FB Mike Alstott has been the missing link in the Bucs' offense
Among the reasons put forth for the Bucs' sputtering ground game in the first two preseason games was the absence of some sizeable members of the rushing unit. Most notably, the Bucs were without their most powerful rusher (Mike Alstott), their most rugged lead blocker (Patrick Hape) and their starting left tackle (Jason Odom).
That trio will not return en masse to the field on Sunday in New England, but two out of three, as they say, ain't bad.
On Thursday, for the second straight day, Alstott participated fully in practice and looked both sharp and healthy. Also in a repeat of Wednesday's approach, Hape ran through individual drills though he was held out of team workouts. Alstott is recovering from a hamstring strain, Hape from offseason foot surgery. Both could be back on the field Sunday; Alstott seems like a very solid bet and Hape is hovering around 50-50.
Odom will miss another game due to continued pain in his lower back, though he has responded well to treatment procedures in recent days. The man who replaced him at left tackle in the Bucs' first two games, George Hegamin, is himself recovering from a knee sprain, but Hegamin also made it through today's practice without incident. That would be a big addition to the team's running game – at a listed 331 pounds, Hegamin is among the Bucs' most imposing players.
Two days of Alstott in practice have helped reenergize the rushing game, at least so it appears from the team's internal work. Head Coach Tony Dungy was pleased with what he saw on Thursday.
"Practice was good today," he said. "It was sharper than yesterday, which was pleasing to see. We also worked on some of our situations today: two-minute offense, red zone, goal-line. I think we're on track to perform well on Sunday."
Though injury reports are not required by the league until the regular season, the team has compiled its unofficial list for Sunday's game. That list is below, and it does not include WR Chris Daniels, who was placed on injured reserve on Thursday.
CB Tarig Holman, hamstring, out S Dexter Jackson, ankle, out DE John McLaughlin, knee, out T Jason Odom, lower back, out S Damien Robinson, hamstring, out TE Patrick Hape, foot, questionable T George Hegamin, knee, questionable LB Kinnon Tatum, ankle, questionable CB Floyd Young, ankle, questionable RB Mike Alstott, hamstring, probable DT James Cannida, shoulder, probable RB Aaron Stecker, neck/hamstring, probable