Coach Greg Schiano made a couple things clear this week in his chat with the media: The team is healthy; the majority of starting roles still up for grabs will be announced on the field, not a press conference; and that you can’t stop Cam Newton.
The team is in good shape physically, and have adopted a work schedule to ensure they stay that way—they only practice every other day, one day on, followed by a day off. Schiano believes this helps the players gradually get back to feeling great, in hopes they’re ready for Sunday and feeling 100 percent. According to the team, the only two new players that were called out as injured are Arrelious Benn and Eric Wright. Wright should be full to go on Wednesday, and Benn is reported to be doing more each day.
When asked about the running back duo—Doug Martin and LeGarrette Blount—Schiano continued to hold back on specifics, saying he’ll play by feel. He indicated he has a “plan,” but will make the calls in real time. If one guy gets hot, he’ll let him stay out, but currently on depth chart it will be Martin that gets out there first.
The Bucs now have four running backs after picking up D.J. Ware after his release from the New York Giants Friday. The starter is Martin, followed by Blount and then Michael Smith. Schiano suggested Ware will most likely be used as a third down guy, which will be a good start, but he will have to see how he fits in with the team. With only so many touches in a game, he made it clear each of those touches are earned, and will be giving them to the backs to deliver. When asked if it is realistic to have four running backs on game day, Schiano said it would be if some contributed on special teams.
Schiano hinted that some choices have been made as to whom will be taking the kickoff and punt returns, but held out on who that is. Sammie Stroughter is listed before Preston Parker as the No. 1 punt returner, but Smith has been named the primary kickoff return man with Parker backing him up.
On the offensive line, a few players, including Ted Larsen, have worked out at right guard since the injury to Davin Joseph. They will be waiting until later in the week to see who will play there Sunday.
When the topic turned to the Panthers, Schiano bluntly admitted there is no way to really stop Cam Newton or any other big threats––they just have to limit them and contain big plays. The Panthers have an explosive offense and the Bucs will have to choose where to spend their resources in hopes that the other guy they’re not covering doesn’t catch up. Schiano underscored however, that the key is not to focus just on Newton, but to try to cover as much as a team possibly can.
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Kyra Hallett is a freelance writer covering all things Buccaneers. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.