The injury bug has bit. Five starters appeared on Tampa’s injury report this week, with both CB Mike Jenkins (#24) and DE Adrian Clayborn (#94) being placed on Injured Reserve. An additional five backups also found themselves on the injury report creating concerns about the overall health of the team.
The defensive end position has taken a particularly hard hit this week, with four of the ten players on the injury reporting coming from that position. Losing Clayborn for the rest of the season to a biceps injury is a huge blow to the defense. On the right side of the line, $9 million DE Michael Johnson (#90) is nursing an ankle injury sustained during the Panthers game and has not practiced all week. His status for Sunday against the Rams is undetermined.
That leaves the Buccaneers with DE William Gholston (injured since Week 2 of the preseason), DE Larry English (re-signed Tuesday), DE Jacquies Smith (claimed off waivers from Buffalo on Wednesday), and DE Scott Solomon (waived Wednesday, re-signed Friday). Da’Quan Bowers (#91) is listed on the depth chart as a defensive tackle, but played as a defensive end last year and would be a good candidate to fill in at the position.
The cornerback position is also thin due to injuries with starter Jenkins, signed during the offseason for $1.9 million, landing on Injured Reserve and backup CB Rashaan Melvin (#28) not practicing due to a lingering ankle injury suffered during Week 2 of the preseason. CB Brandon Dixon (#39) was signed prior to Week 1 at the position, and CB Crezdon Butler was signed Wednesday to give the team depth. But as far as experienced depth, the team will be relying on CB Alterraun Verner (#21), CB Johnthan Banks (#27) and CB Leonard Johnson (#29).
The offense has not been immune to the injury bug, either. G Logan Mankins, signed from New England prior to Week 4 of the preseason, played less than a half before injuring his knee and leaving the game. He did not practice Wednesday but was limited on Thursday. RB Doug Martin (#22) also left the game against the Panthers due to a knee, after gaining a whopping 9 yards on 9 attempts. Martin was up and ready to play at the end of the loss to the Panthers, but was kept out of the game. Like Mankins, he also did not practice Wednesday but returned in a limited basis on Thursday. Both are expected to play against the Rams.
TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins (#87) also suffered an ankle injury in Sunday’s game after briefly re-energizing the team with a 26-yard reception. He has not practiced all week.
The front office has been making roster moves throughout the preseason and into the regular season, presumably to compensate for deficiencies due to injuries and other reasons (like player quality). Hopefully the coaching staff can get these new additions up to speed before they hit the field. But at the rate players are dropping that is doubtful.