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Wednesday, Oct 01, 2014
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Players make case to start in Bucs loss to Redskins

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Published:   |   Updated: August 29, 2014 at 06:34 AM

— Danny Lansanah was ready to give up the game of football a few years back.

He’d already been cut twice, once by the Packers and once by the Dolphins, and while the Lions had a put a tryout offer on the table for him, Lansanah had pretty much made up his mind to skip it and move on.

It was his father, Keith Avery, who made Lansanah attend that Lions tryout, and boy, is he ever glad he did.

During an otherwise unspectacular and tedious 24-10 Buccaneers loss to the Redskins at Raymond James Stadium on Thursday night, Lansanah put on a clinic on how to make a football team.

The 6-foot-1, 255-pound outside linebacker, who got his first taste of life in the NFL way back in 2008, made five tackles, including three for a loss, and helped set up a key interception.

That was on the next-to-last play of the first half, when he tipped a Colt McCoy pass at the line of scrimmage to set the stage for linebacker Nate Askew’s pick in the end zone that snuffed out a Redskins scoring drive.

“It was just nice to be out there on the football field contributing,’’ said Lansanah, who spent three years working odd jobs while playing in the United Football League to keep his NFL dream alive.

“There was a time when I was working 9 to 5, so to have the opportunity again to play football is the biggest thing for me. And yes, it’s nice of course to make some plays and get yourself noticed, too.’’

It wasn’t the first time Lansanah has made himself noticeable. He did the same a week ago, when he started in place of projected starting strongside backer Jonathan Casillas during the Bucs’ 24-17 victory at Buffalo.

With Casillas sitting back in Tampa for disciplinary reasons after breaking an unspecified team rule, Lansanah recorded five tackles, including one for a loss, during the Bucs’ first-half defensive shutout.

“He’s made a lot of progress throughout training camp and the preseason,’’ Bucs coach Lovie Smith said of Lansanah. “We wanted to get a long look at him, and he’s done some good things.’’

Lansanah’s recent standout play has made him one of the few defensive reserves who has stood out in a positive way for the Bucs this preseason. His high level of play could result in more than just a roster spot.

Though Casillas remains atop the depth chart at strongside linebbacker, he played right alongside Lansanah at times during Thursday’s game. That could mean a final decision on a starter there has yet to be made.

If so, it is one of the few starting spots that has not yet been decided. Most of the others have been, which is why Thursday’s game was devoted mostly to players simply trying to make the team.

And like Lansanah, there were a couple who made the kind of plays necessary to stick around.

Askew, with his pick, was one. Cornerback Keith Lewis, who also had a pick in the end zone, was another. And then there was safety Keith Tandy, who led the Bucs with seven tackles, including one for a loss.

“That helps,’’ Smith said when asked if making big plays can earn a player a roster spot. “We told the guys to do something to make us put them on the team. Making big plays like that will at least make us take note.’’

On the other side of the ball, Solomon Patton enhanced his bid to make the team by scoring a 25-yard touchdown pass in which he had to juke his way around a couple of would-be tacklers to reach the end zone.

“Yeah, that was pretty sweet,’’ Patton said of the move he made to get to the end zone. “I actually made the same move against Arkansas when I was at Florida. So when I saw him coming at that angle I knew I could make the cut.’’

Patton came into the game leading the race to become the Bucs punt and kick returner, and his lone punt return for 9 yards and his two kick returns for an average of 19 didn’t hurt his chances.

“I’m pleased with how Solomon has played throughout,’’ Smith said. “We’ve seen him make a lot of improvements.’’

Patton shared some of the return duties on Thursday with former Olympic sprinter Jeff Demps, who had a 37-yard return as well as a 19-yard run from scrimmage. Beyond that, though, Demps struggled.

Considered to be on the bubble as the final roster cut to 53 players looms this weekend, Demps didn’t necessarily help his chances to make the team during his first extended playing time with the regular offense.

He ran the ball 20 times for 59 yards (2.9 per carry), including that 19-yarder, and failed on several occasions to beat defenders to the outside with his speed, which is supposed to be his strength.

“He’s the fastest guy in the NFL,’’ Smith said of Demps. “You want to see him use that speed, and we just weren’t able to break him so he could really show it, and it was that way throughout the preseason, really.’’

With their last preseason game in the books, all that’s left for the Bucs (1-3) is to reduce their roster. The Bucs have until Saturday at 4 p.m. to do that, but the likelihood is the bulk of those cuts will come today.

“There are some tough decision we have to make, some tough cuts we’ll have to make to get the roster down,’’ Smith said. “That’s why I told the guys, you don’t want to have any regrets. Just show us what you got.’’

 

rcummings@tampatrib.com

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Twitter: @RcummingsTBO

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