NEW ORLEANS — While Tampa Bay Buccaneers players said wide receiver Mike Evans’ involvement in Sunday’s skirmish against the New Orleans Saints helped galvanize the team, his one-year suspension game means he won’t be available against quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. in the Bucs’ home opener on Sunday.
The Bucs are already without wide receivers Chris Godwin and Julio Jones, who are both suffering from hamstring injuries sustained in Week 1 at the Dallas Cowboys, as well as a knee injury that has lingered for Jones. Given the temperamental nature of hamstring injuries (and both receivers have histories of hamstring injuries), they may no longer be available this week.
That means the Bucs will be in a similar situation to where they were at the end of last season, but with more depth in the receiving corps and a defense that’s giving up a record 6.5 points per game.
Building up receiver depth was a goal this offseason in an effort to avoid a repeat of last season, when in the NFC Divisional Playoff game against the Los Angeles Rams, they fielded tight end Cameron Brate. in the slot because there were no more healthy receivers available. .
Replacing Evans, who was ejected on Sunday – with Saints defensive back Marshon Lattimore for their part in a brawl – was Breshad Perriman. Perriman caught the Bucs’ only offensive touchdown of the game in the fourth quarter — a 28-yard catch on a corner drive off PJ Williams that gave the Bucs a 10-3 lead with 7:49 left.
Evans is the other Buc to catch one of quarterback Tom Brady’s two touchdown passes this season. He’s the only receiver with more than 100 receiving yards (132) in two games, and he leads the team in receptions with eight.
Perriman is very physical and can certainly get past defenders, but injuries have plagued him throughout his eight-year career (he missed part of training camp with a hamstring injury), so he’s not a player you can expect to be available all season. However, on point duty, he stepped up and showed he didn’t need a lot of reps with Brady to get the job done. He caught the game-winning touchdown last season against the Buffalo Bills in overtime in Week 14.
Russell Gage, a new addition this offseason, shared reps with Evans, Scotty Miller and Perriman in the Sunday slot. He caught five passes on seven targets for 28 receiving yards. Gage is still working on his chemistry with Brady, but the Packers are allowing 11.57 yards per reception — 10th most in the league this season — after having a number of coverage busts in Week 1 due to use. movement by the Minnesota Vikings and the presence of Justin Jefferson.
Miller, who is best known for his catch before halftime in the NFC Championship Game, will also see more opportunities. He was virtually invisible last year after recovering from a serious toe injury. Some wondered if he would be a casualty of training camp after a shaky pre-season. So far this season, he’s caught just three passes on eight targets, but the majority of those passes have been deep (averaging 16.75 on air yards). He passed for 23 yards in the first quarter on Sunday.
But the Packers’ biggest hole is defending the run, and that will likely mean another big week of leaning on running back Leonard Fournette, similar to what happened against the Dallas Cowboys, against whom he rushed for 127 yards.
The Packers gave up 306 rushing yards in the first two weeks — fifth-most in the league. Dalvin Cook rushed for 90 yards in Week 1 and David Montgomery had 122 in Week 2. That would take some of the pressure off the offensive line, which had to rely on third-string offensive tackle Brandon Walton, to intervene. for Josh Wells at left tackle due to a calf injury on Sunday.
If all else fails, the Bucs can also rely on their defense against the Packers on Sunday (4:25 p.m. ET, Fox) as they have in the first two games.
While the Bucs gave up big rushing plays in Week 1, their run defense is still seen as an area of strength – allowing just 86.5 rushing yards per game (tied for ninth) . They’re also giving up 189.5 passing yards per game — eighth-best. Their six forced turnovers are tied for third in the league and their four interceptions are tied for fourth.