It’s beginning to look more and more like Jacquizz Rodgers will get the start for the Buccaneers at running back against the Panthers on Monday night.
Charles Sims, who has started the two games Doug Martin has had to miss because of a sore right hamstring, was watching from the sideline again at practice on Friday.
Sims has been battling a knee injury he suffered during the Bucs 27-7 loss to the Broncos last week. His likely absence will further force the Bucs to shuffle an already shuffled backfield.
As it stands now the Bucs will probably dress undrafted rookie Peyton Barber as the backup for Rodgers for Monday night’s game. They might even promote the recently re-signed Russell Hansbrough from the practice squad. Rodgers would be expected to get most of the early carries Monday as a veteran, who has already averaged over five yards a carry in three games with Tampa Bay.
But it’s not just at running back where the Bucs are having to shuffle their lineup. A rash of injuries is forcing changes along the defensive line as well.
Rookie defensive end Noah Spence told F. F. I. this week that he suffered a dislocated shoulder and a slight tear in his labrum during the Bucs loss last week.
He has missed practice all week and seems to be headed for no-go status, as does Gerald McCoy, who is nursing what the Bucs say is a left calf injury, though he was not wearing the boot he was wearing after the game last Sunday.
The same may hold true for defensive end Robert Ayers, who practiced on a limited basis on Thursday but sat out Friday’s practice along with Clinton McDonald, who is also nursing a hamstring strain.
That left William Gholston as the only starter working on a defensive front that could open up against the Panthers on Monday with Akeem Spence and two undrafted free agents (Channing Ward and DaVonte Lambert) in the lineup.