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

The Buccaneers will be without their best offensive lineman Sunday afternoon against the Rams.

Right tackle Tristan Wirfs is inactive with the Buccaneers with a sprained ankle. Wirfs suffered the injury early in Tampa Bay’s wild-card round victory over the Eagles, and had to be helped off the field.

Bruce Arians was hopeful that Wirfs could 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 was unable to make the quick turnaround needed to return to the field.

Wirfs’ absence could prove problematic for the Buccaneers. He has been one of their best pass-blocking offensive linemen this season, allowing only two sacks in the regular season while playing all 764 of the Bucs’ regular season pass-blocking snaps. That’s part of the reason the Bucs allowed just 22 sacks during the regular season, 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, third-most in the NFL. The Bucs haven’t been good when allowing Tom Brady to be sacked, posting a 1-3 regular-season record in games in which they allowed more than three sacks. That includes a 34-24 loss to the Rams in Week 3.

Although the Buccaneers beat the Eagles last week and Wirfs missed most of the game, they allowed four sacks in that game. The Eagles couldn’t make them pay for it, but Los Angeles’ most explosive offense certainly could.

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

Wirfs and Wells aren’t the only Bucs offensive linemen hit in this game. Center Ryan Jensen is dealing with an ankle injury that has left him questionable for this week’s game. He’ll get over it, but it’ll be worth watching 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 game with a knee injury. As such, don’t be surprised to see each team’s quick passes succeed.