Tampa Bay has three players – wide receiver Michael Clayton (bone bruise, running back Michael Pittman (shoulder) and safety Dexter Jackson (hamstring) – listed as questionable on its official injury report, which was released Wednesday.
All three players were held out of Wednesday’s practice and stand a 50 percent chance of playing vs. the Washington Redskins on Sunday.
Clayton, who has been playing with a separated shoulder he suffered during preseason, appears to be very questionable for Sunday’s game.
“He caught a pass early in the game and landed on the opposite knee that he had surgery on in the offseason,” Bucs head coach Jon Gruden said when asked how Clayton hurt his knee. “He’s got a pretty severe bone bruise, I guess, and he’s limited right now in what he can do.
“He can’t practice. He can’t run right now. He’s a tough guy if there ever was one. If he can come back and play, he’d certainly be the guy to do that. But he doesn’t look ready to go today if we had to play, I’ll say that.”
Clayton is second on the team with 25 catches for 275 yards (11.0 avg.). Despite being listed as questionable on the injury report, Clayton suggested Wednesday that he’d play vs. the ‘Skins.
“I don’t question that (I’ll play) at all,” said Clayton. “I’m just trying to rehab and get better.
Bucs starting left tackle Anthony Davis (knee sprain) was limited on Wednesday but is listed as probable on the injury report.
Bucs Sign LB Cash To Practice Squad
Tampa Bay signed linebacker Antoine Cash to its eight-man practice squad on Wednesday.
The 6-foot-1, 233-pound Cash originally entered the NFL last spring as an undrafted free agent with the Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons released him on Nov. 2.
In order to make room for Cash on their practice squad, the Bucs released LB Matt Grootegoed.
Defense Looking For More Turnovers
Tampa Bay’s defense currently ranks No. 1 overall in the NFL, but that’s not good enough.
With the team’s offense struggling to score points and secure the football, the Bucs are leaning on their defense to produce more sacks and create more turnovers.
“Turnovers and splash plays on defense have been a characteristic of ours around here and we’d like to return to that,” Gruden said.
Tampa Bay has seven interceptions and seven forced fumbles on defense this season. Through eight games, the Bucs have a total of 13 turnovers.
But the Bucs have failed to create a turnover in two straight games, and the team doesn’t believe it’s a coincidence that they have lost two straight games in the process.
“Again, we can’t pitch shutouts and expect to win,” Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks said. “Two games we’ve gone without turnovers, and obviously this team feeds off turnovers. This defense feeds off turnovers and obviously it’s an area we will address. In order to win games here, going into the second half of the season, you look at the turnover ratio, not just our team, but the league in general. Late in the season, teams that protect the ball win, and teams that get the ball win. So you just put an emphasis on the turnover ratio and asking us on defense to turn the heat up. He’s [Gruden] not asking us to do more then we are capable of.”
To make matters worse, Tampa Bay’s offense has turned the ball over seven times over the past two games, which has dropped the Bucs’ turnover ratio on the season to minus-1.
Tampa Bay has notched just 16 sacks through eight games, and while getting more pressure on the quarterback could go a long way in the Bucs’ effort to create more turnovers, most of the players realize that it will take a combination of getting turnovers on defense and taking care of the ball on offense to ultimately get the 5-3 Bucs get back on track.
“The onus starts with me but it doesn’t fall just to me,” said Bucs defensive end Simeon Rice, who has a team-leading five sacks. “It’s spread across the whole defense. Once we do that, we’ll be running on track. But like I said, it takes the whole team to really turn this thing around, in terms of where we going and what we want to get accomplished. We keep that presence in mind and we do what we need to do to take it to the next level.”
Simms Starting To Settle In
Bucs quarterback Chris Simms will make his third start of the season on Sunday when the team takes on the 5-3 Washington Redskins.
Simms has completed 52-of-86 (60.5 percent) passes for 592 yards and tossed two touchdowns and four interceptions this season. While he’s been sacked 10 times in the past two games, both of which the Bucs lost, Simms said Wednesday that he’s starting to settle in as the team’s starting signal caller.
“I felt leaps and bounds more comfortable on Sunday than I did the week before, I must say,” Simms said. “I think it’s more from a rhythm and timing standpoint, more than anything. It’s just dropping back. I’ve got two full weeks of practicing with [Joey] Galloway and [Michael] Clayton and Alex Smith and Anthony Becht. I just felt like I was throwing the ball good and with my decision-making I was just in a better rhythm.”
While he’s shown improvement, Simms will need to continue to develop and the players around him will have to play much better if the third-year quarterback is to realize his full potential.
“The bottom line at this level is you have to take advantage of your opportunities,” Gruden said of Simms. “You’ve got to move the ball, you’ve got to put points on the board, you’ve got to find ways to make plays and win. You can’t keep saying it’s his fourth start or his fifth start or his 18th start or his third year or his eighth year. I get tired of all the analogies. We’ve got to win some games and it starts with him. He’s getting better, he’s doing some good things, he’s working at it, and we’ve got to help him a little bit, obviously, for him to be a great player.”
One thing that could help Simms lead the Bucs offense into the end zone more is a better running game. Tampa Bay’s ground attack has stalled over the past two games, producing just 87 yards on 38 carries (2.2 avg.). At one point, the Bucs were ranked in the top five in rushing offense. Right now, the team is currently ranked 16th in that category.
Bucs rookie running back Carnell “Cadillac” Williams, who worked his way into the Hall of Fame during the first quarter of the season, has carried the ball 24 times for 48 yards (2.0 avg.) over the past two games. While Williams has been battling a foot/hamstring injury, Gruden suggested the team’s offensive line had to do a much better job of winning the battle in the trenches in order to get the running game going again. His players apparently agree.
“I think it’s all in our attitude right now,” said Bucs tight end Alex Smith. “If we can get back to the way we started off the season, having that swagger and that attitude like we’re going to run it no matter what defenses are trying to do to us, that will get us back to where we need to be.”
Gruden is hoping that type of swagger shows up on the football field throughout the week of practice and vs. the Redskin, who have the 21st-ranked run defense in the NFL.
“Well, you get the swagger back by putting it on tape,” said Gruden. “You’ve got to go out and you’ve got to perform, and to perform you’ve got to practice well. You’ve got to be on the screws in the meeting room, you’ve got to know what you’re doing. We’ve got a lot of pride here. We’ve got a lot of guys with swagger. We’ve got some guys who I don’t know if swagger’s a good word. We’ve got to execute better. We’ve got to play more physically, more complete.”
Quote Of The Day
Gruden on if he could imagine coaching in the NFL and owning a NASCAR team at the same time like Redskins HC Joe Gibbs has done:
“I could imagine being in NASCAR and being run out of here if we keep playing like we’re playing. It’s a credit to Joe Gibbs. He’s been at the front line of his profession whatever he’s decided to do. He’s a great man, too. He’s a quality, class act. That’s the thing I’m most impressed with by him. He’s a great role model and a hell of a guy.”
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