Davis Plans To Play Sunday
The 5-3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who have lost three of their last four games, received some good news Monday when the MRI results on starting left tackle Anthony Davis’ left knee came back negative.

Davis sustained a left knee sprain in the second quarter of Sunday’s 34-14 loss to the Carolina Panthers. While he did not return to action after sustaining the injury, Davis said Monday that his knee ailment was not as bad as first believed.

“I woke up this morning and it was fine and I got treatment,” said Davis. “I’ll try to go this week and see what I can do.

“Everything is fine. Let’s see what I can do this week and see what I can do to help this running game get going and help this team win.”

Bucs head coach Jon Gruden suggested the team would wait until later in the week to determine whether Davis would play vs. the Washington Redskins.

“I can’t make that statement until we get a little further information, but we are optimistic that it’s not as bad as we feared and there is a chance (he’ll play) obviously,” said Gruden.

Should Davis not be ready to play next Sunday, backup T Todd Steussie will take the first-year starter’s place in the starting lineup.

“It would be a tough loss,” Gruden said of Davis. “It’s always a tough loss when you lose a starting player, whether it be a quarterback, a running back or a left tackle, certainly. We’d have to lean on Todd Steussie and we’re confident in his abilities.”

Enough Blame To Go Around
The end result remained the same as the one Tampa Bay produced in San Francisco – a loss — but Bucs quarterback Chris Simms showed some progress vs. the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.

In his second start of the season, Simms completed 25-of-42 (59.5 percent) passes for 259 yards and tossed a touchdown and two interceptions. What those stats don’t show you is the fact that Simms completed 10-of-13 passes and fired a perfect strike to wide receiver Joey Galloway for a 50-yard touchdown in the first half.

Simms also got off to a strong start in the third quarter until he threw a pass to the flat that was intended for WR Michael Clayton and intercepted by Panthers cornerback Chris Gamble, who returned the ball 61 yards for a touchdown that put the Bucs in a 17-point hole.

“I think he’s getting better,” said Gruden. “I liked his first half; I believe he was 10-of-13 and made some key throws on third down. He was off to a great start in the second half. He just got jumped. He didn’t see enough of what he should see. In fairness to him, North Carolina made a great play. But he’s got to see that. There are certain looks, certain information that he’s got to process faster. I think the more he plays the more he will.”

Simms, who has been sacked five times in each of Tampa Bay’s last two games, deserves blame, but not all of it, according to Gruden.

“I think blame has got to be assessed,” said Gruden. “That’s just part of society. The coach gets the blame and the quarterback gets the blame and we get the blame as a football team when you get defeated soundly at home like we did yesterday. We had bad field position for the most part of this game. I think our best drive start was the 33 or 34-yard line. We haven’t really shown an ability to run the football with much success in the last two football games for sure. We have to play a lot better up front as well. We dropped a few passes. I believe at the end of the first half he was 10-of-13 and doing quite well to be perfectly honest with you. Obviously, the interception to start the second half was a game-changing play. That must be eliminated from our play. He did make some progress yesterday. He did do some good things. Carolina is a very stingy physical difficult task for any quarterback and we realize that. We have a long way to go with Chris Simms. We have a young offensive football team that got their eyes opened yesterday. And hopefully when we get a chance to play Carolina again we’ll be much better.”

Gruden went on to say that Tampa Bay’s quarterback rotation for Sunday’s game vs. Washington would not change, with Simms starting, Luke McCown serving as the No. 2 QB and Tim Rattay being the emergency signal caller.

Bucs Need Bigger Serving Of Rice
One week after being sent home from San Francisco for missing a mandatory team meeting, Tampa Bay starting defensive end Simeon Rice failed to show up for the Bucs’ game vs. the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.

Well, not quite. Rice, who has a team-leading five sacks, did in fact start and play vs. the Panthers, but he failed to record a sack or tackle, which was obviously not enough production for the Bucs to halt a potent Panthers offense.

“He’s had some good plays now,” Gruden said of Rice. “He hasn’t shown up in the stat column for obvious reasons in San Francisco. A lot of times you can, in a four-man rush, you can really do some things and make it tough on a given defensive player to get to the quarterback when you’re rushing four people. You can put a tight end over there, you can squat a back over there and you can get two hats on him. He’s playing every down hard. I believe that. We have to continue to push him. And hopefully he can make some flash plays here in coming weeks because we certainly need it.”

Rice isn’t the only Buc that has failed to put consistent pressure on opposing teams’ quarterbacks this season. Bucs under tackle Anthony McFarland has only notched one sack and nose tackle Chris Hovan has yet to record his first quarterback takedown as a Buc.

While they have the No. 1-ranked defense in the league and are No. 2 vs. the run, the Bucs have a total of 16 sacks through eight games, which puts them on pace to notch just 32 quarterback takedowns this season.

“It hasn’t been what we’ve been accustom to around here,” Gruden said of Tampa Bay’s pass rush. “We have half a season to address that and make improvements. We are doing some very good things now on the defensive line, some very good things. Stopping the run and we are having some good pressure downs. We just haven’t had the overall consistency in game-changing type quarterback pressures and sacks that we need and that goes without saying.”

Tampa Bay’s defense has also failed to create a turnover in two straight games, and coupled with the Bucs’ turnovers on offense, the team has a minus-7 turnover ratio over the past contests. Gruden is counting on the Bucs defense to create more turnovers and points to help aid his struggling offense.

“It’s obvious we need that,” Gruden said of turnovers. “For years and years, this defense has been able to do that, and there’s no reason why this defense can’t do it or won’t do it. So we’re going to go back to work here, back to the grind, and try to reach down deep to try to pull it out of them, because we do have the potential to get that done. But we certainly have been missing the dynamic, play-making, game-changing type of plays that we’re accustomed to seeing around here.”

Bucs Hoping Clayton Catches On Soon
Back in training camp, Bucs WR Michael Clayton said he didn’t believe there was such a thing as a sophomore slump. Well, the second-year receiver has been enduring one this season.

Through eight games, Clayton has caught just 25 passes for 275 yards and has yet to score a touchdown. He’s also dropped several passes and is on pace to haul in 50 passes and no touchdowns, which is way off from the 80-catch, seven-touchdown performance he had during his rookie season.

According to Gruden, Clayton’s slow season is a result of the star receiver’s offseason knee surgery and WR Joey Galloway’s 44-catch, six-touchdown outing this season.

“Well, this guy’s had a tough year,” Gruden said of Clayton. “He had a tough offseason and a very difficult battle with rehab. He pushed himself through training camp, and that’s a credit to him. He’s a very tough, prideful guy. But when you don’t have the offseason, the top-flight, the top-caliber season, the year-around-the-clock deal that everybody else has, it makes things tough for you. Michael hasn’t had the type of explosive play-making that he had last season. We’re hoping that as this season progresses, we see a return to that. We certainly miss that. Joey Galloway’s playing extremely well but we need our flanker in this pass offense. There’s no question about it.”

Bucs Prepare For Redskins
Next up for Tampa Bay is the 5-3 Washington Redskins, who are coming off an impressive win vs. the Philadelphia Eagles.

“They’re 5-3, credit to Washington they had a difficult loss on the road to New York,” Gruden said. “They were clearly beaten handedly 36-0. And they got rejuvenated, played extremely well last night, highly energetic. They got a convincing win against a quality opponent. Hopefully, we can learn from that. Do that ourselves. They’re an impressive team. They have a veteran quarterback, explosive wide receiver and a great running back in [Clinton] Portis. This team will blitz you from all over the place. They don’t care what package they do it from. So, it will be a challenge for us, certainly.”

Although the Bucs are 5-3 as well, Gruden met with several players on Sunday night and Monday morning in an effort to keep his team’s confidence up as it heads into the second half of the football season having lost three of its last four games.

“I met with several of the players yesterday and early this morning,” said Gruden. “We’ve got a young football team, particularly on offense. I worry a little bit about some of these guys getting a little bit freaked out with the length of the season, the mental grind, the physical grind that they go through, but in some ways, this is a real positive for our football team, for us to be tested in this way. We physically got beaten yesterday by a quality football team and you can dwell on the negatives and you can also do something about it and roll your fist up and play a hell of a lot better this coming Sunday, which is what we’re looking forward to seeing in our football team.”

Although Tampa Bay’s offense has struggled without Griese, Gruden’s plan is to let the young players, particularly the ones on offense, grow up over the next eight games.

“We’re not going to be able to make a lot of personnel adjustments, okay,” Gruden said. “We’ve got some situations that are hard to deal with. I’m not going to make excuses. We’ve got to rally around our young quarterback. We’ve got to push some of these players to play a little bit better. We’ve got to coach harder. We’ve got to continue to work. We’re 5-3. We’re done with half the season and we’ve had some ugly moments, ugly. I’ve also had some awesome things happen here. I do like this team. They practice hard, they prepare hard and they will compete. Hopefully, we can put together a 60-minute show that’s a reverse of what we did yesterday.”

McFarland Mic’d Up On NFL Network
NFL Films spent last week at One Buccaneer Place and in the Bay Area in order to document Bucs DT Anthony “Booger” McFarland’s life as he prepared to take on the Carolina Panthers.

The footage and sound captured by NFL Films will come to life in Six Days to Sunday, which is scheduled to air on Nov. 10 at 8:30 PM PT on NFL Network.

If you liked this story, be sure to get the inside scoop and more detailed information on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ offseason plans regarding roster changes, free agency and the NFL Draft with a Pewter Insider premium subscription.

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