Is Tristan Wirfs playing today? Why absence of Buccaneers injured offensive tackle will loom large vs. Rams

Is Tristan Wirfs playing today? Why absence of Buccaneers injured offensive tackle will loom large vs. Rams

The Buccaneers are going to be without their top offensive lineman on Sunday afternoon against the Rams.

Right tackle Tristan Wirfs is inactive for the Buccaneers due to an ankle sprain. Wirfs suffered the injury early in Tampa Bay’s wild-card round win over the Eagles, and he had to be helped off the field.

Bruce Arians was hopeful that Wirfs would be able to play against the Rams. However, Wirfs was only able to practice on a limited basis Friday after missing the Bucs’ first two days of practice and ultimately wasn’t able to make the quick turnaround needed to return to the field.

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Wirfs’ absence could prove problematic for the Buccaneers. He has been one of their best pass-blocking offensive linemen this season, as he has allowed just two sacks in the regular season while playing all 764 of the Bucs’ regular-season pass-blocking snaps. That is part of the reason that the Bucs allowed just 22 sacks during the regular season, good for the fewest in the NFL.

However, the Bucs will now have to survive without Wirfs in a matchup with the Rams, who generated 50 sacks during the 2021 regular season, good for the third-most in the NFL. The Bucs haven’t been good when they have allowed Tom Brady to be sacked, as they posted a 1-3 regular-season record in games where they allowed three-plus sacks. That includes a 34-24 loss to the Rams in Week 3.

While the Buccaneers beat the Eagles last week with Wirfs missing most of the contest, they did allow four sacks in that game. The Eagles couldn’t make them pay for that, but the more explosive Los Angeles offense certainly could.

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With Wirfs out of action, the Bucs will rely on backup tackle Josh Wells to start and do battle with Von Miller and Leonard Floyd. Wells replaced Wirfs last week and allowed one sack on 37 pass-blocking snaps, per PFF. He has dealt with a quadriceps injury this week and was limited in all three of Tampa Bay’s practice sessions, but he was deemed healthy enough to play.

Wirfs and Wells aren’t the only Bucs offensive linemen banged up in this game. Center Ryan Jensen is dealing with an ankle injury that left him questionable for this week’s game. He’ll play through it, but it will be worth watching him against All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald.

The Rams are also dealing with a key offensive line injury, as their best blocker — offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth — will miss this contest with a knee injury. As such, don’t be surprised to see the pass rushes of each team find success.

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