According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport on Thursday, September 23, Jason Pierre-Paul is likely out this week due to a shoulder injury. The veteran pass-rusher received a second opinion on his shoulder from a doctor and the recommendation is rest.
The 32-year-old linebacker initially missed Wednesday’s and Thursday’s practices due to the shoulder ailment. The Buccaneers continue to call Pierre-Paul’s injury “day to day,” according to the September 23 injury report.
On Wednesday, Pierre-Paul took to Instagram to post about “setbacks,” The Athletic’s Greg Auman reported.
Pierre-Paul has yet to officially be ruled out for Sunday’s game. But considering the second opinion from the doctor and the fact that the season is a long one — the regular season will be 17 games for the first time in NFL history — it may be wise to rest the veteran.
Although the injury certainly comes at a bad time for Tampa Bay, the shoulder setback won’t land the pass-rushing specialist on injured reserve, according to Rick Stroud and Joey Knight of The Tampa Bay Times. Furthermore, there is still “slim” hope that Pierre-Paul could still play on Sunday, they wrote.
The likely absence of Pierre-Paul is a major one for the Buccaneers as they prepare to play what may be their biggest game of the regular season against the Rams. Through the first two games of the year, the 6-foot-5 linebacker has appeared in 88% of the team’s defensive snaps, Pro Football Talk reported, and has notched nine tackles to go along with a pass breakup.
The pass-rushing specialist led the Buccaneers with 9.5 sacks last season.
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Pierre-Paul’s Absence Could Mean More Time for Stafford
The likely absence of Pierre-Paul is even more glaring considering Tampa Bay is matching up with one of the top passers in the game in Matthew Stafford.
Stafford not only ranks near the top of the league in several major statistics — third in passer rating, fourth in yards per attempt and seventh in passing yards — the veteran QB obviously excels when he’s not under pressure.
The 33-year-old Stafford has completed 74.5% of his passes when not under pressure this season, per the Bucs digital team. However, his numbers dip drastically when under pressure, as Stafford has completed just 44.4% of his passes when under duress.
Although the absence of Pierre-Paul would obviously impact the Bucs’ pressure on Stafford, it’s worth noting that the linebacker pair of Lavonte David (two quarterback pressures) and Devin White (five quarterback pressures) leads the league through the first two weeks.
One thing is for certain — Tampa Bay needs to force pressure on Stafford in order to limit the Rams’ offense. Not doing so could lead to the Buccaneers getting into a shootout with Los Angeles.
The Buccaneers have already allowed 54 total points (27.0 points per game) through the first two games of the year and have needed dominant performances from Tom Brady (nine touchdowns on the year) and the offense (39.5 points per game) in order to win both contests.
That’s not necessarily a recipe for success when playing on the road more than 2,000 miles away from home.
Bucs to Rely on Youngsters?
If Pierre-Paul can’t go, Tampa Bay will rely on some youngsters to fill the void.
Third-year backup Anthony Nelson and 2021 first-round draft pick Joe Tryon-Shoyinka would be the next men up, defensive coordinator Todd Bowles said in a media conference on September 23. Both players have seen minimal playing time so far in 2021.
Through Tampa’s first two games, Nelson has seen the field for 21 defensive snaps, notching only one tackle, while Tryon-Shoyinka has been slightly more productive on 40 defensive snaps, managing four tackles and one quarterback hit.
Despite the possible reliance on two unproven backups — the pair have three combined starts between them — Bowles isn’t sweating Pierre-Paul’s potential void.
“I feel comfortable that (Tryon-Shoyinka) has gotten a lot of reps, and he’s been here from Day 1 along with Nelson,” Bowles told the media. “So if we have guys that have to play in case somebody doesn’t play, we feel comfortable putting anybody in whether they’re rookies or vets.”
Veteran defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh echoed a similar sentiment as the Bucs prepare for their biggest test of the season thus far.
“At the end of the day, we’re definitely going to miss JPP if he’s not playing,” Suh said during the September 23 media conference. “But we expect other guys to step up and fill in that role.”