- Anthony Collins' foot injury will likely lead to the Bucs' first injury substitution at left tackle since 2007
- RB Doug Martin is doubtful to play so Bobby Rainey should get the start against one of his former teams
- The Bucs have three open spots on the 53-man roster if they need to make any last-minute moves
The last time the Tampa Bay Buccaneers started a new player at left tackle due to an injury to the starter was back in Week Five of the 2007 season. It appears that streak will end on Sunday in Cleveland, more than seven years later.
That sudden promotion in 2007 went to Donald Penn, who got the promotion when Luke Petitgout suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week Four in Carolina. Penn, who had never played an NFL regular-season snap on offense until Petitgout went down, started the following week in Indianapolis and proceeded to lock down the position for longer than any Buc since Paul Gruber.
The change shouldn't be as long-lasting this time around, but starter Anthony Collins is almost certain to miss the Bucs' Week Nine affair in Cleveland due to a foot injury. Collins did not practice at all this week and is listed as doubtful on Friday's official injury report. While that designation technically leaves open the possibility the player will suit up, it is exceedingly rare for that to actually happen.
Buccaneers Head Coach Lovie Smith has not officially named the replacement for Collins, but the depth chart would suggest two options. While Kevin Pamphile is the name listed behind Collins at left tackle, the rookie fifth-rounder has yet to be active for a game this season. Versatile veteran Oniel Cousins is the other backup tackle on the chart and he's one of the two O-Line reserves (along with interior blocker Garrett Gilkey), the team has kept active each week.
That would seem to suggest a fill-in hierarchy of Cousins and then Pamphile, although the rookie should be active and on call for the first time this year.
"It's a key position, and it is hard to play that position, but injuries happen. It's unfortunate for us, but it's good that we have a player like Oniel Cousin's that's played in the league for a long time. We feel comfortable with him. When one player goes down it gives another guy an opportunity. Kevin Pamphile, if Anthony can't go, will get his first opportunity."
Oniel Cousins could start against his former team if LT Anthony Collins is unable to play Sunday in Cleveland
Running back Doug Martin shares that "doubtful" designation on the injury report, so the Bucs will be planning to mount a rushing attack without his services. Coincidentally, his replacement in the starting lineup is, like Cousins, a former Cleveland Brown. The Bucs claimed Rainey off waivers from the Browns last October after a season-ending injury to Martin; Cleveland had previously done the same after Rainey was waived by the Baltimore Ravens in their final cuts.
Rainey has found a more prominent role in Tampa after getting just selective use in Baltimore and Cleveland, and he doesn't take any particularly strong feelings back to FirstEnergy Stadium this weekend.
"I didn't really play there that long – played there like the first six weeks," he said. "I was in Baltimore a year and the camp so I played more there in Baltimore. I really wasn't there that long to feel like a rivalry or anything like that."
Two other Buccaneers will definitely not play, as kick returner Trindon Holliday and linebacker Brandon Magee have already been ruled out. Signed last week, Holliday got in just one game as the Bucs' new return man before suffering a hamstring injury on the practice field on Wednesday. Smith said that wide receiver Marcus Thigpen is "probably an option" to take over the return duties, but the Buccaneers would have to promote him from the practice squad first.
If the Buccaneers do promote Thigpen or activate running back Charles Sims from the injured reserve/designated for return list or make any other moves, they won't necessarily have to figure out a way to clear roster space. Thanks to the commissioner's suspensions being served by DE Da'Quan Bowers and FB Jorvorskie Lane, and the earlier move of QB Mike Kafka back to the practice squad, the team finished the week with three open spots on the 53-man roster.