The Buccaneers played the majority of Sunday’s 38-19 loss to Carolina without the services of cornerback Aqib Talib, who re-injured his hamstring on the fourth play of the game while covering Panthers receiver Steve Smith. Tampa Bay may be faced with the possibility of not having Talib again this Sunday when the team travels to Jacksonville as he missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday due to his hamstring injury.
“He actually went and got some tests done [on Wednesday],” said Bucs defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake. “We are waiting for the results. It was obvious he couldn’t finish the game last week, so we will see how serious it is and how many weeks it is going to be or if it is going to be any weeks. It’s the next man up theory. If he can’t go, then obviously (E.J.) Biggers, Elbert Mack, Myron Lewis, Anthony Gaitor – between all of them, you’ve got to be ready to go.”
Fifteen-year veteran cornerback Ronde Barber was asked to play more on the outside edge of the defense than inside the slot due to Talib’s injury last week.
“He did a great job,” Lake said. “He went out and played Steve Smith really well. Then when we went nickel we actually put E.J. Biggers on Steve Smith. He had two catches for  yards. Obviously, he hit us on that one big one and that was E.J. Biggers on him and then he hit us on a screen. From that standpoint of the game we felt pretty good about it because we know Steve Smith can change a game, and he was really only a factor on one play.”
If Talib doesn’t play, the Bucs will likely have Lewis, a third-round draft pick in 2010 who has largely disappointed, and Gaitor, a rookie, in the lineup to back up Barber, Biggers and Mack. Lake said that Lewis has been slowed by injuries again this season and has been set back by the fact that other cornerbacks have been playing so well. Lewis had 10 tackles and four pass breakups last year as a rookie and has just two tackles this year.
“He is doing good,” Lake said. “We would like him to progress even more, though. His attitude is great. For him it’s going to be when he gets his opportunity he has got to step up to the plate. He has got to show us that hey you are going to be the next guy.
“This could be the week. You never know. Last week, Anthony Gaitor played really well. He came in and Myron Lewis was down for the game and Gaitor was up for special teams purposes. Bam! Aqib Talib goes down and now Gaitor became our fourth quarter just like that. He came in and really played really well.”
Lake said despite the fact that Lewis was a third-round draft pick in 2010, that doesn’t ensure him a spot on the depth chart. Mack, an undrafted free agent in 2008, Biggers, a seventh-round draft pick in 2009, and Gaitor, a seventh-round selection from this year’s draft, have all performed better than Lewis, who has been inactive for five of the team’s 12 games this season.
“All the corners I guess they have Aqib and Ronde in front of them, really, and Biggers,” Lake said. “So Myron knows what he needs to do. When he gets his opportunity he has got to take advantage of it. If he doesn’t, and that’s any position in the NFL, if he doesn’t then the next guy is going to get his opportunity. If he plays well, then that guy is probably going to play more.”
Lewis, who was beaten by Green Bay wide receiver Jordy Nelson for a 40-yard game-clinching touchdown three weeks ago, has seen his career beset with abdominal strains, pulled hamstrings and ankle injuries that have cut into his playing time and development. If Talib doesn’t play, Lewis will get one more – and perhaps final – chance at Jacksonville to show the Bucs’ brass that he can be a competent NFL corner and a part of Tampa Bay’s future.