During a 0-8 start to the 2013 season, Bucs head coach Greg Schiano was accused of squandering away a talented roster. But Schiano and the Buccaneers have reeled off three straight wins with a host of reserve players filling in for injured starters.
When the Buccaneers were mired in an eight-game losing streak to start the 2013 season, one of the biggest arguments against head coach Greg Schiano was that he was squandering away a lot of Pro Bowl talent in Tampa Bay. The fact that cornerback Darrelle Revis wasn’t being used in man coverage enough and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy was being used on too many stunts and not enough straight ahead rushes were among the chief complaints.
But as injuries and circumstance mounted in Tampa Bay, something bizarre happened. A host of reserve players have stepped in and stepped up, and all of a sudden, Schiano and his assistant coaches are getting the most of their talent and playing better and winning games despite being without some of the Buccaneers’ big guns.
Several key Bucs have been lost for the year due to injury, including kicker Connor Barth, Pro Bowl running backs Doug Martin, Mike James and Jeff Demps, wide receiver Mike Williams, tight end Nate Byham and cornerback Michael Adams among others. Yet Schiano has been able to win three games in a row with former role players stepping up into the starting lineup, as well as some recently signed free agents off the street.
That speaks not only to the coaching job Schiano and his assistants have been doing over the past month, but also to general manager Mark Dominik, director of player personnel Dennis Hickey and director of pro personnel Shelton Quarles for finding quality depth before and during the season.
“Last night, we talked about this – don’t tell me who we don’t have, tell me who we have,” Schiano screamed to his players in his fiery, post-game locker room address to the team after beating Detroit, 24-21. “That was one of the most gutsy performances I’ve seen by a football team. Start going down the list and saying, he’s out, he’s out and he’s out. And all I get is one guy after another stepping in and saying, ‘Bring it on, bring it on and bring it on!’ That’s what team is about. That’s what family is about. That’s how you stick together.”
Since the Seattle game alone, when Tampa Bay went toe-to-toe with the 10-1 Seahawks before falling in overtime, 27-24, there have been several unsung heroes on the Buccaneers over the past four games in which the team is 3-1 during that span. Here is a list of a dozen of those players:QB Mike Glennon
Over the past four games Glennon has completed 62-of-88 passes (70.4 percent) for 785 yards with seven touchdowns and one interception to help guide the Bucs to three straight wins with QB ratings of 137.5 and 138.4 in his last two contests.RB Bobby Rainey
After his debut on Monday Night Football in which he had eight carries for 45 yards and a touchdown, Rainey had 163 yards rushing and three total touchdowns (two rushing, one receiving) and is averaging 5.2 yards per carry through the last three games.RB Mike James
James had a breakout game versus the Seahawks, rushing for a career-high 158 yards on 28 carries (5.6 avg.), in addition to throwing a touchdown pass at Seattle prior to rushing for 41 yards on five carries (8.2 avg.) before breaking his ankle against Miami.WR Tiquan Underwood
Underwood has nine of his 13 catches this season for 221 yards and three touchdowns in the past four games, including a career-high three-catch, 108-yard effort at Detroit in which he caught a personal-best two touchdowns.TE Tim Wright
Wright has stepped in as the team’s starting tight end and has caught 14 passes for 165 yards and a touchdown, including a career-high eight-catch, 75-yard day against Detroit.LG Jamon Meredith
Tampa Bay’s offense has scored the most points – an average of 25.5 – over the past four games with Meredith, who has a severely sprained ankle, in the lineup for ailing Pro Bowler Carl Nicks, and the running game has been averaging 137.5 yards per game during that span, too.LB Dekoda Watson
After losing his starting strongside linebacker role to Jonathan Casillas, Watson has been seeing time at defensive end where he pressured Matt Ryan into a pick-six against Atlanta in addition to blocking a punt against the Falcons, and got a sack against Detroit. CB Danny Gorrer
Since coming back from groin surgery, Gorrer has played in a reserve role and has five tackles, forced a fumble, had a blocked punt at Detroit and a pass breakup. CB Leonard Johnson
In his second season, Johnson has 14 tackles, a huge, 48-yard interception return for a touchdown at Detroit, and a team-high four passes defensed over the past four games.CB Johnthan Banks
Banks, a rookie, has five pass breakups this season, but three of them have come in the last two games, and Tampa Bay’s second-round pick has 17 tackles over the past four contests and a clutch interception in the Detroit game.FS Keith Tandy
Playing in dime coverage as a reserve and as a starter against Detroit in place of the suspended Dashon Goldson, Tandy, a second-year safety, has come up with seven tackles, two key interceptions at the goal line (at Seattle and Detroit) and two pass breakups.SS Kelcie McCray
While only posting two tackles in the last five games as a seldom-used safety, McCray came up big against Detroit, recovering a fumble and hitting Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson at the Tampa Bay 5-yard line and forcing an interception.
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