It doesn’t look like cornerback Brian Kelly will play against the Eagles on Sunday.
Kelly, who is listed as questionable on Tampa Bay’s injury report, missed practice Friday for the third consecutive day.
He has been sidelined with a degenerative turf toe injury for three games this season, and Kelly could miss his fourth should he be unable to go vs. the Eagles.
Should Kelly be unable to play vs. the Eagles, Juran Bolden would take his place in the starting lineup, and newcomer Phillip Buchanon could see playing time.
The amount of cornerbacks the Bucs make available for Sunday’s game will depend on whether wide receiver Mark Jones, who has been hampered by a hamstring injury, is healthy enough to play. He is listed as questionable on the injury report and practiced on Friday.
Bucs quarterback Luke McCown, who returned from the physically unable to perform list on Wednesday, will not be activated this week. The team has until the first week of November to either active McCown or place him on injured reserve.
Tight end Anthony Becht (foot), CB Juran Bolden (hip), Jones (hamstring), Kelly (foot), linebacker Shelton Quarles (knee), defensive end Simeon Rice (shoulder) and wide receiver Maurice Stovall (back) are questionable. Bucs QB Chris Simms (Splenectomy) is out.
BEWARE OF BLITZ The city of ‘Brotherly Love’ has built quite a reputation on the fact they aren’t too friendly when it comes to greeting people from opposing teams. In fact, they can be down right nasty.
The same can be said about the Eagles defense when they smell fresh meat under center. That’s when Philadelphia defensive coordinator Jim Johnson let’s the dogs loose.
“It will be a challenge on a young quarterback,” said Bucs head coach Jon Gruden. “We watched what [Johnson] did to Eli Manning his rookie year. We watched what he did to David Carr. And so it’s no coincidence they’ll be coming after us.”
Judging by those examples, Bucs fans should pray for the under on sacks of rookie quarterback Bruce Gradkowski, considering Carr and Manning were served up a combined 12 times in their starts against Johnson’s hit squad.
Carr was plunked seven times, threw two interceptions and fumbled twice in a 35-17 loss at Philadelphia in 2002. Manning made his first start against the Eagles in his rookie season by finishing the game with a 16.9 quarterback rating. He was dropped five times, threw two interceptions and fumbled once in a 27-6 loss.
But if anyone can prepare a freshman quarterback for what to expect against a Jim Johnson-coached defense, it may very well be Gruden. He’s known Johnson since he was seven years old.
In 1978, Jon’s father Jim was hired by Notre Dame head coach Dan Devine. Johnson served as defensive coordinator and assistant head coach for the Irish under Devine from 1977-83.
“Defensively, this guy really doesn’t care how you pick up the blitz up,” Gruden said of Johnson. He’s going to bring five to a side, or four to a side, or five right up the middle you know. He is a great defensive coach and they’re blessed with some pretty dam good players too.”
Gruden says he looks forward to seeing how he can do against what many consider one of the best defensive minds in football. Over the last six years, Johnson's units ranked first in the league in third down efficiency (33.3%), second in fewest points allowed (17.0 per game) and sacks (265), and third in red zone touchdown percentage (43.4). He also has helped to produce 21 Pro Bowl selections.
While the entire coaching staff is well versed in the capabilities of the Eagles defense, don’t expect them to allow the Bucs to be bullied.
“We realize Philly might blitz, but our game plan has always been set up where we like to blitz too,” Gruden said. “Were not just going to stand there with our head underneath the sink and duck, you know.
The X-factor in this meeting, as opposed to those in the past, centers around the mobility of Gradkowski. He has displayed an ability to get out of the pocket unlike any starter Tampa Bay has had in the recent past.
In two games, he’s rushed for 38 yards, several of which have been crucial in converting third downs. It’s a proficiency that all too enamors Coach Gruden.
“Seriously, you have to stand back and say ‘did he just do that?’”
Gradkowski proved capable of using his feet to his advantage while in college. In 49 games (36 starts) with Toledo, he rushed for 1,018 yards and 14 touchdowns.
“Lets be honest,” Gruden said. “Pick up anybody’s film. A lot of these people that keep drives alive, it’s because of the mobility of the quarterback. He’s able to dodge a guy, dodge another guy and throw the ball for a first down or run himself.
“I know [Donovan] McNabb, for crying out loud, has done it time and time and time again. To have that as a possibility, as a weapon, is something that really excites us.”
While the coach is excited about the possibilities of his quarterback running with the ball, that can’t be said for his feelings on a particular receiver.
Wide out Joey Galloway’s name surfaced after practice Friday in a discussion over who would handle the Bucs’ punt return duties.
Gruden alluded to the fact that any number of players might be seen returning punts against the Eagles, but chuckled with reporters when he described Galloway’s run, and protecting of the ball, on an end-around against the Bengals last week.
“That was bad man,” Gruden said. “We talked about it on the phone late that night by the way. On the reverse, I just couldn’t wait for that play to end. Is it over yet?”