Even though head coach Jon Gruden doesn’t want to admit it, wide receiver Ike Hilliard might have a firm grasp on the starting No. 2 wide receiver position opposite of wide receiver Joey Galloway. Hilliard has been a nice complement to the 13-year veteran and has six receptions for 100 yards this season.
Hilliard, however, was sidelined after Wednesday’s practice with a left ankle injury and is questionable for the St. Louis Rams game on Sunday. The nine-year veteran has missed the last two days of practice, but says that he’s ready to go against the Rams.
“I’m good and it’s a lot better today than it was a couple of days ago,” Hilliard said.
Hilliard battled through the competition in training camp with wide receivers Maurice Stovall, Michael Clayton and David Boston to win the starting job. Boston was released, Clayton hasn’t gotten many opportunities in the passing game and Stovall is struggling to get any plays in the offense.
The Florida alum has never been known for his speed or flash in this league, but he always seems to get open and make the big catch when the Bucs need it. If Hilliard can’t go against the Rams, then Clayton will be moved into the starting lineup and Stovall will get another opportunity to prove his worth to the offense.
“Stovall or Clayton [will step in] because we are running out of guys,” Gruden said. “We will play somebody, throw an extra tight end in there. We will play with eleven.”
Cornerback Brian Kelly practiced for the second consecutive day and seems like he will start against the Rams despite being questionable for the game. Kelly has been battling back from a groin injury that came in the season-opening 20-6 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
Kelly’s return is a big boost for the secondary with Rams wide receivers Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce and Drew Bennett coming in to Raymond James Stadium on Sunday. His return will allow Phillip Buchanon to return to the nickel cornerback role.
“It is [a perfect time to get Kelly back] because Kelly is experienced and his playmaking is something we have missed here,” Gruden said. “It’s a credit to Sammy [Davis] and Raheem Morris in our secondary for the job they did last week. What we need definitely is a healthy Brian Kelly because he, [Phillip] Buchanon and [Ronde] Barber give us our top three corners and we would like to have those guys together for a game.”
Gruden believes that Kelly will be able to play the entire game after participating in about 60 plays in practice over the last three days.
Defensive end Patrick Chukwurah is the third player on the Bucs injury list as questionable. Chukwurah is still battling back from a knee injury that came in the second preseason game against the Miami Dolphins.
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