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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs need more backups to step up

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Published:   |   Updated: November 26, 2013 at 12:05 AM

TAMPA — Almost half of coach Greg Schiano’s staff came to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers directly from the college ranks, where graduation, early departures and academic issues were always forcing them to get inexperienced players ready for regular duty.

Those teaching skills have been put to the test again here in recent weeks as the Bucs have been forced to find several starters out of players who were pulled off the street, and it doesn’t look like that trend is going to end any time soon.

Though few, the injuries the Bucs sustained during their 24-21 victory against the Lions on Sunday were significant enough to end starting tight end Tom Crabtree’s season and leave Schiano guessing about the immediate future of four-time Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis.

“It’s a groin, but I don’t know the severity of it,” Schiano said of Revis, who missed the second half of the Lions game and was scheduled to have an MRI on Monday. “I’m hopeful (that) it’s short term, but I can’t tell you that. And my hopes really don’t matter, because we have to see what the doctor says. I mean, (Revis) didn’t have to go to the hospital, so that’s a positive, but other than that I don’t know.”

Schiano was a lot more certain about Crabtree. The former Packer, whom the Bucs signed in free agency last March, tore a biceps and will become the Bucs’ third offensive starter, joining wide receiver Mike Williams and running back Doug Martin, to be placed on injured reserve in the past month.

Crabtree, who will have surgery to repair the injury later this week, will also become the 13th Buccaneer to be placed either on IR or the non-football injury list, which is where kickers Connor Barth (Achilles tendon) and Lawrence Tynes (MRSA infection) reside.

“It was a physical game on turf, but other than those two things I think we came out of it OK,” said Schiano, who wasn’t sure late Monday just how the Bucs would fill Crabtree’s roster spot.

As far as filling his spot in the lineup, converted rookie wide receiver Tim Wright has already done that. After making a team-leading eight catches for 75 yards against the Lions, Wright ranks second overall on the team in receptions and receiving yards with 34 for 366 and two touchdowns.

“Timmy Wright is quickly becoming a really tough tight end to cover in this league,” Schiano said of the former wideout he coached while at Rutgers. “The thing we have to keep working on is, he has to be an adequate blocker.

“He’s never going to be (like) a third tackle, but as long as he can do what we ask him to, then you’re going to get favorable matchups, and that’s what we have to continue to get, because he and (quarterback) Mike Glennon have a really good feel for each other.”

Revis, meanwhile, was just beginning to feel more like his old self after missing most of last year with a season-ending left knee injury.

After Revis went down with the groin pull just before halftime against the Lions, the Bucs responded by inserting rookie cornerback Johnthan Banks into Revis’ man-to-man role against Calvin Johnson. Banks performed admirably, allowing three receptions for 54 yards while breaking up one pass and intercepting another.

The pick came on the Lions’ last offensive play of the game, after second-year safety Kelcie McCray, who was claimed off waivers from the Dolphins a month ago, knocked the ball loose from Johnson with a big hit.

It is performances like those, Schiano said, that make him believe the Bucs can extend their three-game winning streak despite the possible absence of two more starters.

“I’m really proud of our coaches and our players for the way they’ve continued to battle on and step up,” he said. “One thing about this staff is, they’re really good teachers and they continue to teach whoever it is we have to put in there.”

Schiano wasn’t ready on Monday to commit to a plan for replacing Revis for Sunday’s game against the Panthers, in part because he’s still not sure if he’ll have middle linebacker Mason Foster back for that game.

Foster sat out his first game as a Buccaneer on Sunday because of a concussion, and Schiano said the team will continue to be cautious with him. At least one defensive regular who sat out Sunday will be back in the lineup, however.

Safety Dashon Goldson was suspended for the Lions game for a hit he delivered to the head of Falcons wide receiver Roddy White, but he is eligible to return to the team this week and should be at practice on Wednesday.

His return will likely limit McCray’s snaps, but McCray said he and everyone else at the bottom of the Bucs’ roster are eager to prove they belong in this league and are ready to make an impact anytime they get the chance.

“When a guy like ‘Hawk’ (Goldson) or Darrelle Revis goes down, we’ve got guys here that are biting at the opportunity,” he said. “We don’t wish for anybody to get hurt or be out, but we’ve got guys that look for that chance to get in there and make a play.”

rcummings@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7979

Twitter: @RCummingsTBO

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