Not only did the Buccaneers drop a crucial NFC South matchup to the Falcons on Thursday, but they also lost running back Antone Smith and defensive end Howard Jones to season-ending knee injuries, head coach Dirk Koetter announced Friday (Twitter link via Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times).
Smith, who signed with the injury-ravaged Buccaneers on Oct. 17, is the latest of their rushers to land on the shelf this year. Starter Doug Martin hasn’t played since Week 2 because of hamstring troubles; his primary complement, Charles Sims, went on injured reserve last month – shortly before Jones’ signing – with a knee issue; and Jacquizz Rodgers sat out Tampa Bay’s 43-28 defeat against Atlanta with a sprained ankle.
With their top three options down, the Bucs turned to Peyton Barber and Smith, who combined for 56 yards on 16 carries. Smith, formerly with the Falcons and Bears, saw action in three games this season and picked up 47 yards on 10 rushes.
Jones, 26, contributed solid production as a first-year player in 2015, racking up 43 tackles and five sacks in 12 appearances (five starts). His output was minimal this year, though, partly because he participated in just 15.8 of the Buccaneers’ defensive snaps. Jones totaled only three tackles in eight games, but he did factor in heavily on special teams with a snap percentage of 50.5.