Originally posted on Fox Sports Florida  |  Last updated 8/27/12
In the blink of an eye, arguably the best line the Tampa Bay Bucs ever assembled on offense became a broken line late last week. Now, with the regular season only two weeks away, the Bucs have to find a way to carry on without Pro Bowl right guard and offensive line leader Davin Joseph. But thats life in the NFL. Joseph was lost for the season Friday night on a routine play away from the action, suffering a torn right patellar tendon an injury that nearly everyone knew spelled the end of Josephs year well before head coach Greg Schiano confirmed the news over the weekend. The impact of the injury far outshadows the surprisingly sharp performance by Schianos Bucs against the top-tier New England Patriots. Beating the Pats 30-28 certainly put a little pep in their step, especially when you consider New England throttled the Bucs 31-14 in the third preseason game last year. But losing Joseph will make it harder for the O-line to take the step forward everyone expected with the addition of All-Pro left guard Carl Nicks. Schiano has several obvious options to fill the void left by Joseph, who not only is a force on the field but a thoughtful individual whose post-game insights will be missed by the media as well. The first: Keep Ted Larsen, who subbed in for Joseph Friday night, at the position. Second: Move Larsen to center and swap Jeremy Zuttah back to his familiar spot on the line at guard. Third: give others on the depth chart a shot. There's definitely sixth man, seventh man, eighth man mentality, Schiano said. We're going to try to work a couple of things. Right now, I'm not sure. Obviously Larsen has worked there, (but) we have other options that we can look at which we will. You can kind of figure those of on your own. Any of those guys in the top eight, we're trying to get the best five on the field. Might the Bucs look outside the organization for reinforcements? I think we have the answer internally already, he said. That's why we've been trying to build depth at all the positions. But we always look outside. That's a constant. If there's somebody we think fits our mold, then we'll try to do what we can to get him. The injury occurred when tackle Donald Penn inadvertently blocked a Patriots player into the back of Joseph, injuring his knee. It's one of those wrong place, wrong time things, Schiano said. It comes at a time the offense seems to be getting its act together, with improved passing by Josh Freeman, some nice work by the Vincent Jackson-led receiving corps and impressive running by rookie tailback Doug Martin, who is tightening is grip on the starting job over LeGarrette Blount. It's big, Schiano said of losing David. But you know that's part of what we do. You mourn and you move on. That's what you do. That's what we have to do. Davin wants us to do that. He's going to get surgery and start on his road to recovery, and we have to fix our sights on how we're going to move forward. But Schiano stressed that teams always have to cope with injuries, like the one the Bucs sustained during offseason training when second-year defensive end DaQuan Bowers was lost for the season with a torn Achilles tendon. It's part of the deal, he said. How many people remember that Da'Quan Bowers isn't playing with us right now? Nobody, right? That's the point. Everything moves on and then, when they get healthy, they come back. "But nobody cares. Your opponent doesn't care. That's part of the game. Nobody is like, 'we're going to let them have some slack now.' It's next man up, let's get him up and figure out who next is. And some of that has to be competed for I think. I don't think it's a knockdown slam dunk who it is. So there will be some discussion and then we'll go. That said, Schiano plans to make the decision quickly to give the unit time to work together before opening Sept. 9 against Carolina. I don't know if ever things are totally decided, but we better have a solid unit on opening day, that's for sure, he said. So we'll make sure we lock in so they have time to prepare, whoever it is. Deciding who takes over for Joseph isnt the only issue on the line. Incumbent Jeremy Trueblood and fourth-year backup Demar Dotson are battling it out at right tackle, with the outcome still up in the air. We're going to mess around with a few things and then quickly come to a pecking order, Schiano said. And it may be one of those deals like Dot and Blood are doing right now, where they're taking turns. Maybe two guys getting shots at it. While Schiano and his coaching staff sort it out, they wont have to worry about replacing two other players hurt against New England. Both defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (leg) and defensive end Adrian Clayborn (elbow) are sore but fine. Meanwhile, another question heading into camp continues to become clearer: the starting ball-carrier role is tilting to first-round pick Martin, who has looked good in camp and his exhibition contests, especially this past week in his first start, when he gained 53 yards on 13 carries, with a darting scamper of 19 yards and a 1-yard TD plunge. Schiano has been impressed with what hes seen from the former Boise State star. "That's why he moved in and started the game, because he had shown me that much, he said. And I don't think he did anything last night that would say, Oh, that wasn't a good move. I though he ran the ball well and did some things well. Right now he just has to continue on that course, he's learning every day and he's a very open-minded guy. He wants to learn. Now, the only question will be which blockers hell be following on the right side.
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