Tampa Bay escaped Friday night’s game against Tennessee with a 20-17 overtime win, but not without suffering a few significant injuries in the process.
Starting right guard Jeb Terry suffered an MCL sprain, an injury that will render him unavailable for 2-3 weeks.
“It doesn’t make it any easier for him,” Bucs head coach Jon Gruden said of Terry’s injury. “He had been taking reps at both guard positions. He’s a tough guy. We expect him to be back within two weeks, and he has to stay mentally sharp, and try to get on the field as soon as he can.”
Starting LG Sean Mahan sprained his right elbow and will be probable for Saturday night’s preseason game vs. Jacksonville.
“He has a sprained elbow, and anytime you get swelling near a joint, you have some concern, but he’s okay,” said Gruden. “He’s a very tough guy, and he’ll be back and ready to go for the Jaguars.”
To complicate matters, the Bucs were without guards Matt Stinchcomb (lower back) and Dan Buenning, and tackle Derrick Deese (ankle) in their game vs. the Titans. However, Gruden believes there’s a chance that all three of those offensive linemen could return to the practice field this week.
“Although they will be limited, we do think they have a chance to play in the game,” Gruden said of Stinchcomb, Buenning and Deese.
In the meantime, Gruden was pleased with how some of his backups performed, particularly Anthony Davis, who could permanently replace Deese as the starting left tackle.
“If he continues to keep playing the way that he is, he’ll be our opening game starter,” Gruden said of Davis. “He did some good things at left tackle. I’m very pleased with him, actually. We played a lot of guys. I was pleased with what (G Jonathan) Clinkscale did. He was slamming people around and having fun playing. All-in-all, (center) Scott Jackson will probably get the most stickers for his helmet for good play. He showed us a lot of toughness, just suiting up and playing. He did do some athletic things and handled the calls well. I was really pleased with Scott Jackson.”
Linebacker Jeff Gooch (hamstring) and cornerback Brian Kelly (thigh) also missed the preseason opener, but they’re expected to return to action this week.
RUNNING GAME TAKES OFF: After rushing for 169 yards on 37 attempts on Friday night, Gruden came away from Tampa Bay’s 20-17 overtime win over Tennessee pleased with his ground game’s performance.
With Michael Pittman (hamstring) and fullback Mike Alstott (stinger) sidelined and rookie RB Cadillac Williams limited for the team’s first preseason game, Earnest Graham led the way vs. Tennessee with 62 yards rushing on 10 carries (6.2 avg.) and two touchdowns (one rushing, one receiving).
“I call Earnest Graham the ‘Dodge Ram Graham,'” said Gruden. “We wanted to see him last night. He’s a good back. We looked at him early in there with good competition.
Backup RB Derek Watson opened some eyes as well, carrying the ball 14 times for 63 yards (4.5 avg.). Both he and Graham broke off 24-yarders against the Titans.
“I think if you ask our football team, he would rank out as a very good looking prospect,” Gruden said of Watson. “This guy is a different kind of back. He’s 230 pounds, he has finishing speed and he has a lot of talent. He’s an instinctive runner who can move the pile and punish you. He gives us a different kind of back. We can bring him out in the second half with a fresh motor and it showed.”
Gruden said Williams would likely see more action on Saturday night than he did vs. Tennessee.
“I think so. I don’t want to get in trouble with anyone else,” Gruden said. “So we will try to have our rookie carry the ball. We are going to be smart with what we do with him in the preseason, but he will carry the ball against the Jaguars.”
JUST FOR KICKS: While Tampa Bay’s running backs were impressive vs. Tennessee, perhaps no player performed as well as punter Josh Bidwell, who averaged 56.7 yards on three first half attempts, with two of those booming blasts pinned inside the 20-yard line. Bidwell’s other attempt was a 69-yarder that went into the back of the end zone for a touchback.
“He had a great night,” Gruden said of Bidwell. “I was disappointed with the punt protection in the first half. We didn’t see a lot of block looks from Tennessee. They gave us some six-man pressures and we didn’t handle them very good, technically, off the edges we were a little soft. Bidwell showcased what kind of punter he is. He’s a weapon and was a big difference in last night’s game.”
PRACTICE RESUMES TODAY: Tampa Bay cancelled its morning training camp practice but will hold a two-hour workout at Disney’s Wide World of Sports from 2:45-4:30 p.m. on Sunday.
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