By now, we all know how injured the Tampa Bay Buccaneers roster is through the first three weeks of the season.
Which makes roster management on game days all the more important. Too many snaps can lead to overuse, which can lead to injury and so on and so forth.
That makes Todd Bowles and co.’s decision to play their top-4 defensive backs at a 100% rate through the first three games of the season all the more puzzling.
That’s right. The quartet of Antoine Winfield Jr., Carlton Davis III, Jamel Dean, and Mike Edwards have been on the field for all 199 snaps the Buccaneers defense has taken in 2022. And, all four players have played at least 11 special teams snaps, each.
Some of that has been due to injury, of course. Rookie fifth-rounder Zyon McCollum has been dealing with a hamstring injury and is still waiting to be on his first active game day roster.
But, the Buccaneers have two other capable depth players in former second-rounder Sean Murphy-Bunting and special teamer Dee Delaney.
Defensive backs often play a ton of snaps, if not just about all of them and it’s always crucial to have your best players on the field. But 100% is 100%, at the end of the day.
No matter how you cut it, it’s a lot.
The rate begs the question of why both SMB and Delaney haven’t seen a single snap on defense, so far. One would think the four aforementioned players would need a breather at some point. Add in the fact that sure, SMB has had his struggles, but at the same time, he’s not the worst depth option in the world. And, while not ideal, Delaney isn’t the worst option to log a snap or four, either.
It also begs the question of how much confidence this coaching staff actually has in players like SMB and Delaney, but that’s a different conversation for a different day.
Not to be overly cautious, but this is also very realistic: playing every single snap obviously increases the risk of injury that much more and three of the four aforementioned players all have an injury history. And, of course, there is the overexertion factor at hand, too.
No one is calling for a dramatic decrease in playing time, by any means. All four players are still very young and they can handle it, overall. However, it would be wise to give the guys some kind of rest at some point, because the Buccaneers can’t afford any more big injuries to their team.
And, the secondary is the strength of this team, right now. That needs to be guarded as much as possible. The last team you want to be right now in terms of injuries to the secondary is the Buffalo Bills.
Throw in the fact this team is expected to play 18+ games this year and it becomes even more apparent why giving these guys a slight break. They will be needed for the long haul and as we saw last year against the Los Angeles Rams, a slew of injuries can easily derail a Super Bowl run.
I’m sure they are doing what needs to be done, but Tampa Bay needs to be careful moving forward and it needs to make sure it’s managing player workloads properly. Or else this can easily come back to bite them in the future.
Featured image via Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports