TAMPA — Can the Bucs-Panthers game turn into Miller time?
Receiver Breshad Perriman missed the week five loss with a hamstring injury, forcing the Bucs to turn to other options in the passing game. Perriman, who did not participate Thursday, will not make the trip to London for the game against the Panthers.
Rookie Scotty Miller, an option to replace Perriman’s production on the field, had two targets in the Bucs second drive against the Saints, but did not receive any targets for the rest of the game.
“It was definitely a learning experience for me,” Miller said. “I think getting that under my belt, I played a lot of snaps, I’ll be able to get in there this week and be really comfortable.”
Miller played on 21 of 57 snaps, the fourth-most among Bucs wide receivers. He finished the game with no receptions, and he had one rush for 18 yards.
Bucs offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich also emphasized one of the week’s themes: get the ball to Mike Evans.
Evans failure to catch a pass in last week’s loss against the Saints is well documented. Leftwich said the Saints did a good job of taking Evans out of the game, but he still has to find ways to get the ball to his star receiver.
“I can do a better job there,” Leftwich said. “He’s too good a football player to go through a game without having a catch.”
Offensive line infirmary report
The Bucs offensive line, already thin heading into Sunday’s division matchup against the Panthers in London, took another hit Thursday. Rookie guard Zach Bailey exited Thursday’s practice — the Bucs’ final one before boarding a flight for London — and was seen in the locker room on crutches. Bailey could have made his NFL debut on Sunday in a reserve role behind right guard Earl Watford.
Guard Alex Cappa and tackle Demar Dotson are out and not traveling to London, so the Bucs already face playing with a rebuilt right side of the line. Right tackle Josh Wells, who is expected to start for Dotson, returned to practice Thursday after missing Wednesday’s session for the birth of his child.
If Bailey isn't healthy enough to dress on Sunday, the team might need to add another offensive lineman to give them seven healthy enough to dress. Given it's so late in the week, the most likely scenario would be to promote rookie center/guard Nate Trewyn from the practice squad.
Devin White expected to start vs. Panthers
First-round pick Devin White was in uniform but did not play in Sunday’s loss to the Saints. Arians said he expects the rookie to start vs. Carolina in London. White has not played in the past three games due to a knee sprain.
“Kevin Minter played excellent in his absence,’’ Arians said. “But Devin White is a special player.’’
Carolina running back Christian McCaffrey returned to Panthers practice Thursday after missing Wednesday’s session with a back injury. In the Bucs 20-14 win over the Panthers on Sept. 12, Tampa Bay held McCaffrey to 37 yards on 16 carries, good for 2.3 yards per rush. Since the Bucs shut him down, McCaffrey has been on a roll for Carolina, picking up at least 170 total yards in each of his last three games. McCaffrey had 176 rushing yards and 61 receiving yards in Carolina’s win over Jacksonville on Sunday.
“Everything I’ve seen on the film I didn’t like because he’s running for touchdowns all the time,” Bucs defensive coordinator Todd Bowles said of McCaffrey. “They’re running the ball a lot better. You can tell they’ve come together as a unit.”
Defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh was a full participant in Thursday’s practice after missing Wednesday with a knee injury. Wide receiver Chris Godwin was a full participant Thursday after being limited with a hip injury on Wednesday.
Carolina defensive tackle Gerald McCoy returned to Panthers practice Thursday. The former Buc missed Wednesday’s session with a knee injury.