By Max Luckan
The big storyline this week is, of course, Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Vincent Jackson facing his former team, the San Diego Chargers, this Sunday at Raymond James Stadium. Both teams appear to be relatively healthy heading into the game, but a few injuries remain on both sides. The Chargers have had extra time to prepare for this game because they last played a Thursday night game against the Kansas City Chiefs. Meanwhile, the Bucs are coming off a big win against the Oakland Raiders, one that saw running back Doug Martin run for four touchdowns and 251 yards.
On Friday, as the Bucs made their last-minute adjustments in anticipation of the Chargers, the final injury report was released.
For the Bucs, WR Arrelious Benn is listed as questionable and did not practice all week. Benn is dealing with a shoulder injury that has been bothering him this week. His status creates a gap at kick returner for the Bucs. Roscoe Parrish currently handles punts, but Benn has been handling the kickoffs. Head coach Greg Schiano said he’s considering a few guys, and will make a decision sometime soon. Tiquan Underwood, Parrish, and running back Michael Smith are all likely candidates to handle the duties.
Safety Cody Grimm is dealing with a hamstring injury and is also listed as questionable, but he’s listed as second on the depth chart behind rookie Mark Barron, anyway. However, if Grimm can’t play, rookie Keith Tandy will likely be activated for only the third time this season.
Defensive end Michael Bennett, tight end Luke Stocker, wide receiver Mike Williams, and cornerback Eric Wright are all listed as probable and should all play against the Chargers.
On the Chargers side, LB Antwan Barnes has all but been ruled out with a hamstring injury. He’s listed as doubtful, but it’s extremely unlikely that he plays. Barnes usually plays behind Shaun Phillips on the left side, but that spot will probably go to LB Larry English.
Similarly, defensive end Corey Liuget also has a hamstring injury, but is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Bucs. If he can’t go, third-year man Cam Thomas is favored to take over.
Tackle Jared Gaither (groin) and linebacker Demorrio Williams (abdomen) are also posted as questionable for this week’s game, while safety Atari Bigby, corner Chris Carr, wide receiver Robert Meachem, linebacker Shaun Phillips, and wide receiver Eddie Royal are all probable for the Chargers.
The injuries on the defensive side of the ball, especially in the front seven, favor the Bucs’ running game and Doug Martin, who should have more holes open up for him. And while the Chargers likely won’t be missing any key starters, the depth has diminished because of multiple injuries.
However on the offensive side of the ball, both Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal are dealing with minor hamstring injuries, which could slow them down in the passing game. This could prove to be crucial, as Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers has struggled with accuracy at times this season.
The good news for the Bucs this week is that there weren’t any new injuries to the already plagued offensive line, which reassure Martin and QB Josh Freeman.
Full Injury Report
CB Eric Wright (Achilles)
WR Mike Williams (forearm)
TE Luke Stocker (shoulder)
DE Michael Bennett (shoulder)
WR Arrelious Benn (shoulder)
S Cody Grimm (hamstring)
S Atari Bigby (quadriceps)
CB Chris Carr (quadriceps)
WR Robert Meachem (hamstring)
WR Eddie Royal (hamstring)
LB Shaun Phillips (finger)
LB Demorrio Williams (abdomen)
DE Corey Liuget (hamstring)
T Jared Gaither (groin)
LB Antwan Barnes (hamstring)
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Max Luckan lives in Tampa, FL and is a sports writer covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and NFL. Luckan has been covering the Buccaneers for a few years now. You can find more of his work at Examiner.com.