Injuries Force the Buccaneers to Make Adjustments Along the Offensive Line
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By Max Luckan
On Tuesday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers suffered another huge blow to their offensive line with the team announcing that left guard Carl Nicks was placed on IR (Injured Reserve) due to a toe injury that has plagued him all season long. Of course, in the preseason, the Bucs had to place right guard Davin Joseph on IR because of a right knee injury. Obviously, the Bucs will have to find a working combination on the offensive line for the rest of the season.
However, the Bucs have options on the offensive line, nonetheless. More than likely, Ted Larsen will step in at the left guard position, but another possibility involves center Jeremy Zuttah moving to guard and Larsen taking his spot at center. At Wednesday’s practice, Larsen took first-team reps at left guard, per Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times. With Nicks out for the rest of the season, other players will have to step up at the position. Whether Larsen gets the nod, or Jeremy Trueblood, the Bucs will have to deal with the patchwork offensive line for the foreseeable future. The challenge will be protecting quarterback Josh Freeman, and providing running lanes for running back Doug Martin without two of the better linemen in the NFL.
Cornerback Eric Wright has not practiced all week, and has ridden the stationary bicycle most of the time because of an Achilles injury. Of course, Wright is under investigation by the NFL for his alleged use of Adderall, which is considered a stimulant and used to treat ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). However, usually the league notifies teams of a suspension on Tuesday, according to ESPN’s Andrew Brandt, in order to give them time to make the necessary adjustments. And so far, it doesn’t appear that Wright has been suspended, but head coach Greg Schiano said he couldn’t comment on the matter.
“I really can’t discuss it and neither can Eric,” Schiano said at his post-practice press conference. “I’m not trying to be evasive at all, but that’s what comes down from the league and that’s where I’m going to be.”
Whether Wright is suspended or not remains to be seen, but the Bucs will likely be without him anyway due to the Achilles injury. That means CB Leonard Johnson, who started at nickel corner last Thursday against the Minnesota Vikings, will likely replace Wright. Johnson will be one of the keys to success for the Bucs’ secondary, one that has struggled against the pass at times this season. Apparently, Schiano was impressed by Johnson’s play. “I was really pleased with the job Leonard Johnson did Thursday night,” Schiano said. “I really think he stepped up and played, so that’s important.”
On the defensive line, Michael Bennett appeared to hurt himself on the last play of Thursday’s game against the Vikings, but Schiano said that he would probably be OK after the game. The defensive line hasn’t generated much of a pass rush this season, and the return of Da’Quan Bowers should help with that.
Brandon McDonald did not practice on Wednesday either for the Bucs, and he is one of the options to replace Eric Wright if he is, indeed, unavailable.
The Bucs will be traveling to the West Coast for Sunday’s game, and they have not fared well against the Oakland Raiders in Oakland, going 0-5 all-time.
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Max Luckan is a freelance writer covering all things Tampa. Hia work can be found on Examiner.com.