By Max Luckan
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a tall task this Sunday as they head into Carolina to take on the Panthers, who have calmly won seven games in a row. The Panthers have one of the league’s most intimidating defenses, which could pose all kinds of problems for Bucs rookie quarterback Mike Glennon.
Still, the Bucs are confident that they can come out with a win, which would be their fourth in a row. The team’s best victory came last week against the Detroit Lions, who are currenly division leaders in the NFC North. The fact that this game is a divisional one makes it even more intriguing.
The defense for the Bucs has been playing much better during the current three-game winning streak. But they could be without cornerback Darrelle Revis on Sunday against the Panthers. Revis is dealing with a groin injury, but the extent of the injury is unknown.
“We’ll know more tomorrow,” head coach Greg Schiano said. “It is an injury where rest helps it. So we’re hopeful. But until you get out there and do it after the rest, you don’t know. So we’ll see. And it could be one of those deals where you go out Sunday and run around and see how it feels.”
That is Schiano’s way of saying that Revis will likely be a game-time decision, unless of course, he is ruled out earlier. If Revis can’t play, the Bucs will have to decide who will shadow Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith. Rookie cornerback Johnthan Banks defended Lions receiver Calvin Johnson last Sunday after Revis exited the game.
Linebacker Adam Hayward, who has a foot injury, missed practice on Wednesday. The injury isn’t serious and Hayward had full participation in Thursday’s practice session. The same goes for offensive guard Davin Joseph. Joseph has a knee injury, but he will able to play on Sunday.
Linebacker Mason Foster (concussion) missed last week’s game; however, he did practice fully on Thursday. All signs point to Foster being back in the starting lineup for this crucial matchup against Carolina.
Guard Jamon Meredith (ankle) and defensive tackle Akeem Spence (wrist) both participated fully on Thursday, so they should be able to play barring any setbacks.
Defensive end Charles Johnson, arguably Carolina’s best player on defense, did not practice on Wednesday and Thursday because of a knee injury. Johnson has not practiced in a while because of a sprain and is questionable for the game against the Bucs. His absence would be devastating for the Panthers.
Wide receiver Steve Smith also sat out practice both days with a knee injury, but it is very likely that Smith plays.
Linebacker Chase Blackburn has a foot injury that forced him to miss portions of practice on Wednesday and Thursday. However, Blackburn has battled through injuries before, so the expectation is that he will play against Tampa Bay.
Running back DeAngelo Williams has a thigh injury that forced him to miss practice on both Wednesday and Thursday. It is unlikely that Williams plays on Sunday, as the Panthers have other options, such as Mike Tolbert, at running back. And the team will likely try to get Williams healthy for the playoffs.
For more Bucs news and updates, visit Bucs Central.
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. Max is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.