Through 12 games, the Buccaneers have had their fair share of injuries. Wide receivers Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans have both missed time, while tight endAustin Seferian-Jenkins was sidelined for nine weeks. Guard Ali Marpet missed time with an ankle injury and offensive lineman Evan Smith was sidelined earlier this year with a similar injury.
Although the Buccaneers would ultimately like for those players to be on the field every week, having them miss time has resulted in increased depth across the Bucs' roster.
Photos from the Bucs' practice on Wednesday, December 9th, at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa.
"One thing about injuries, as you are forced to play other players even it's only for a couple games, it builds your depth," Offensive Coordinator Dirk Koetter said during a press conference on Wednesday. "You look at wide out; [Donteea Dye] and Adam [Humphries] had to play, [Russell Shepard] had to play all year because Mike [Evans] was out early then [Vincent Jackson] was out. It forces you to play those guys and then after they've played they figure out, 'Hey, yeah we can play.'
"The same thing is happening on the O-line. Same thing is happening at tight end. We already knew we had depth at running back. That was our deepest position going in. We haven't had to use it, but I know we are deep at quarterback, too, because we have a heck of a back-up quarterback sitting there. Injuries force you to play your other guys. They figure out they can play. I think also our coaches have done a good job continuing to develop [players]. The part of practice where you guys can go out there and watch all the coaches are working with their guys – individual drills. It's a long season. Just because the season started you don't have to stop your development."
Many of those fill-in players have capitalized on their opportunities, including tight end Cameron Brate, who caught three touchdowns while Seferian-Jenkins recovered from a shoulder injury. Brate, along with Smith and right tackle Demar Dotson, have been called upon to step into the starting lineup on several occasions this season and have performed at a high level. That depth will be key as the Bucs push towards the playoffs in their last four games of the regular season.