By Max Luckan
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have an important game against the Carolina Panthers this Sunday. A win would push them to 6-4 and put them in a prime position to contend for a playoff spot. A loss, however, would place the Bucs at 5-5 and the road to the playoffs instantly becomes much more difficult. The Bucs will play the Panthers for the second time this season, and this time around, will have an almost completely different offensive line. Only left tackle Donald Penn will be in the same position as he was in the first game against Carolina, which will make stopping the Panthers’ pass rush a challenge.
One cog in the line is right guard Jamon Meredith, who hurt his ankle in practice on Wednesday, and is listed as questionable for Sunday’s matchup. Head coach Greg Schiano said that a teammate fell on Meredith’s ankle and that caused him to roll it. Meredith did not practice Thursday, but was out there on Friday, which points to him having a decent shot at playing.
“(He was) better than we anticipated he’d look,” Schiano said, “so now it’s really the next 48 hours to see how well he responds.”
Of course, if Meredith can’t play, the Bucs will have an even greater task of stopping the Panthers’ pass rush, which is one of the best in the league, and also have a tougher time protecting quarterback Josh Freeman. Meredith would be replaced by Roger Allen or Cody Wallace, who have played a combined five games in the NFL.
Cornerback Eric Wright returned to practice on Friday after missing Thursday’s session due to “personal reasons.” Schiano did not elaborate on why Wright missed practice Thursday, but did say that he will be “ready to roll” on Sunday. Wright has also been hampered by an Achilles injury that forced him to miss most of the game against the San Diego Chargers, but that doesn’t appear to be an issue any longer. Wright’s listed as probable on the injury report.
Wide receiver Arrelious Benn (shoulder), who practiced all week, is listed as probable, along with defensive end Michael Bennett, safety Cody Grimm, and guard Jeremy Zuttah.
For the Panthers, defensive end Antwan Applewhite has already been ruled out because of a hamstring injury. Applewhite is Charles Johnson’s backup, and his injury shouldn’t affect the play of the defensive line.
Wide receiver Armanti Edwards (groin) is listed as probable on the injury report, but there’s a good chance he sits out Sunday. Edwards was injured in practice Wednesday, and would be replaced by rookie Joe Adams. Edwards handles the kick returns for the Panthers, so his injury could be significant if he can’t go.
Linebacker Thomas Davis is listed as probable on the injury report, but could be slowed by a knee injury. Davis’ injury could help the Bucs in the running game, which will need to get going this time around against the Panthers. The Panthers haven’t been great against the run this year, and could struggle more than usual with Davis ailing.
Full Injury Report
WR Arrelious Benn (shoulder)
DE Michael Bennett (shoulder)
S Cody Grimm (hamstring)
CB Eric Wright (Achilles)
G Jeremy Zuttah (shoulder)
G Jamon Meredith (ankle)
LB Thomas Davis (knee)
WR Armanti Edwards (groin)
DT Dwan Edwards (ankle)
DT Ron Edwards (not injury related)
T Jordan Gross (not injury related)
C Geoff Hangartner (knee)
WR Steve Smith (not injury related)
G Amini Silatolu (shoulder)
DE Antwan Applewhite (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.