. Coach Dirk Koetter said his run blocking looked better than his pass protection -- he was flagged for one of four holding penalties against the Bucs offense.

"He's doing a nice job in the run game," Koetter said. "He's a little inconsistent in his pass pro right now. But we're really happy with how he's progressing in the run game."

Dotson could very well be fine, but if he had a longterm injury, another option would be to shift starting left guard Kevin Pamphile, who played tackle at the start of his time with the Bucs, to right tackle, with veteran Evan Smith stepping up at left guard. …

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Bucs' Mike Evans motivated by deep ball that got away

Bucs receiver Mike Evans had five catches for 57 yards in the first half of Thursday's 12-8 win against the Jaguars.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Bucs receiver Mike Evans had five catches for 57 yards in the first half of Thursday's 12-8 win against the Jaguars.

JACKSONVILLE -- Bucs receiver Mike Evans had an efficient half of football Thursday night, with six ball thrown his way and five catches for 57 yards in Tampa Bay's 12-8 preseason win over the Jaguars.

But the one that got away is what will continue to motivate him in the three weeks before the regular season arrives.

Already up 9-0 in the second quarter, the Bucs had a first down at the Jacksonville 43 when Jameis Winston threw a long pass down the left sideline, only to have the ball go through Evans' hands incomplete. Tampa Bay would later settle for a field goal.

"I had a drop in the end zone. Things I can work on," Evans said after the game. "These preseason games are good practice for us, to get ready for the real thing. I think we did well."

Evans said he can't make excuses for his single miss -- the ball was well thrown and he just couldn't bring it in.

"I tracked it pretty bad," he said. "It got caught in the lights, but the lights don't get the drop. I do. I can make that. Hopefully we'll be playing a lot of prime-time games (under the lights), so I've got to get ready for that." …

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