The Tampa Bay Buccaneers played their last two games without starting safety Justin Evans, and they'll play the next two without him as well.
On Tuesday, the Buccaneers placed both Evans and tight end Alan Cross on injured reserve. The team immediately filled one of those openings on the active roster by promoting rookie tight end Donnie Ernsberger from the practice squad. That leaves one spot still open but the team will likely add a 53rd player before the start of practice on Wednesday.
Tampa Bay now has three-quarters of its season-opening secondary on injured reserve. Cornerback Vernon Hargreaves was lost to a shoulder injury in the team's Week One win at New Orleans and safety Chris Conte joined him on IR two weeks later. The Buccaneers now have 14 players on injured reserve in total, including opening-day starters Kwon Alexander and O.J. Howard.
Evans first sustained his toe injury in Week 10 against Washington and missed the next two games. He returned in Week 13 to face Carolina but re-injured the toe and has since missed two more contests. The 2017 second-round pick also spent the last two weeks of his rookie season on I.R. but has been productive in the 24 games he has played in, logging 19 starts and contributing 124 tackles, four interceptions and eight passes defensed.
Cross suffered a shoulder injury in last Sunday's game at Baltimore and is the second Buccaneer tight end to head to injured reserve in the second half of the season, joining Howard, who was knocked out by an ankle injury against San Francisco in Week 12. Cross played in each of the first 14 games, catching two passes for nine yards and primarily working as a lead blocker in the backfield. The third-year tight end also has three tackles on special teams in 2018. A former undrafted free agent, Cross has played in 36 games with seven starts over the past three seasons, catching 13 passes for 105 yards and a touchdown.
Ernsberger, another undrafted free agent who signed with the Buccaneers this past spring, went to training camp with the team but was waived with an injury settlement on August 18. He returned to the team on November 28, signing to the practice squad. He is the second rookie tight end the Buccaneers have promoted from the practice squad in the last two weeks, joining Tanner Hudson. At Western Michigan, Ernsberger (6-2, 237) played in 51 games with 39 starts and caught 45 passes for 528 yards and five touchdowns.