Last season, when Bucs center Evan Smith missed a game due to illness, the Bucs plugged in backup guard Garrett Gilkey, who hadn't ever snapped in a game. The move proved costly, with trouble on the center-quarterback exchange, most notably on a third-and-goal play that forced the Bucs to settle for a field goal in what ended up a one-point loss to the Bengals.
And with backup center Josh Allen out the past week with an ankle injury, the Bucs again turned to Gilkey at center in the second quarter Saturday after starter Evan Smith was done after 16 plays. Gilkey played only nine snaps, but had two snaps fumbled -- one high over Jameis Winston's head, another low -- and contributed to a false-start penalty, with the Bucs failing to gain a first down in his three series at center.
"We have to protect the football a lot better than we did," coach Lovie Smith said of the errant snaps. "High, low. We weren't pleased with that at all. Yes, Josh is out now, but he's been out a while. We need better play, and it starts with that center-quarterback exchange. That hasn't been what we need it to be. I'll even say at practice at times it hasn't been that way. We know that's been an issue and we'll continue to work to get it better."
The Bucs turned to USF grad Jeremiah Warren at center for the remaining 47 offensive plays, with no significant problems. Gilkey started the game at right guard, ahead of rookie Ali Marpet, before moving over to center in the second quarter.