About two months ago, I wrote a piece called “Depth, Depth, Depth” praising the Bucs for their strong depth at positions that seemed to be filled by more than capable, solid starting players. G Jeremy Zuttah seemed to be a luxury pick in this years draft, but Zuttah has played in 4 different games so far this season, starting 3 of them due to injuries to LG Aaron Sears and to RG Davin Joseph. Word came out of Bucs camp today that SS Jermaine Phillips, who has really blossomed the past year and a half playing next to Tanard Jackson will be out 4-6 weeks with a broken forearm, and the time frame could even extend to a trip to IR at some point.
“He’s had a heck of a season for us, and hopefully it’s not serious, but we are concerned,” Jon Gruden said.
“Jermaine is a tremendous hitter,” defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin said. “He’s been tremendous two years in a row. He’s playing really good and he’s playing just as good this year as he did last year. He’s kind of an unsung hero. When you think of all the safeties around the league, Jermaine Phillips is an elite safety in the NFL. I know good players. But you don’t hear enough about these guys. He hustles and he hits and he gets turnovers and stuff like that.”
It is now time for Bucs fans to get used to seeing 2007 second round pick Sabby Piscatelli, a surefire crowd favorite in Tampa, on the field permanently as opposed to filling in at both safety spots as he has been doing so far this season. I would imagine Will Allen (24 career starts for the Bucs) will backup both safety spots until Phillips comes back, if he comes back at all.
“Sabby Piscatelli would obviously have to step up,” Gruden said. “There’s the resources in our secondary to get that done. It’s a big loss for us. (Phillips is) a heck of a player. He’s a big-time player. If he is out, hopefully it’s not for long. If he does miss some time, we’ll go into that secondary room, shake it up a little bit and do our best without him.”
Piscatelli has the skill level and reckless abandon to play the game the same way Jermaine Phillips played, so I have high hopes that the defense can maintain its dominance with Phillips gone. Regardless though, Phillips is one of my favorite players on the team, and I personally wish him a speedy recovery.