Safety Justin Evans and tight end Alan Cross were placed on IR yesterday. Cross suffered a shoulder injury against the Ravens in Baltimore and his absence will be felt on special teams more than anything. He's less of a tight end and more of a do-it-all kinda guy and has been a staple for the Bucs' special teams unit since his arrival in 2016.
Evans makes the fifth opening day starter to land on the Injured Reserve this season. He also happens to come from the unit that was hit the hardest with injury: the secondary. As Scott Smith pointed out, three quarters of the Bucs' starting defensive backs were lost this season due to injury, starting with cornerback Vernon Hargreaves after Week One. Luckily, General Manager Jason Licht picked up three defensive backs in this past year's draft that have been getting it done for the Bucs. Cornerbacks Carlton Davis III and M.J. Stewart, along with safety Jordan Whitehead, have been instrumental in keeping the unit afloat this season. You've been able to see their improvement week-by-week. Make no mistake, stepping up to a starting role your first year in the league is no easy task, no matter what college program you come from.
Whitehead has gotten his fair share of work alongside Evans after strong safety Chris Conte was placed on Injured Reserve himself after Week Three. Whitehead is a very physical player and seems to be versatile, too. He played both ways in college, getting experience at running back, which may account for why he's done so well on run fits, especially as of late. He's not afraid to come down and hit you, and it's something his coaches have taken notice of.
With the moves to Injured Reserve, the Bucs promoted tight end Donnie Ernsberger to the active roster with another move pending for today.
I talked about Adam Humphries yesterday after he was on Bucs Total Access but today I saw a stat from NFL Matchup on ESPN that showed Humphries on the league leaderboard for slot receivers. His 542 yards from the slot on the season rank eighth in the league behind some good company in guys like Kansas City's Tyreek Hill and Minnesota's Adam Thielen. Humphries has proven dependable, especially for quarterback Jameis Winston. Of his 671 total receiving yards, 415 of them have come on throws from Winston, who has a 97.6 passer rating when throwing to Humphries.
The Bucs continued to spread holiday cheer when five players went to Florida Hospital to visit with patients and give out some Buccaneers teddy bears to brighten their days. They even sang Christmas carols through the halls, at the request of some of the patients, of course. There hasn't been a single off-day that I can remember in months where multiple players aren't getting out in the community. Especially with the holiday season in full swing, there have usually been multiple events each week where players are spending their off time doing some good in Tampa Bay.
Former tight end Alex Smith was a guest on the Salty Dogs with Scott Smith and Jeff Ryan. Smith now works for the organization as a pro scout. He started his career in Tampa Bay and spent four seasons with the team from 2005-2008, scoring 11 touchdowns in that span.