Tampa Bay Buccaneers Will Scramble for Answers with Adrian Clayborn on IR

Knox Bardeen@knoxbardeenNFC South Lead WriterSeptember 25, 2012

TAMPA, FL - DECEMBER 17:  Running back Felix Jones #28 of the Dallas Cowboys is tackled by defenders Tanard Jackson #36 and Adrian Clayborn #94 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the game at Raymond James Stadium on December 17, 2011 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
J. Meric/Getty Images

Playing on the defensive line for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers doesn’t offer a lot of job security. It’s possibly even a cursed position group.

Defensive end Adrian Clayborn injured his knee during the fourth quarter of Sunday’s Week 3 game against the Dallas Cowboys. Once the Buccaneers got back to Tampa and had Clayborn’s knee examined, their worst fears were realized.

Clayborn’s knee will require surgery to repair what might be multiple ligaments, according to a Tampa Tribune report.

Bucs coach Greg Schiano referred to the injury as "one of those three-letter deals,'' and said it "may be more than one,'' which means Clayborn likely suffered damage to one or more ligaments.

Clayborn was placed on injured reserve, ending his season, an all-too familiar story for members of Tampa Bay’s defense line of recent years.

Da’Quan Bowers tore his Achilles during an offseason workout program, the team announced back in May. Bowers is on the Physically Unable to Perform list after vowing via Twitter to return quickly and play in 2012.

The first time Bowers would be eligible to participate in practice would be after Week 6, according to league rules regarding when a player can come off the PUP list. That couldn’t be soon enough for the Buccaneers, who now must look at backups George Johnson and Daniel Te’o-Nesheim for answers.

Bowers was the first defensive lineman in 2012 to sustain a serious injury, but he was by no means the first lineman to start the injury dominoes falling.

Last year tackle Gerald McCoy lost time to a biceps injury, defensive end Michael Bennett was sidelined with a foot injury and tackle Brian Price sustained a pelvis injury.

"George has done well,'' Schiano said in the Tampa Tribune. "And Daniel (Te'o-Nesheim has) done well when we've played him. So we do have some internal choices to consider there. We just have to work through it.''

According to Pro Football Focus ($$), Te’o-Nesheim has played four run snaps this season and Johnson’s played two. Both have seen action on six passing snaps. Neither has recorded a tackle or affected a quarterback, and since neither players has been on the field for more than 10 snaps, Tampa Bay may look outside the facility for help.

"Anything is fair game right now,'' Schiano said. "I mean, I don't know where it will end up. We're spending a lot of time talking about it and we'll make what we think is the best decision."

The conversation may even be leading down the path of spending time in a 3-4 scheme to utilize Dekoda Watson as a pass-rushing linebacker.

Watson had moments of brilliance during the preseason in the Bucs pass rush, and could use this injury to kick-start his season. But, according to Tampa Bay Times writer Stephen Holder via Twitter, Watson might be injured too.

Whatever the Bucs do to replace Clayborn, the decision needs to be made quickly and the results need to be seamless. The Tampa Bay defense hasn’t been rock solid, or even anywhere close to a stable-results unit this season. A further slide could end all hope for improvement in the standings in 2012.