The Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris added two more starters to the injured reserve on Monday after the Bucs 20-17 victory over the New Orleans Saints. Defensive end Jimmy Wilkerson and fullback Earnest Graham are the latest Bucs to end their seasons early due to injury.
"Jimmy Wilkerson torn ACL. Earnest Graham a torn ligament in his toe," Morris said. "Both of those guys will be placed on IR. We'll be able to update you with their replacements soon."
Wilkerson leads Tampa Bay's defensive linemen with 66 tackles and is second on the team in sacks with six. The injury comes at a bad time for Wilkerson who is entering free agency after the season. Graham became the starting fullback when B.J. Askew was injured for the season. The veteran Graham had one carry for eight yards, and had four catches for 43 yards against the Saints. For the season Graham had 14 carries for 66 yards with 14 receptions for 109 yards.
Rookie defensive end Kyle Moore and defensive end Michael Bennett are candidates to replace Wilkerson. Veteran Stlyez G. White and Tim Crowder have been rotating at right defensive end. Replacing Graham as the starting fullback will be rookie Chris Pressley. The Wisconsin product Pressley was signed by Tampa Bay from the Cincinnati Bengals practice squad seven weeks into the season.
"He's gradually picked up the offense," Morris said. "He first started with a small package, then he got an additional package that you saw last week with the at Seattle three back deal. Now he's in the regular package. Now he's in the whole offense. He's a smart kid that works hard, and really gives us a lot of punch."
Graham and Pressley led the way as lead blockers for the Buccaneers first 100-yard rusher of the season against the Saints. Running back Carnell ‘Cadillac' Williams finished the game with 24 carries for 129 yards with one touchdown. He caught three passes and 19 yards.
"Cadillac got hot," Morris said. "He was able to run through those holes. He was able to find it really well. Earnest Graham, and Pressley were able to read the zone scheme and the gap runs as well. We did a nice job yesterday."
Taking one of the open roster spots is tight end Ryan Purvis. The Boston College product Purvis caught 113 passes for 1,122 yards for six touchdowns in college. The rookie Purvis has spent the entire season on the Bucs practice squad after getting cut prior to the regular season.
MORRIS WANTS MORE FROM PISCITELLI
Late in the game against the Saints, safety Sabby Piscitelli missed a tackle on New Orleans receiver Robert Meachem. The missed tackle allowed Meachem to turn a short completion into a 19-yard gain to the Bucs 19-yard line. Luckily for Piscitelli, Saints kicker Garrett Hartley missed a 37-yard field goal to send the game to overtime. After some struggles in run defense against New Orleans, Morris was asked about the struggles of Piscitelli.
"In the coverage we had Sabby in the A-gap, which is a little tougher on Sabby. It is a little bit of Sabby maybe he missed a tackle or two, but at the same time we got to recognize when there is a weakness there too," said Morris.
Morris said the defense as a unit made mistakes on Meachem's 30-yard touchdown catch in the first half. He said that Piscitelli was not alone on having a miscue on the coverage on that play. At the same time Morris said he wants more from the 2007 second-round pick out of Oregon State. Piscitelli has 86 tackles on the season with one interception, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery.
"You would love to see Sabby have more play-making opportunities," Morris said. "But you'd love to see the whole team produce better, and we haven't. ... Really this is his first year as a full-time starter. I‘m sure he went out there with high expectations for himself as well. I'd like to see him have more plays. I'd like to see him have more production, and those types of things. But that hasn't happened for him this year, so he just has to go back to the lab and get better along with all of us."
MORE BARTH IN 2010
After hitting a game-winning 47-yard field goal to beat the Saints, Morris was asked if kicker Connor Barth would be in the running to be the Bucs kicker next season.
"You got to say yes to that. All he has done is come in here make some field goals, he missed a few, but he's really been consistent for the most part. He had a three field goal day," said Morris referring to Barth at Miami. "Yesterday he kicked the game-winner. He's been pretty much pretty consistent all year. ... He's a young kicker with a strong leg."
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