The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been absolutely decimated by injuries so far this season — and it doesn’t look like it’s getting any better.
While the injury to star tight end Rob Gronkowski has garnered most of the headlines, it’s the team’s defensive backfield situation that draws the most concern.
The Buccaneers are currently dealing with injuries to several of their key defensive backs. Carlton Davis III(quad), Sean Murphy-Bunting (elbow), Jamel Dean (knee) and Antoine Winfield Jr. have all suffered notable injuries over the first few weeks of the season.
In the case of Davis and Murphy-Bunting, they appear to be long-term ones, according to head coach Bruce Arians. During his media availability on Wednesday, October 6, Arians gave a grim update on the Buccaneers’ cornerback situation. The Buccaneers head coach that he doesn’t expect either cornerback to be back anytime soon.
Via Bucs team writer Carmen Vitali:
Davis suffered his quad injury during the Week 4 victory over the New England Patriots. The 24-year-old left the game just before halftime due to the ailment. Following the game, Arians remarked that the injury might take a while to heal up. He obviously doubled down on those remarks on Wednesday.
In the case of Murphy-Bunting, the fellow 24-year-old cornerback has been sidelined since Week 1 due to his dislocated elbow. He has been on injured reserve ever since and the Buccaneers have yet to disclose an official timetable regarding his return.
If there’s any positive news regarding Murphy-Bunting, it’s that the nickel cornerback has made progress in his recovery, as mentioned by Arians on Monday, October 4 (per Greg Auman of The Athletic).
However, it’s clear that both of the team’s top defensive backs are not returning any time soon. And considering the team’s weakness is currently the defensive backfield — the unit ranks dead last in passing yards allowed and 30th in touchdowns allowed — this is not good news at all for the defending Super Bowl champions moving forward.
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Winfield Might Not Play in Week 5
While Winfield’s injury doesn’t look as bad as his teammates’ ailments, the young safety might not clear concussion protocols in time for the Buccaneers’ Week 5 matchup against the Miami Dolphins.
Earlier in the week on Monday, October 4, Arians said it’ll be difficult for the 23-year-old to clear protocol in time for Sunday.
If Winfield Jr. is unable to play versus the Dolphins, Andrew Adams would be the next man up. While the 28-year-old has started 32 games in his career, he hasn’t started in a game since the 2019 season.
In regards to the Buccaneers’ cornerback situation, Ross Cockrell would likely start in place of Davis. The newly-signed Richard Sherman — signed on Wednesday, September 29 — would likely be placed into the starting lineup for the second consecutive week.
Sherman on Bucs Debut: Legs Felt Like Jell-O
Speaking of Sherman, the new Buccaneers cornerback received quite a bit of action in his first game with the team.
Just days after signing with Tampa Bay, Sherman — who had only participated in three team practices — made his team debut versus the Patriots. The 33-year-old cornerback saw action in 98% of the team’s defensive snaps, making seven tackles and recovering a fumble along the way.
During his media availability on Wednesday, October 6, Sherman had an interesting reaction to his unexpected start — his legs felt like Jell-O by the fourth quarter.
Via Buccaneers senior writer/editor Scott Smith:
Considering he’ll likely make his second consecutive start less than two weeks after signing with the Buccaneers, one can only imagine how he’ll feel after this Sunday’s game.