Amid a slew of injuries on offense, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense remained relatively healthy early in the season until now.
Bucs defensive tackle Akiem Hicks will miss a month due to a foot injury he sustained at New Orleans on Sunday, September 18, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Hicks, a 2018 Pro Bowler, “tore the plantar fascia in his foot”, Schefter wrote. Bucs head coach Todd Bowles confirmed Hicks won’t play in Week 3 during his radio show per Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times.
Hicks produced in the first two games with five tackles and a quarterback hit before he left during the first half of the Saints game with the injury. The Bucs signed Hicks as a free agent to bolster the defensive front as former Bucs defensive end Ndamukong Suh remained unsigned.
Hicks also had a prior connection to Bucs quarterback Tom Brady since the two played together in New England during the 2015 season. Despite Hicks’ success with the Chicago Bears since 2016, he dealt with multiple injuries — especially the past three seasons. He played just nine games last season amid groin and ankle injuries, and he played only five games in 2019 due to knee and elbow injuries.
How the Bucs Will Fare Without Akiem Hicks
Bucs rookie defensive tackle Logan Hall likely could step in for Hicks during the next month. Hall played 49 snaps between the first two games and tallied one tackle.
The Bucs also have veteran defensive tackle Rakeem Nunez-Roches, who started 11 games during the Super Bowl run in 2020 for the injured Vita Vea. Nunez-Roches has two tackles this season and 101 career tackles in eight seasons.
It behooves Hall and/or Nunez-Roches to step up big amid the Bucs’ strong defensive showing thus far. The Bucs allowed a league-best 6.5 points per game, and it took seven quarters before the defense gave up its first touchdown of the season.
Tampa Bay still has a strong defensive front in addition to Hall or Nunez-Roches. Vea has been one of the better run stoppers in the league for a few years. He had 33 tackles and four stacks last year, and he has 1.5 sacks and three tackles in two games this season. Defensive tackle Will Gholston tallied 36 tackles and 4.5 sacks last season. Gholston has a tackle and a quarterback hit in 54 defensive snaps this year.
Bucs Offense Still Banged Up
Tampa Bay also lost offensive tackle Josh Wells at New Orleans, and he “probably” won’t play in Week 3, Bowles said on his radio show per Greg Auman of The Athletic.
The Bucs offense remains significantly more banged up than the defense. Offensive tackle Donovan Smith and wide receivers Chris Godwin and Julio Jones missed the Saints game due to injuries.
Bucs offensive tackle Brandon Walton could start in place of Wells and Smith after a solid showing against the Saints. The Bucs addressed the wide receiver shortage on Tuesday, September 20, by signing former second-team All-Pro Cole Beasley to the practice squad. Beasley could move up to the active roster for the Packers game.