Heading into Week 10, there was a lot of optimism surrounding the Bucs injury situation. National reports indicated that Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski would likely return from injury out of the bye week, providing a huge boost to the Bucs offense. Wide receiver Scotty Miller and cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting were also activated to return from injured reserve during the bye. That seemed to suggest the team was optimistic about a Week 10 return.

Fast-forward to gameday, and none of those four key players are returning. Brown and Gronkowski could still be a week or two away, while Miller and Murphy-Bunting will eye Week 11. To make matters worse, leading receiver Chris Godwin missed practice most of the week with a foot injury. Reports are that he’ll play on Sunday, but how much remains to be seen. Could the Bucs use him as an emergency option with so many receivers injured? They did that with Gronkowski and Richard Sherman against the Saints.

Q: Who Steps Up At Receiver?

The Bucs will be down Brown, Miller and perhaps Godwin on Sunday. I don’t care how deep you are at receiver, losing three of your top five is tough. We’ll see how much Godwin plays, but I sorta doubt he’ll lead the receiver room in snaps like he usually does.

That means Tyler Johnson will be afforded an even bigger opportunity to step up. Johnson has performed admirably in Brown’s place in recent weeks, but now he’ll likely see his largest snap count share ever. The second-year receiver has 14 catches for 191 yards, but has yet to find the end zone. Against Washington’s zone-heavy defense, Johnson will need to show his football smarts to be on the same page with Tom Brady.

Bucs WR Breshad Perriman

Bucs WR Breshad Perriman – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Breshad Perriman was signed this week as well. He’s played in Bruce Arians’ offense before, so he knows the system. I’m not sure what kind of workload he’ll have on Sunday, but you can bet he’ll play, with or without Godwin. Perriman is unlikely to be a high-volume target for Brady. Instead, his impact will need to be felt down the field on a big play or two. He’ll fill the role vacated by Miller and Cyril Grayson.

As for Jaelon Darden, I wouldn’t expect to see a ton of the rookie on offense. The Bucs are bringing him along slowly, which is fine. Perriman should be able to handle a limited load on Sunday. The only way Darden gets major responsibilities is if Godwin can’t play at all.

Washington is ranked last in pass defense this season, which will help. Brady doesn’t need a full arsenal to do work against Washington. But he does need receivers not to screw up routes or drop passes. That can get complicated in the Bucs offense at times. Johnson made some errors early in the season, and Perriman has never been the most reliable player. Darden is your typical rookie. The Bucs talent level is good enough to beat Washington in the passing game, but can they avoid beating themselves with mistakes?

Q: Who Starts In Bucs Secondary?

Four starting spots are obvious. Jamel Dean will play right cornerback and Ross Cockrell will man the slot. Jordan Whitehead and Antoine Winfield Jr. will start at the safety spots. But who will start at left cornerback? The smart money is on Richard Sherman, but Dee Delaney has played well in Sherman’s absence. The older cornerback is obviously smarter, but his declining athleticism is a concern.

Washington only has one real threat in the passing game: wide receiver Terry McLaurin. The Football Team moves him all over the offense to keep defenses from erasing him. You can be sure that Washington will target Sherman as the defender to attack down the field. Don’t be surprised when Delaney sees some action if Sherman struggles.

Q: Does Joe Tryon-Shoyinka Split Snaps With Jason Pierre-Paul?

Bucs OLB Joe Tryon-Shoyinka

Bucs OLB Joe Tryon-Shoyinka – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Pierre-Paul is hurting, but he’s determined to play through it. A torn rotator cuff will not stop that man. Tryon-Shoyinka has flashed this season, but has seen his workload diminish. That has to change out of the bye week. Yes, Tryon-Shoyinka will make some mistakes. He will lose contain and miss a tackle or two while playing too fast. But he will also create splash plays, like he did with two sacks and a handle of pressures in his two starts this season.

Washington is starting a rookie at right tackle and Charles Leno at left tackle. There are winnable matchups out there for the Bucs edge rushers, and Tryon-Shoyinka needs to be a regular participant. The biggest question Tampa Bay faces over the second half of the season is how effective their pass rush can be. It’s not going to get markedly better unless Tryon-Shoyinka is a part of the solution.

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About the Author: Jon Ledyard

Jon Ledyard is PewterReport.com's newest Bucs beat writer and has experience covering the Pittsburgh Steelers as a beat writer and analyzing the NFL Draft for several draft websites, including The Draft Network. Follow Ledyard on Twitter at @LedyardNFLDraft
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surferdudes
surferdudes
7 months ago

When talking about who will step up at receiver why not mention Grayson Jon? He was wide ass open for a TD last game, something Darden hasn’t come close to doing. He’s been with the team longer than Darden also. I’d keep an eye on him as a player who could step in, and do some damage.

fredster
fredster
Reply to  surferdudes
7 months ago

Grayson is fast but that play was more blown coverage that could happen with anyone imo. Hoping Godwin plays and is ok.

surferdudes
surferdudes
Reply to  fredster
7 months ago

Anyone could, but he did. Was it a fluke? Maybe, but I’d like to see more.

Spitfire
Spitfire
7 months ago

I’ve seen Johnson have some amazing hands and make some really impressive plays. I hope these types of experiences help us more than hurt us by helping these young guys progress and learn to deal with the pressure. We just needs a clean game and we’ll get back on track.

fredster
fredster
Reply to  Spitfire
7 months ago

He was total non factor today

fredster
fredster
7 months ago

Can Bucs backups step up? No the offense sucked bad and was pathetic. All you idiots that thought OBJ was a joke who’s the joke now? Bucs offense and backups that’s who, I said Darden is too small and looks like fumble waiting to happen. First target and he fumbled. What a shocker. So many drops today was pathetic really against a 2-6 team.