TAMPA — Donald Penn measures himself against the NFL’s premier pass rushers on a weekly basis and is looking for some redemption on Sunday.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' veteran left tackle wasn’t happy with his performance in last week’s 33-14 loss as DE Aldon Smith registered two of San Francisco’s four sacks. Penn faces another powerful force off the right edge at St. Louis as he tries to neutralize DE Robert Quinn, who tops the NFC with 15 sacks.
“(Quinn) has really come into his own, putting himself in that elite category,’’ said Penn, who will be making his 107th consecutive start as a Buccaneer. “It’s good to go against this matchup after playing probably one of my worst games of the season last week. It’s good to kind of bounce back and try to redeem myself against a great pass rusher.’’
Quinn, a first-round draft choice out of North Carolina in 2011, posted 10.5 sacks last season. He was relatively quiet against Penn last December, when St. Louis won 28-13 at Raymond James Stadium. But Quinn leads the league with eight forced fumbles — emerging as a serious candidate for Defensive Player of the Year honors.
“Donald’s up for the challenge, no doubt,’’ said Bucs coach Greg Schiano. “Certainly, you’re not going to let him go it alone. Are you going to stop (Quinn)? No, but you’ve got to stop him from taking over the game.’’
Trouble in mind
Every time Bucs offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan glances at the NFL’s statistical charts through 14 games, he cringes.
The Bucs have plunged to the bottom of the league in total offense amid rumors that Sullivan is one of the finalists being considered for the vacant head coaching job at Army.
Sullivan, who played and coached at Army, wasn’t surprised that the first question he faced at the podium Wednesday referred to speculation he may be headed back to West Point in 2014.
“There is an appropriate time and place for all those type of questions,’’ Sullivan said. “Right now, especially given where we’re at offensively and some of the challenges we have and what faces us Sunday in St. Louis, I would just like to focus on the Rams. So hit me with your best shot.’’
Sullivan was asked whether it’s been hard dealing with potential distractions in the past week.
“I never have nor will I ever allow the situation, the external pressures, the bad or the good, to take me away from the task at hand and not have me be at my best,’’ he said.
Although Rams QB Sam Bradford suffered a torn ACL in October, the Bucs aren’t expecting an easier time with Kellen Clemens under center.
Clemens threw for two TDs against the Saints last week en route to a passer rating of 126.7 and he heads into his 20th career NFL start on Sunday.
“We approach it like he’s the starter,’’ said Bucs S Dashon Goldson. “He’s doing some good things and they’ve got a pretty talented football team. He’s a crafty guy. He’s been in the league for a few years and there’s a reason why ... he’s still good at what he does.’’
The Bucs placed WR Russell Shepard (toe) on Injured Reserve and signed WR Tommy Streeter to their practice squad. Streeter was a sixth-round pick by the Ravens in 2012 and has spent most of this season on Buffalo’s practice squad. To make room for Streeter, Tampa Bay released offensive lineman Richard Clebert. ...Rams P Johnny Hekker has been a powerful weapon, leading the NFL with a net punting average of 43.8 yards. St. Louis opponents are averaging only 2.9 yards on 28 punt returns.