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Friday Notes: Receivers Questionable

Posted Sep 27, 2013

The Bucs hope to have their starting WR duo of Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams on the field Sunday, but it will be a game-day call…Plus, Tom Crabtree's status and other notes

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Starting WRs Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams will be game-day decisions for the Buccaneers on Sunday
  • TE Tom Crabtree's setback with his ankle injury leaves the Bucs with just two healthy tight ends
  • The Bucs lead the all-time series with the Cardinals, 9-8, and have won six of the last eight meetings
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers head into the weekend, and towards their Week Four game against the visiting Arizona Cardinals, not yet sure if they will have either of their usual starting receivers in action on Sunday.

There's reason to hope that Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams will make their 20th consecutive in-tandem start since Jackson's arrival as a free agent 18 months ago.  That comes from the sight of both Jackson and Williams on the practice field on Friday after both had sat out the first two workouts of the week.  That is no guarantee, however, as Jackson and Williams each received the "questionable" designation on Friday's official injury report.  It's likely that the team will have to test out Jackson's sore ribs and Williams strained hamstring on Sunday morning before giving the clearance for the two to join first-time rookie quarterback starter Mike Glennon.

The Bucs would obviously benefit from their presence.  Arizona's defense has been quite a bit better against the run (73.3 yards per game allowed) than the pass (297.0) so far this season, so one could expect the Bucs to try to exploit that with their two outstanding wideouts.  Without them, on the other hand, one might expect Tampa Bay to ride second-year running back Doug Martin, the league's second-leading rusher, and try to crack that Cardinals' defensive front.

According to Head Coach Greg Schiano, however, the injury report will not dictate a pass-heavy or run-heavy approach, no matter who is available or unavailable.

“We’ll be balanced," said Schiano.  "It doesn’t matter who we’re going against, we’re going to run the football, it’s who we are. We’ll be balanced with the pass and I’m totally confident in our pass game with Mike [Glennon]. I think it’s going to be: Run our deal, handle those three front guys, for sure, and those two inside backers, for sure. And that corner out there, No. 21 [Patrick Peterson], he’s a pretty special player. There are a lot of [defensive] threats out there that need to be handled.”

* Safety Mark Barron was added to the Buccaneers' injury report on Friday with a hamstring strain, but it shouldn't be a major concern.  Barron is considered probable to play on Sunday.  Moreover, so is defensive tackle Gary Gibson, which is a huge boost for the Bucs' interior-line depth.  Gibson went from not practicing on Wednesday due to the back injury he sustained last Sunday in New England, to limited participation on Thursday and full participation on Friday.

- WR Mike Williams' availability will be a game-day decision

An interesting note from the Cardinals' final injury report of the week: Safety Rashad Johnson participated in practice in a limited fashion Friday and is considered questionable for the game.  That's pretty good for a player who famously lost part of his finger inside his glove during last week's game at New Orleans.  The Cardinals have ruled out two other defensive players, however: linebacker Kevin Minter (hamstring) and defensive tackle Dan Williams (not injury related).

Here are the full injury reports for both teams, complete with game-status designations:

Buccaneers:

Player

Injury

Practice Status

CB Michael Adams

Knee

Out

S Mark Barron

Hamstring

Probable

T Gabe Carimi

Illness

Out

TE Tom Crabtree

Ankle

Out

DT Gary Gibson

Back

Probable

WR Vincent Jackson

Ribs

Questionable

DT Derek Landri

Knee

Out

DT Gerald McCoy

Ankle

Probable

CB Rashaan Melvin

Hamstring

Questionable

WR Mike Williams

Hamstring

Questionable

 

Cardinals:

Player

Injury

Practice Status

WR Larry Fitzgerald

Hamstring

Probable

S Rashad Jones

Finger

Questionable

RB Rashard Mendenhall

Toe

Probable

LB Kevin Minter

Hamstring

Out

DE Ronald Talley

Wrist

Probable

DT Dan Williams

Not Inj. Related

Out

 

* As noted above, tight end Tom Crabtree has also been ruled out, and is still waiting to play in his first regular-season game as a Buccaneer.  The team's anticipated "starting" tight end duo of Crabtree and Luke Stocker hasn't materialized, and it won't, at least not this season.  Stocker went on injured reserve earlier this week due to a hip ailment.

Now it could be a bit longer until Crabtree returns, too.  He started the week on the practice field in a limited fashion but didn't work out on Friday after suffering what Schiano confirmed was a setback with his ankle injury.

That certainly draws attention to the Buccaneers' tight end depth.  With Crabtree and Stocker both out, the team now has just healthy tight ends on the active roster in Nate Byham and Tim Wright, who have a combined 12 NFL receptions between them.  Byham is best known for his blocking (though he had a 34-yard reception against New Orleans) and Wright is an undrafted rookie converted from wide receiver, but more so than their inexperience in the passing game is the sheer numbers at the position.

Generally, the Buccaneers go into a game with at least three tight ends, so that if one is injured, the team can still run plays that call for a two-TE set.  Last week, for instance, the Buccaneers promoted Danny Noble from the practice squad after Stocker and Crabtree were ruled out of that game, though Noble did not play in New England and was subsequently released.  Barring any weekend maneuvers, the Bucs will go into the Arizona game with only two tight ends.

* If Jackson and Williams are cleared to play on Sunday, they would surely be Glennon's first two options in the passing game.  The Buccaneers have not had a tremendous amount of offensive variety through three games – Jackson and Williams account for 68.5% of the passing yards and Doug Martin accounts for 92.5% of the rushing yards – but that doesn't mean they have purposely ignored the other weapons on offense.  Schiano said the Buccaneers have worked to distribute the football evenly, and will continue to do so on Sunday.

We like to distribute, I think we have distributed it," said the coach.  "In games, multiple receivers have gotten it, just not a lot of them. I’m not going to get too caught up in that.  If Vince is going to have the ability to catch balls, then we’re going to keep throwing to Vince. If Mike is going to have the ability to catch balls, then we’re going to keep throwing it to him. They are our best receivers, they are our No. 1 and No.  2 receivers, or 1 and 1A, however you want to look at it. As long there is the ability to get the ball into them [we will]. Hopefully the ball will continue to get distributed broadly; that would be a good thing.”

One player who could obviously contribute more to the passing game is Martin, who had 49 catches for 472 yards last year to make him the team's third-leading pass-catcher.  So far this year, Martin has just four catches for 19 yards, but he has been targeted 13 times, which is once again third highest on the team.  Many of those plays have failed to connect this year, some due to drops or bad throws and some due to general breakdown or good defensive calls.  There is little reason to worry that Martin has lost his effectiveness in the passing game, and it would obviously help Glennon in his first start to get his young running back more involved.

"We as a team have had more drops then I would’ve liked," said Schiano.  "I think Doug is going to be just fine as a receiver this year and I think that he has shown that he can do it in this league and I think he will."

* The Buccaneers and Cardinals have faced each other 17 times in the regular season, with Tampa Bay holding a 9-8 edge overall in the series.  That .529 winning percentage is their best against any NFC team.  The Bucs have won three of the last four and six of the last eight, and took each of the last two games, one in Tampa in 2007 and one in Glendale, Arizona in 2010.

The Cardinals, in fact, were the opponent when Tampa Bay won its first-ever regular-season game in front of the home fans.  After snapping a 26-game losing streak in the franchise's first two years with a 33-14 win at New Orleans on Dec. 11, 1977, the Bucs returned home for the season finale against the Rams, then based in St. Louis.  Tampa Bay won that game, 17-7, with Gary Huff as the starting quarterback.

* The Buccaneers will join the rest of the league on Sunday in celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month at their home game.  Raymond James Stadium will get a "Futbol Americano" retouch, and the game-day entertainment will include special themed activities to celebrate the Bay area's strong Hispanic roots.  Click here to read more about those festivities.

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