It's not as though confidence is running high among the Buccaneer faithful.
The first huge loss was the leader of the offensive line, Davin Joseph. As if that weren't bad enough, down went Adrian Clayborn, a first-round draft choice and the man with the best motor on the defensive line.
Not enough bad news?
Add the human bulldozer, Carl Nicks, to the Injured Reserve list. That makes two All-Pro guards gone.
We won't even go into detail on the Adderall twins, Aqib Talib and Eric Wright.
How about a little gloom to go with the doom?
Through the murk and the mire, something neat has happened with this Buccaneer team molded and designed by Greg Schiano. There are some genuine unheralded heroes stepping up, responding, heeding the call to arms, if you will.
Let's take a quick look at a few of them.
Bennett was simply supposed to add depth to the defensive line. Clayborn and Da'Quan Bowers were expected to be the starters going into camp. Bowers went down with the Achilles injury and Bennett has become "the man."
Bennett has come on like gangbusters. He's the HUGE surprise of the season. With Gerald McCoy healthy and Roy Miller coming to life, Bennett, the unheralded one, is having a great first half of the season.
Did we mention this is a contract year for Bennett? Apparently someone wants a raise.
Pay the man!
Losing Clayborn was a huge blow. Surely it would leave the defensive line dangling in the wind. Or would it?
Nesheim had an outstanding game against Minnesota. He had a quarterback sack and nearly two others with hits on Christian Ponder. Three tackles, one for a loss. A good evening's work for the man from Pago Pago in American Samoa. He's the poster-guy for "stepping up."
You can't say enough about this home-grown Buc from across the bay in Largo. As a high school QB turned corner at Iowa State, he was an undrafted free agent due to the fact he wasn't as fast as most scouts would like an NFL corner to be.
That hasn't stopped Johnson. He could start against Oakland Sunday. He's performed and performed well. Corner has taken a shocking path with the Talib-Wright problems and Anthony Gaitor going to Injured Reserve.
Johnson responded and has kept improving. You can't help but love this guy.
Lorig has found his home at fullback. Great athlete. He can catch, and his blocking was outstanding against Minnesota. A lot of Doug Martin's rushing yards came as a result of Lorig's performance.
He also solved the short-yardage goal-line problem when he hauled in that one-yard pass from Josh Freeman and found the end zone for the first time as a pro last Thursday in Minnesota.
Count Lorig as another unheralded hero.
He's overcome a lack of experience and has played nicely at right guard. The proof is that you never hear his name called by an official. That's a really good thing. He's finding his groove and the Bucs have found a keeper.
You can't talk about Meredith without mentioning the guy next to him. Schiano found out what we all knew and that's the fact that Jeremy Trueblood isn't all that good. Dotson, a former basketball player, has combined with Meredith to shore up the right side of the offensive line. They're working well together and maybe, just maybe, they can keep improving.
Good thing is, like Meredith, you haven't heard the officials calling his name and number.
This offense really, really needed someone to step up and become a third option for Freeman in the passing game. Arrelious Benn continues to be a major disappointment. No problem, in steps Underwood, who was cut before the season started.
Thank goodness no other NFL team picked him up. He's back in the fold and he's a threat. He's reliable, he has good hands and he simply does his job.
That's a pretty good cast of "other guys," isn't it?
They're not the glamour guys. They don't get headlines but they do what needs to be done.
They're part of the reason this team has won some football games.
There's still a big need. The Bucs now need another player to step up. It's impossible to replace Carl Nicks—that's a given.
But is there another hero in the fold?
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