Bucs Make Final Decision on Julio Jones vs. Ravens: Report

Julio Jones

Getty Julio Jones warming up before a Week 4 game.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, get a potential big boost with the return of star wide receiver  Julio Jones   in a critical Week 8 game against the Baltimore Ravens.

Jones came into Thursday as “a game-time decision”, which Bucs head coach Todd Bowles announced in Wednesday’s press conference. NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo and Sara Walsh reported that Jones will play according to sources on Thursday afternoon.

Jones hasn’t played since Week 4 due to a torn PCL in his knee. He also missed two other games after Week 1 due to the same injury.

With Jones back, the Bucs have another deep-ball threat, which sorely lacks at the moment amid quarterback Tom Brady’s 6.6 yards per pass attempt. Jones still has the team’s longest reception this season, 48 yards, and that happened in Week 1.

Offensively, the Bucs still have a few significant injuries going into the Week 8 game. Wide receiver Russell Gage (hamstring), tight end Cameron Brate (neck), and offensive guard Luke Goedeke (foot) won’t play.

Nick Leverett a Boost for Bucs Blockers?

Meanwhile, Nick Leverett stepping in for Goedeke could provide a boost for the offensive line if Leverett can out-perform the rookie from Central Michigan. Goedeke has a 38.2 grade from Pro Football Focus in seven starts.

“We loved him in summer camp,” Bowles said about Leverett. “He was feisty, he was smart, he was one of the first ones in the building. He studied. He had some technique stuff to work on just like Luke but they were neck-and-neck in the spot. We like his aggressiveness.”

Injuries Persist for Bucs Secondary

Injuries linger in the secondary again for a second-consecutive season.

The Bucs (3-4) will play a third-consecutive game with significant injuries to three or more starting caliber defensive backs. This time, Carlton Davis III (hip), Antoine Winfield Jr. (concussion), and Sean Murphy-Bunting (quad) won’t play.

A similar trend plagued the Bucs throughout 2021, which started before that season kicked off. Former Bucs safety Jordan Whitehead dealt with a hamstring injury during training camp, but the Bucs never fielded its full starting defensive backfield until the playoffs. The Los Angeles Rams ironically beat the Bucs because of a miscommunication in the defensive backfield late in the NFC Divisional Round last season.

“It’s just as challenging, but again, we have guys that make this team for a reason,” Bowles told the media regarding the secondary injuries. “It’s throughout the league — you have to almost get used to it and get guys ready to play regardless. So, we’re prepared for it and we’re comfortable with the guys we have.”

This season’s Bucs squad can ill afford a thinned out secondary amid the plethora of problems on offense. The Bucs defense couldn’t hold up against recent one-win teams in the Pittsburgh Steelers and Carolina Panthers. Baltimore will give the Bucs a much more difficult test on defense with former MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson and a dynamic rushing attack.

Tampa Bay doesn’t look likely to get more help up front with defensive end Akiem Hicks coming off of a foot injury. Hicks practiced in limited capacity this week, but he remained questionable until the team officially ruled him out on Thursday afternoon. The Bucs notably have a 1-4 record with Hicks out of the lineup after a 2-0 start with him in the trenches.