September 10th, 2021 at 9:08am CST by Zachary Links
Buccaneers cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting has suffered a dislocated elbow, head coach Bruce Arians announced (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport). Arians said he’s “going to be alright,” so Murphy-Bunting should be able to return before the season is through.
Murphy-Bunting suffered the gruesome injury in the first half as he tried to prevent a touchdown from CeeDee Lamb. The Bucs went on to beat the Cowboys 31-29, but they also allowed 400+ yards passing in the process.
The 24-year-old played in all 16 games last year with 13 starts. He turned in 70 stops, three passes defensed, and one interception. As shown by the Bucs’ swiss cheese D on Thursday night, he’s crucial to the defending champs’ secondary.
Ross Cockrell stepped into Murphy-Bunting’s spot last night. It’s likely that he’ll serve as a Week 2 starter for the Bucs when they face the Falcons in Tampa on Sunday 9/19. Beyond that, the Buccaneers will probably consider some out-of-house reinforcements. Even in a best case scenario, Murphy-Bunting is probably looking at two months of rehab.
Buccaneers defensive back Sean Murphy-Bunting suffered an elbow injury during tonight’s season opener that will sideline him for at least the rest of the game. The team announced that Murphy-Bunting has been ruled out for the rest of the contest.
Murphy-Bunting suffered the injury in the first quarter in a play that saw Dak Prescott connect with CeeDee Lamb for a touchdown. The defensive back was seen holding his shoulder and arm while retreating back to the locker room.
Some pundits have speculated that Murphy-Bunting suffered a dislocated elbow, an injury that would likely sidelined the 24-year-old for a handful of games. Of course, we’ll learn more over the upcoming days about the player’s status moving forward.
Unfortunately for the Buccaneers, their cornerbacks depth isn’t a strength. Ross Cockrell moved to the nickle following the injury, with Carlton Davis and Jamel Dean playing the outside.
Murphy-Bunting, a 2019 second-round pick, has started 23 of his 32 games since entering the NFL. He had a career season in 2020, finishing with 70 tackles, three passes defended, and one interception. He also came up big during the playoffs, collecting three interceptions in four games.
The Buccaneers will be without starting right guard Alex Cappa this week, according to Jenna Laine of ESPN. Cappa sustained an elbow injury in Tampa Bay’s game against the Jaguars this past Sunday. Head coach Bruce Arians removed Cappa from the game in hopes that the precaution could allow Cappa to play this week, but unfortunately the injury is just too severe.
Veteran offensive lineman Earl Watford is behind Cappa on the depth chart and is expected to start in his place against the Colts. A six-year veteran, Watford has played all across the line, but is primarily an interior lineman. An injury earlier in the year forced Watford to start in place of Cappa for two games, so this will not be entirely unfamiliar territory for Tampa’s o-line.
Here’s some more injury notes from the NFC South:
Panthers tackle Greg Little was ruled out for Sunday’s game against the Falcons with an ankle injury, per Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic. While Little was selected with the 37th pick in this year’s draft by Carolina to immediately jump into their rotation along the line, injuries have limited him to only four appearances on the season. Little can play either tackle spot, but was listed as the team’s top left tackle on the depth chart. Fellow rookie Dennis Daley will likely return to the starting lineup in his place.
Rookie offensive guard Chris Lindstrom will return to the field for the first time since Week 1 for the Falcons. According to D. Orlando Ledbetter of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Atlanta is activating Lindstrom from the injured reserve to start this week against the Panthers. The Falcons focused on solidifying their offensive line through the draft last offseason, selecting Lindstrom with the 14th overall pick and tackle Kaleb McGary later in the first round. Lindstrom, however, has been out since injuring his foot in the season opener and the offensive line has struggled mightily, allowing 38 sacks on the season.
The Buccaneers have cut cornerback VernonHargreaves, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (via Twitter). Tampa Bay selected Hargreaves in the first round (No. 11 overall) of the 2016 draft and exercised the fifth-year option of his rookie deal back in May, which would have kept the Florida product under club control through 2020.
However, the fifth-year option would have come with a $9.9MM salary and was guaranteed for injury only, so Hargreaves will not have any impact on the Bucs’ cap in 2020. This move comes on the heels of Hargreaves being benched in the second half of Sunday’s victory over the Cardinals for not hustling, and may have been done to send a message to the rest of the locker room. As Jenna Laine of ESPN.com writes, Hargreaves planned to speak with head coach Bruce Arians to discuss the benching and expressed confidence that he and Arians could resolve any issues they might have, but the fact that his lack of hustle was not an isolated incident could have contributed to his ouster. Laine reminds us that Arians sat Hargreaves on the first day of OTAs because he was “not mentally ready to practice.”
The Bucs’ decision is particularly telling given that they have the worst pass defense in the NFL and now have just three healthy corners on the roster. As Greg Auman of The Athletic notes, Tampa will turn to rookies Jamel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting as its starters (Twitter link). Auman tweets that, given the youth and injuries along the CB depth chart, the club is likely to add a corner from outside the organization to replace Hargreaves.
Hargreaves rarely lived up to his first-round billing during his tenure with the Bucs, struggling both outside the numbers and in the slot. However, given his youth and upside, he will surely garner interest from other clubs in need of secondary help. Now that we are past the trade deadline, Hargreaves is subject to waivers, and while he is due just $980K for the remainder of the 2019 season, a team that claims Hargreaves off waivers would also be putting itself on the hook for the 2020 option year. As such, teams may wait for Hargreaves to clear waivers and then attempt to sign him as a free agent.
“After thoughtful consideration over the past few weeks, Coach Arians and I came to the conclusion that we needed to make this change. Decisions such as this are always difficult, but we felt it was in the best interest of the team to part ways with Vernon at this time and allow him to explore other opportunities. We are disappointed that it did not work out here for Vernon, and we wish him continued success moving forward.”
Hargreaves, a collegiate standout with the Gators, ends his Bucs tenure with two interceptions — including one pick-six — 19 passes defensed, and 164 total tackles in 35 games (33 starts). Injuries limited him to just 10 games between the 2017-18 seasons.
After ranking 3oth in pass defense DVOA last season, the Buccaneers needed to throw assets at the coverage game, and they did so by adding Murphy-Bunting on Day 2. The 2018 CMU Defensive Player of the Year, Bunting is a “long, lanky press corner,” according to Lance Zierlein of NFL.com, which should make him a good fit for Todd Bowles‘ aggressive scheme. Nelson might need to replaceJason Pierre-Paul‘s production after posting 9.5 sacks a year ago, while Gay should be in line to serve as the Bucs’ kicker during his rookie campaign.