Penn’s Career a Model for New LG Starter

Donald Penn is going to have a new teammate lined up next to him at left guard on Sunday when the Buccaneers take on the Oakland Raiders.  Whoever that proves to be, Penn is going to know what he is going through…and he’ll know what a wonderful opportunity it is.

The Buccaneers suffered a significant blow to their increasingly prolific offense on Tuesday when guard Carl Nicks was moved to injured reserve due to a toe ailment.  Nicks and Penn had given the Buccaneers a Pro Bowl left side of the offensive line, but now the deck is being shuffled again, just like it was two months ago when Pro Bowl right guard Davin Joseph went down with a knee injury.

“Man, losing Carl is big,” said Penn.  “Carl is one of the best guards in the league.  You cannot sit there and honestly say losing Carl is not going to hurt you.  He’s the best guard in the league and losing him is going to be big.  But we’ve got to step up.  The next person up has got to step up, whoever it’s going to be.”

That’s something Penn did five years ago, in one afternoon going from obscure reserve to starter at one of the most critical positions in the game.  Luke Petitgout began the 2007 season as the Buccaneers’ starter at left tackle but was felled by a knee injury four games in, during a win at Carolina.  Penn stepped into the lineup in the middle of that game, and next week made his first NFL start.  He has started 83 consecutive games for Tampa Bay since.

“That’s how I got my start,” he said.  “That’s how a lot of these people get their starts in the league.  You’ve got to come and step up.  It’s going to be hard replacing Carl just like it was hard replacing Dav.  Whoever steps up, they’ve got to play like they are Carl.”

After signing a lucrative free agency deal in March, Nicks was expected to lock down the left guard spot next to Penn after the team bounced between Keydrick Vincent, Larsen and Zuttah over the previous two seasons (Zuttah now starts at center).  That plan is now gone, and the new starter could once again be Larsen or Zuttah, or it could be reserve Cody Wallace or tackle Jeremy Trueblood, making a move inside.  Whoever it is, Penn will still be there in his usual spot, and that will help the replacement make a smooth transition.

“That’s how it goes,” said Penn.  “I’m going to try to help those guys.  Whoever it is, I’m going to try to help them as much as I can, try to give them whatever help I can from my experience.  We’re going to be alright.”

Wednesday Injury Report: Bennett Not Limited

The Buccaneers win at Minnesota on Thursday night was three hours of almost uninterrupted enjoyment capped by a couple minutes of worry.  That’s because, after the Buccaneers’ very last defensive play of the game (a Leonard Johnson interception), DE Michael Bennett needed attention from the team’s trainers after injuring his ankle.

A significant injury to the team’s 2012 sack leader would have been a bad way to end a great night, but fortunately it appears as if Bennett will be fine.  Though he was held out of the team’s “bonus practice” on Monday, he was right back on the field Wednesday.  Bennett is listed on the team’s official injury report this week, but he is marked as “full participation” on Wednesday.

The Bucs’ more pressing concern – no pun intended – appears to be at cornerback, where both Eric Wright (Achilles) and Brandon McDonald (ankle) were limited to start the week.  Here are the official injury reports for both teams on Wednesday: 

Buccaneers

Player Injury Practice Status
DE Michael Bennett Ankle Full Participation
CB Brandon McDonald Ankle Limited Participation
T Donald Penn Wrist Full Participation
CB Eric Wright Achilles Limited Participation

 

Raiders

Player Injury Practice Status
T Khalif Barnes Groin Did Not Participate
DT Desmond Bryant Elbow Full Participation
LB Keenan Clayton Shoulder Did Not Participate
LB Travis Goethel Back Limited Participation
RB Mike Goodson Toe Full Participation
K Sebastian Janikowski Left Groin Limited Participation
RB Taiwan Jones Knee Full Participation
LB Rolando McClain Toe Limited Participation
RB Darren McFadden Shoulder Full Participation
DT Richard Seymour Knee Did Not Participate
DE Matt Shaughnessy Shoulder Full Participation
T Willie Smith Ankle Limited Participation
CB Shawntae Spencer Foot Did Not Participate
DE Dave Tollefson Shoulder Limited Participation
T Jared Veldheer Elbow Full Participation
C Stefen Wisniewski Ankle Limited Participation

Lorig’s Preparation Paying Off

Josh Freeman, at the helm of the most productive offense of the past month, threw nine touchdown passes in three October games.  Five of those went, unsurprisingly, to starting receivers Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams, and one each went to primary tight end Dallas Clark, starting tailback Doug Martin and oft-used third receiver Tiquan Underwood.

That left one scoring pass for a wild card in the Bucs’ offensive mix, and that’s a good term for the team’s free-spirited fullback, Erik Lorig. Continue reading

No West Coast Worries

Before the Buccaneers played at Minnesota last week, road teams had lost 15 of the past 18 Thursday night games.  Tampa Bay didn’t succumb to that history, instead putting on a dominant performance in the Metrodome in a 36-17 win.

Now the Bucs are set to travel to the West Coast this weekend, and no amount of statistical data is going to tell them that’s a disadvantage. Continue reading

Guard Added to Practice Squad

Roger Allen took Carl Nicks’ spot on the 53-man roster after the Buccaneers unhappily placed their Pro Bowl starting left guard on injured reserve Tuesday.  Now Chris Scott has taken Allen’s old spot on Tampa Bay’s practice squad.

The 6-4, 319-pound Scott is a former fifth-round draft pick who was on the Steelers’ roster for most of the last two seasons and was most recently with the Packers.  He was on Green Bay’s practice squad for the first half of this season before being released last Tuesday, but he didn’t have to wait long to find a new team.

The Buccaneers generally keep at least two offensive linemen on the practice squad, for fairly obvious reasons.  With just eight linemen on the 53-man roster, the additional blockers on that eight-man crew give the team at least 10 to practice with – one full starting line and another full line to run the scout-team snaps.  In addition to Scott, the Bucs also currently have rookie tackle Mike Remmers on the practice squad.

Scott, who played his college ball at Tennessee and was drafted by Pittsburgh, was the 151st player selected overall in 2010.  He started his rookie season on the Steelers’ reserve/physically unable to perform list, then was activated on November 10.  He remained on the 53-man roster the rest of the season, including Pittsburgh’s run to the Super Bowl, but was a game-day inactive each weekend.  In 2011, he once again made the team, this team seeing action in two games before he was moved to the practice squad.  Scott was waived during the final roster cuts this summer and immediately signed to the Packers’ practice squad.

Carson Palmer vs. the Buccaneers

 

The Buccaneers haven’t played the Raiders since 2008, so they haven’t played Carson Palmer’s Raiders at all.  Oakland traded for their current starting quarterback midway through the 2011 season after he had spend eight-plus years with the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Buccaneers do have a history with Palmer, however, and it has gone well for Tampa Bay.

Palmer led the Bengals against the Bucs twice during his tenure in Cincinnati, and both games ended up as Tampa Bay wins, though it took a fourth-quarter comeback on each occasion.  The Bucs won 14-13 at Raymond James Stadium in 2006 when Bruce Gradkowski hooked up with Michael Clayton on an eight-yard touchdown pass with 35 seconds remaining.  Four years later, in Cincinnati, Connor Barth’s 31-yard field goal with 13-seconds left completed a 10-point rally in a 24-21 Bucs victory.

In his two games against the Buccaneers, Palmer has thrown for a good amount of yards but has needed a lot of passes to do it and has been picked off three times.  Overall, he’s 45 of 73 (61.6%) for 470 yards, three touchdowns, three interceptions and an unremarkable 76.9 passer rating.  His average of 6.44 yards per pass attempt against Tampa Bay is well below his career mark of 7.18.

One of those three picks Palmer has thrown against the Buccaneers ranks as one of the team’s most memorable defensive plays of the last few years, and it’s certainly a career highlight for now-third-year safety Cody Grimm.

Early in the second quarter of just his second career start, Grimm intercepted Palmer’s attempt to throw a quick pass out in the left flat to wide receiver Terrell Owens.  The then-rookie safety caught the ball on the run and easily returned it 11 yards to tie the game at 7-7.  Grimm did a perfect job of executing a specific play the team had put in just for that game, as he feigned walking down “into the box” for run support, then sprinted out to the sideline as soon as the ball was snapped.  The play essentially inverted the safety and the cornerback (Aqib Talib) in the Bucs’ classic Cover Two defense, in the process leading Palmer and Owens to believe they had an easy “pitch-and-catch” option underneath Talib.  (You can watch a video of Grimm’s big moment here.)

Bucs Fantasy Brief: With Offense Picking Up, Are There Any Fantasy Defensive Standouts?

The world of IDP (Individual Defensive Player) fantasy football is one of mystery to many fantasy regulars, but is gaining a bit of popularity year after year. Ready for a more intense challenge, the bravest of fantasy owners enter the IDP arena; the results can often be less than favorable.

But midway through the season, patterns start to form and players start to emerge, and every so often, a wise move can be made to capitalize and take control of the IDP monster. The Buccaneers, despite some inconsistencies in their team defense fantasy statistics, actually put forth quite a few IDP players that should be owned across the board. Continue reading

O-Line Options After Loss of Nicks

As devastating as the loss of Pro Bowl guard Carl Nicks would seem to be, especially on the heels of Pro Bowl G Davin Joseph’s own trip to I.R. in August, the Buccaneers won’t stop to dwell on it.  The team plays its next game on Sunday in Oakland, and the “next-man-up” motto will be applied once again.  Someone will be asked to step up into the starting lineup, and the Bucs’ chase of a playoff berth will continue.

So, who might that next man be?  Or could the solution actually involve several changes up front? Continue reading

Bowers Ready for More

Da’Quan Bowers didn’t hold back on Thursday night.  The Bucs aren’t likely to hold him back much longer, either.

In his first game since suffering a torn Achilles tendon in a May workout, Bowers subbed in on passing downs in the Bucs’ 36-17 win at Minnesota.  He got about a dozen snaps of action, which was exactly what the team was hoping for.  The next day, he reported no swelling or pain in his surgically-repaired ankle, and that was still the case when the team got back on the practice field Monday.

“I felt really good actually,” said Bowers.  “I didn’t do a whole lot of run plays but I got a lot of pass-rushing in.  Coach had a plan, so we followed the plan strictly, and he enforced it.  It was a good day for me.  I definitely wasn’t tentative.  If I thought I was going to be tentative towards it I don’t think I would have even gone out on the field.”

In that Monday practice, Bowers took some reps in first and second-down situations, a strong indication that he would get a bigger piece of action this coming Sunday in Oakland.  Head Coach Greg Schiano said that Bowers took part in some “three-play sequences” on Monday and could get more if he reacts well to the increased action.

“Now we are taking the next step and that’s playing back-to-back-to-back plays,” said Schiano.  “We will see how he does today and then if everything is good on Wednesday, maybe he goes four plays and just try to get him back in to this thing slowly. But he does have a pop to him that is good to have back.”

Bowers is confident he’ll be able to take the next step quickly.

“I’m definitely working my way back in there,” he said.  “Now I think it’s more of a ‘wind’ thing, getting back in shape, getting my wind back.  I don’t mind doing first and second downs, I’m not only a pass-rush guy.  Coach and I have talked about taking steps towards that progress.  Hopefully by Sunday I can get in on some first and second-down situations.”

Bowers didn’t record a tackle or sack in his small dose of plays on Thursday night, but he did show some good burst off the line, and he was there to bury QB Christian Ponder in the backfield after Ponder recovered a fumbled snap.  Bowers contributed to what was, overall, the team’s best pass-rush outing in a month.

“He gives us an added mix with a lot of explosion and speed off the edge,” said DT Gerald McCoy.  “Especially missing [Adrian] Clayborn, having Bowers back kind of fills that void.”

One Fine Month!

 

On Tuesday, the NFL revealed its list of nominees for this week’s Ground Player and Rookie of the Week awards and, not surprisingly, the Bucs’ Doug Martin was on both.  Martin led all players in Week Eight with 135 rushing yards and 214 yards from scrimmage and was one of just seven players in the league to score two touchdowns.

That marked the second straight week that Martin was among the Rookie of the Week nominees, and indeed he has been hot throughout the month of October.  The same can be said for QB Josh Freeman, perhaps even more emphatically, and for the Buccaneer attack as a whole.  In fact, there weren’t too many players or entire units that were more productive in October than Freeman, Martin and Tampa Bay’s offense.

In addition to its round of weekly awards, the NFL will soon be announcing its Players of the Month for October.  Despite playing just three games in the month due to a Week Five bye, Martin and Freeman have some compelling numbers for the award-givers to consider.

For instance, Freeman led the entire league in the month of October with 336.7 passing yards per game.  He also tossed three touchdown passes in all three of the Bucs’ games in the month while leading his team to a 2-1 record.

Freeman also led the NFL with an average of 9.71 yards per pass attempt in October.  Overall, he completed 58 of 104 passes for 1,010 yards, nine touchdowns and just one interception.  His passer rating in October of 113.9 ranked was third in the NFL and second in the NFC behind Denver’s Peyton Manning (126.7) and Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers (121.5).

Continue reading