The Buccaneers are only days away from kicking off their season, and we're starting to get some clarity as to who will start at the still undecided positions after Wednesday's practice.
The presence of two defensive linemen on the injury list at practice on Wednesday calls into question the Bucs' readiness to rotate in players on Sunday who have a legitimate chance of slowing the Panthers rushing attack and getting after Cam Newton.
Scott Solomon and Steven Means are the only backup ends who are currently healthy, and they'll be asked to do a lot on Sunday when Michael Johnson and Adrian Clayborn need a break. Should an injury occur, the Bucs are not as well=prepared to handle it as they would be with their full compliment of backups.
Vincent Jackson is back out at practice for Bucs. Still out with injuries: Gholston, Bowers, Murphy, Melvin, McDougald ...— Greg Auman (@gregauman) September 3, 2014
Greg Auman adds that Bradley McDougald didn't suit up for practice, but did mention that new addition Major Wright was practicing despite his injury during the preseason.
Auman also had an encouraging bit of news regarding one of the Bucs' veteran offseason additions that we've seen very little of this summer.
.@LeoHowell8 Yes, Bucs CB Mike Jenkins was again practicing today. Promising toward him playing -- and even starting -- Sunday vs. Panthers.— Greg Auman (@gregauman) September 3, 2014
Even with his return, Lovie Smith said that we shouldn't expect to see Jenkins on the field for every down, according to Scott Smith. That will give Johnthan Banks a fair shot at passing him on the depth chart, something most fans have expected to happen since the first depth chart was released.
Apart from Jenkins' battle with Banks for the second corner spot, there are other places on the top of the depth chart still up for grabs with only days to go before the season kicks off.
The one position that has attracted the most attention this summer has been the guard spot, and with the right guard starter still unnamed, we at least have this report to clue us in on who is "starting" in the media portion of practice.
Lovie Smith still hasn't named a starter at right guard, but in practice today Patrick Omameh was working with firs team.— PewterReport.com (@PewterReport) September 3, 2014
However, this means very little, and the team has been secretive all week about their starter at the position. Don't count out Rishaw Johnson for this season, but Week 1 may see Omameh start simply due to his comfort level with the offense.
Lovie Smith has said that he considers slot receiver to be a starting position, and that position is still seemingly up for grabs. Chris Owusu earned the praise of his head coach in the preseason, but Louis Murphy had more production during the exhibition games.
Murphy's injury status may make this decision for the coaches, but either way, it seems like Owusu is the starter. At least, if you ask Chris Owusu...
Bucs WR Chris Owusu tells me he's preparing as if he's the starting slot receiver against the Panthers.— Kevin ODonnell Fox13 (@ODonnellFox13) September 3, 2014
The Bucs are thin at receiver no matter how you slice it. Both Murphy and Owusu are average at best for a third receiver in the NFL, and must take a step forward to help keep the defense honest this season.
Oh, and Lovie Smith wasn't naming anyone as starter. What a surprise.
Jeff Tedford Update
Buccaneers offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford is still away from the team after a medical procedure during the preseason. The former Cal coach spent the summer installing his system with the Bucs, but now may miss the first real game to put that system on display.
Lovie: Jeff Tedford is getting better. Stopped by yesterday. Offensive staff making play calls this week. No further update #Bucs— Tom Krasniqi (@TKras) September 3, 2014
Kevin O'Donnell of Fox 13 in Tampa says that the players know Tedford wants to be ready for the game, but his continued absence from practice doesn't make that possibility seem all that likely.
But if you look on the bright side...
The Bucs don't have an offensive coordinator Sunday due to an ailing Jeff Tedford. The Panthers have Mike Shula. Advantage: Bucs— Violence (@PhilKenSaban) September 3, 2014
It's not ideal to be missing your offensive guru in the lead up to the first game of the season, and Josh McCown admitted that "it's been an adjustment." In a game where the Bucs were likely to struggle on offense anyways, will this leave them even further behind the talented Carolina defense?
Student versus Teacher
Lovie Smith told the media on Wednesday that he knows "quite a bit" about the Panthers.
Lovie: Faced Carolina in the past. I know quite a bit about them #Bucs— Tom Krasniqi (@TKras) September 3, 2014
He also knows quite a bit about his first defensive coordinator in Chicago, Ron Rivera, who is the head coach of the Panthers. This will amount to nothing on the field on Sunday, but it's a cool story ahead of the first game of the year.
More from sbnation.com:
- Mike Evans gets in a fight at a night club - in March
- Buccaneers are impressed with Austin Seferian-Jenkins' blocking
- Why Rishaw Johnson may be starting for the Buccaneers very soon
- Buccaneers trade for guard Rishaw Johnson, send Kelcie McCray to the Chiefs
- Four key position battles for the Buccaneers against the Bills
- Predict Mike Evans' 2014 receiving yards