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Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Graham's injury presents challenges even after Blount returns



Though the Bucs have yet to make it official, it's been confirmed to me that running back Earnest Graham has a torn Achilles' tendon. That's a season-ending injury for all intents and purposes.

The good news: The Bucs hope starter LeGarrette Blount can return after this week's bye, as the Bucs look toward their Nov. 6 game at New Orleans. Blount's knee injury isn't considered a long-term problem, and by the time the bye week is over, he'll have had four weeks of rest.

But the return of Blount to the lineup is not a cure-all.

The Bucs still have to fulfill the Graham's original role of third-down back. They still don't consider Blount an ideal candidate to play on third downs, although he becomes more of an option with Graham out of the lineup. So, the third-down duties most likely will be handed to Kregg Lumpkin. He was in a preseason competition with Graham for the job before Graham won out, so Lumpkin becomes the most obvious answer to this quandary.

Lumpkin is going to have to prove he can handle everything that comes with playing this role. He'll be tested as a pass protector in particular. That's an area where Graham was very solid. Lumpkin's pass-blocking ability will have a significant impact on the Bucs' passing game -- for better or worse. Lumpkin has shown an ability to catch the handful of passes he's been thrown. With Graham going down on the second offensive series on Sunday, Lumpkin caught a career-high six passes for 37 yards.

We've heard the Bucs laud Lumpkin since his arrival at the start of the 2010 season. Now, ready or not, the truth about Lumpkin will be revealed for everyone to see.

[Last modified: Tuesday, October 25, 2011 12:01pm]


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