As the NFL season enters its stretch run, the injuries are starting to pile up at critical positions for the Buccaneers, which could be a roadblock to the team repeating as Super Bowl Champions.
Four of the Buccaneers starters went down with injuries on Sunday.
Both starting wide receivers Chris Godwin, and Mike Evans, suffered soft tissue injuries. Godwin is the most severe of the two. He suffered a torn ACL and will miss the rest of the season.
Mike Evans has not practiced, so it looks as if it may be a game-time decision on whether or not Evans will play.
Leonard Fournette suffered a hamstring injury and was put on IR. Fournette could be back for the playoffs but will miss the rest of the season. The Bucs signed running Le’Veon Bell as depth in the backfield with Giovanni Bernard also out.
Bell has been a shell of himself since his glory days in Pittsburgh. Bell most recently played with the Baltimore Ravens for five games before putting him on waivers. Bell had 82 yards on 31 carries.
Last season, bell split time with the Kansas City Chiefs and the New York Jets. Bell ran for 238 yards with two touchdowns while catching 16 balls for 138 yards.
Running back Ronald Jones was the Buc’s best offensive player in the loss to the Saints. Jones ran the ball with authority as he had 63 yards and averaged 7.9 yards per carry. The Bucs will need that same kind of production from Ronald Jones to help this offense down the stretch.
Arians had high praise for Jones after the game. “It’s his time now to do what happened for Leonard last year when he got hurt. I’ve got all the confidence in the world. He ran great. Caught the ball good. I think going forward; it’s his job right now.”
This week, the Bucs will get some reinforcements back at the wide receiver position. Antonio Brown is back from his three-game suspension, and Breshad Perriman could be back if he can get two negative COVID tests before Sunday.
Coach Bruce Arians is hoping that Brown will play anywhere from 30-35 snaps on Sunday, depending on how he looks in practice.
Linebacker Lavonte David suffered a foot injury in Sunday’s game and will miss the rest of the regular season. David is expected to be ready for the playoffs.
The Secondary is getting healthier as well. Safety Mike Edwards will be back from his three-game suspension this week, ready to go. Jamel Dean, Richard Sherman, and Antoine Winfield JR., who missed the game against the Saints, practiced on Wednesday and should all play Sunday against the Panthers, barring a setback.
The Buccaneers stunk on Sunday night. There is no question. Everyone on offense outside of running back Ronald Jones left a lot to be desired with their play.
Bruce Arians specifically called out the kickers on Tuesday when asked what position on the team he is the most concerned with. “Kickers. Punters and our kicker. Both have got to do better jobs and be accountable. They’re both very talented, and games like that, you can’t miss field goals, and you can’t punt poorly, and we did that.”
Punter Bradley Pinion has had a disappointing 2021 season overall, averaging 38.5 net yards per punt.
The Bucs are still one win away from wrapping up the division and can get that division crown with a win in Charlotte Sunday against the Carolina Panthers.