Bucs Ready To Battle Banged-Up Titans

October 10 - Several key members of the Tennessee Titans are injured and may not play this week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tennessee's secondary is banged-up and ripe for the picking by the Bucs' new pass-happy offense. On offense, Titans running back Eddie George and tight end Frank Wycheck are listed as questionable. The Bucs might be catching the 0-3 Titans at the right time.

The Tennessee Titans added injury to insult in last week's 26-7 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, which sent the team tumbling to an 0-3 start. The defeat was painful to watch for Tennessee fans and downright painful to a team which has already been riddled with injuries.

Pro Bowl cornerback Samari Rolle suffered a bruised spinal cord as a result of tackling with his head down. He is out 3-4 weeks, and his presence will be missed this week against a Tampa Bay team which has a sudden fondness for putting the ball in the air. The Titans secondary was already a sore spot for the team, which lost starting corner Denard Walker to free agency, and both cornerback Dainon Sidney and safety Bobby Myers for the season with ACL tears.

Cornerback Donald Mitchell suffered a concussion during the Baltimore game and may not play against the Bucs this week. That means the Titans will be forced to play rookie corner Andre Dyson, who is coming off a toe injury, and former Atlanta Falcons castoff Michael Booker exclusively against Tampa Bay. Joe Walker replaces Myers in the lineup next to Pro Bowl safety Blaine Bishop, who may be forced to play some cornerback this week due to the injuries.

The Titans like to play man-to-man coverage, but with the losses of three cornerbacks, they may be forced to play a lot of cover 2 zone against Tampa Bay, which could be bad news for the Bucs. All three of the Bucs' opponents this year have played the cover 2 against Tampa Bay and have prevented the Bucs from throwing downfield. The positive for the Bucs is that the Titans don't use the cover 2 as their base coverage, so that if they use that coverage against the Bucs, they may not be familiar with it and could give up some big plays amid the confusion.

Either way, the Bucs will likely have a better chance running the football this weekend with Bishop having to play deeper than usual to help out the corners. The Titans like to walk their strong safety up to the line to help out in run support, much like the Bucs do with John Lynch.

Another significant injury to the Tennessee defense was middle linebacker Randall Godfrey breaking his thumb last week in the loss to Baltimore. Godfrey may surface with a cast or brace on his thumb against Tampa Bay, but it will surely limit his effectiveness. The Titans might go with Frank Chamberlin against the Bucs this week instead.

Tennessee has been banged up on offense too, with Steve McNair missing the second game of the season with a bruised shoulder before returning to play against the Ravens in an unspectacular performance. McNair looked rusty, as did receiver Derrick Mason, who is recovering from a shoulder sprain and a left ankle sprain. Mason didn't return kickoffs or punts against the Ravens, but did see some time against Baltimore as a receiver.

The most damaging injury to the Titans against Baltimore may have been to Pro Bowl running back Eddie George. George, who is the heart and soul of the offense, sprained his ankle and was forced to leave the game. Mike Green and Skip Hicks were called on to pick up the slack, but George, who is struggling without lead blocker Lorenzo Neal, is vital to the Titans' hopes of beating the Bucs. He's questionable for this week's game.

Tight end Frank Wycheck also got hurt against the Ravens. He left the game with a strained neck and is not expected to practice this week. Erron Kinney will likely get the start, with rookie Shad Meier moving up to the No. 2 tight end spot if Wycheck can't play.

Aside from the key injuries, the other thing that may be working in the Bucs' favor this week is that head coach Jeff Fisher stressed the importance of beating the Ravens last week and asked his team to lay it all on the line. Baltimore won a physical slugfest and their might not be much fight left in Tennessee even though they face a key must-win game at Adelphia Coliseum this week against Tampa Bay.


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