Even though Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie offensive guard Luke Goedeke wore a boot after the team’s Week 7 loss — and despite his struggles — head coach Todd Bowles said he wouldn’t change course.
Bowles confirmed on October 24, that Goedeke would start the Bucs’ Week 8 game against the Baltimore Ravens (4-3) even though guard Nick Leverett filled in for him on 20 offensive snaps in Week 7.
“Leverett’s earned some playing time, so we started getting him some in there. Luke a was nicked up a little bit as well, so we got Leverett a little more time,” Bowles told the media. “They both fought hard.
“Luke’s injury is fine. He’ll start, but Leverett will play,” Bowles added.
Goedeke notably narrowly beat Leverett for the starting job before the season. But his blocking through seven starts — graded 38.2 by Pro Football Focus — hasn’t helped an underperforming Bucs offense.
Tampa Bay selected Goedeke in the second round from Central Michigan to alleviate the losses of guards Ali Marpet and Alex Cappa in the offseason. He earned a starting role after veteran guard Aaron Stinnie‘s season-ending knee injury in the preseason. Leverett, an undrafted free agent in 2020, has been with the Bucs ever since but has three games of experience and no starts.
Bowles Gives Updates on Injuries Going into Week 8
Though Goedeke’s injury won’t keep him off the field, injuries suffered during the Week 7 21-3 loss at Carolina, could keep two other Bucs players out in Week 8.
Safety Antoine Winfield Jr. sustained a concussion, and he remains in concussion protocol. Bowles indicated that Winfield probably wouldn’t play on Thursday Night Football against the Ravens.
That could hurt struggling defense since Winfield boasts one of the better starts for Bucs defensive backs this season. He tallied 32 tackles, a forced fumble, an interception and a pass deflection through seven games.
Wide receiver Russell Gage hurt a hamstring at Carolina and left the game. Bowles said Gage was waiting for MRI results.
“We’ll see what happens there,” Bowles said.
Gage played every game thus far despite persisting hamstring issues since injuring one in training camp. He has 29 catches for 231 yards and a touchdown this season.
Bowles also couldn’t confirm whether cornerback Carlton Davis III would return for the Ravens game. Davis sat out the Panthers game on Sunday due a hip injury from the Week 6 loss at Pittsburgh.
“We got to see what he does this week,” Bowles said. “He came out Friday and did some things and didn’t feel well, so that kind of set him back. I just want to see how far he is this week.”
Bucs Make Decision at Running Back
Tampa Bay will stick with running back Leonard Fournette as the lead back despite his season-long struggles and the team’s league-worst 64.4 yards per game. Bowles dismissed the idea of moving rookie Rachaad White into that role.
“Not running back one, but he should get some more plays. We’ve always talked about it every week,” Bowles said. “He does some good things with the ball in his hands. He does some good things when he’s out there.”
“Obviously, Leonard’s a great running back as well, so we gotta find a happy medium that both of them touch the ball,” Bowles added.
Fournette rushed for 127 yards in the season opener, but he has 235 yards since in six games. His pass catching has added some value with 34 catches for 239 yards and three touchdowns.
White, a third-round pick, has 71 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries this season. He also has 14 receptions for 104 yards.