Just Call Them: The Replacements

Jenn and friends

No, the NFL isn’t going on strike, but the absences of some of its marquee players would have many fans thinking otherwise. Names like Deuce McAllister, Trent Green, Jake Delhomme, Matt Leinart: all riding the pine pony thanks to some hard hits at the hands of their competitors. The Bucs are no exception. Chris Simms is still sidelined from last year’s splenectomy. Cadillac Williams may have just played his last football game: EVER. And Mike Alstott is more mascot than man these days, as he is more a fixture on the sideline than goal line.

To say the Bucs’ offense is anemic would be a vast understatement. Til last week, they had some chance of recovery with the help of veteran running back Michael Pittman. But that was last week. Pittman suffered a high ankle sprain on Sunday’s game against his former coach, Tony Dungy and his Colts. He still has a space on the roster, but will probably be out at least a month. Now, the Bucs’ running game is limited to just three running backs: Ernest Graham, Kenneth Darby, and B.J. Askew. This gave Coach John Gruden little choice but to officially put Simms on the Injured reserve, to make room for a new running back.

It’s not like Simms was the starter or anything. Hell, he was probably third or fourth at best. Tampa went a little quarterback crazy in the off season anyway, snagging both current starter Jeff Garcia and the “retired” Jake Plummer. Garcia is actually meshing quite well with Chucky’s West Coast offense, and has proved himself to be a great leader in those tight spots. But with injuries at both the lineman position and lack of depth in run game, Garcia’s options are shrinking. He does appear to have found his go-to aerial guy in Joey Galloway, who in past weeks has tormented both the Rams’ and Saints’ defense with the long ball, and his playmaking abilities. Sure, it works now, but this won’t last long.

As far as fresh blood being added to the roster, the Bucs are looking very closely at several candidates to fill the ‘back position. Zack Crockett, a former Raider was released early last month by Oakland. He and Gruden however already have a good rapport, not to mention he fits nicely in the type of offense Gruden likes to run. They are also expected to re-sign Lionel Gates to the practice squad as he was with the Bucs during preseason. And while other names are being tossed into the hat (Eric Shelton, Kevan Barlow, Ciatrick Fason), these two seem most likely to get the nod.

Last weeks match-up in Indy proved the Bucs still have a long way to go if they want to stay alive in the NFC playoff race. Even with two of their superstars (Joseph Addai and Marvin Harrison) out for the game, the Indianapolis Colts outplayed, outwitted, and outlasted the Bucs. The Colts defense proved it had beefed up its game, capitalizing on the Bucs’ tackle Donald Penn. The result?.. Jeff Garcia was harassed more than a band dork getting stuffed into a locker by the cool kids.

This week the Bucs look to regroup after last weeks injuries, as they face Tennessee at Raymond James. Don’t get me wrong.. the Titans are no slouch, but they certainly aren’t the Colts either. And while they are still licking their wounds, the Bucs and their fans alike are eager to see if Chucky and his rag-tag band of misfits are the “real deal” or if their winning ways have come to an end.

My thoughts?… There is no joy in Tampa, the Bucs luck has just run out.

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