One step forward, two steps back. That seems to be the trend among the Tampa Bay Buccaneers roster. In each of the first six games, the Bucs have lost at least one starter. Against the Miami Dolphins, safety Antoine Winfield Jr. suffered a concussion and was forced to miss the game against the Philadelphia Eagles in week six. Tight end Rob Gronkowski has missed the last three games and Lavonte David was out against Philadelphia after suffering a sprained ankle against Miami.
Well, there’s some progress for the Bucs as safety Antoine Winfield Jr. not only returned to practice but was also working with special teams as a returner. This is certainly good news for Bucs fans as Tampa prepares to take on the Chicago Bears this weekend;
Bucs safety Antoine Winfield not only practicing today but even fielding punts, so bodes well for him having a chance to clear concussion protocol if he’s symptom-free.— Greg Auman (@gregauman) October 20, 2021
As Greg points out, Winfield hasn’t cleared concussion protocol yet, but Wednesday was certainly a big step in the right direction.
A big step in the wrong direction was Antonio Brown’s absence from practice as he is apparently dealing with a sprained ankle according to Tampa Bay Times’ Rick Stroud;
Bucs WR Antonio Brown didn’t practice due to a sprained ankle.— Rick Stroud (@NFLSTROUD) October 20, 2021
Through six weeks, Antonio Brown is leading the team in targets despite missing a game due to being placed on the Reserve/COVID list. As Mike Evans and Chris Godwin continue to draw the focus of the defense, Tom Brady has found a reliable and steady target in Brown to continue to keep the defense on its heels rather than forcing the ball into double coverage.
You could make the point that the Bucs have a 1A, 1B, and 1C at receiver and as the season progresses each of the “big three” will have their individual game takeovers, adjusting to whatever the defense is giving up.
Rob Gronkowski was still not at practice and his status for Sunday is in question. The Buccaneers could allow him continued rest with the recent emergence of O.J. Howard and Cam Brate as pass catching options. It’s more important that Gronk is healthy down the stretch and for a potential postseason run rather than rushing him back for a week seven game against the Bears.
Bruce Arians appears to be optimistic about the return of Lavonte David, telling the media that David has made great progress;
Bruce Arians says Lavonte David has made good progress recovering from his ankle injury. Says he’s one of the guys he’s crossing his fingers to get back Sunday vs. Bears.— Greg Auman (@gregauman) October 20, 2021
Though Kevin Minter played well against the Eagles, but there’s no question that the defense needs Lavonte David out there on the field to elevate the play of the team. With rookie quarterback Justin Fields taking the snaps, David can create a lot of problems for the young man both in the passing game as well as generating pressure throughout the game.
All of these issues are things to keep an eye on as the week progresses, but more concern for the Bucs on the injury front as they continue to be bludgeoned with problem after problem for their starters.
The Locked On Bucs Podcast is now on YouTube! Check out the latest episode below or by clicking here. James Yarcho is joined by 10 Tampa Bay’s Evan Closky to give final thoughts on the win over Philadelphia, Leonard Fournette’s establishment as the number one back, and to preview the week seven game against the Chicago Bears. Be sure to subscribe to the channel for all the upcoming Buccaneers content!