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Pregame Report: Bucs' Leaders Ready to Go

Posted Oct 22, 2017

QB Jameis Winston will not miss a start despite last Sunday's shoulder injury and defensive signal-caller Kwon Alexander returns after missing four-and-a-half games

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are getting two quarterbacks back as they head into their Week Seven game in Buffalo.

The first of those, of course, is Jameis Winston, who won't miss a start but was a question mark for much of the week after suffering a right shoulder injury in Arizona. Winston missed most of that 38-33 loss to the Cardinals and then was held out of passing drills this Wednesday and Thursday. After he threw without limitations on Friday, Head Coach Dirk Koetter eliminated any weekend mystery by announcing that Winston was good to go for Sunday's game.

Nothing changed between Friday and Sunday, and thus Winston will make his 38th consecutive start since being drafted first overall in 2015.

There was only a fraction more uncertainty regarding the quarterback of the Bucs' defense, linebacker Kwon Alexander. The team's starting middle linebacker and defensive signal-caller has been sidelined since a Week Two hamstring injury but was able to practice fully this past week. Linebacker Lavonte David returned from his own leg injury to resume his role on the weak side, and now Alexander will join him, pushing impressive rookie Kendell Beckwith into the strongside spot.

"Kwon is good to go," said Head Coach Dirk Koetter. "We're very excited to have him back. He's a captain and he's a really good football player. Anytime you get a player of Kwon's caliber back, you're excited about it. It's going to help our team.

"We're no different than any other team: You want your best players on the field. But in the NFL, guys are going to get nicked up and you have to be able to adjust. Our linebacker depth was definitely tested and it responded, but we're getting a lot closer to being full-strength, which is a good thing."

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Safety Keith Tandy (hip) also returns from a three-game injury absence. The only Bucs who will miss Sunday's game due to injury are cornerback Josh Robinson (concussion) and defensive end Ryan Russell (shoulder), though OL Caleb Benenoch is also out due to illness. In addition to those three, the Buccaneers deactivated TE Antony Auclair, C Joe Hawley, S Isaiah Johnson and DT Sealver Siliga for Sunday's game.

The Buccaneers need as many of their key players available as possible as they try to snap a two-game losing streak and a two-game road losing streak. That won't be easy against a Buffalo team that has achieved a 3-2 mark – with wins over Denver and Atlanta – by virtue of playing opportunistic and mistake-free football. Buffalo's defense has already secured 10 takeaways in five games, including eight interceptions from the four starting players in their secondary.

"They have a new coaching staff [with] Sean McDermott, [former] D-Coordinator from the Carolina Panthers," said Koetter. "He's done a fantastic job because this team is a lot like him – they're tough, they're playing hard and they're not beating themselves. When you watch them on film, you're impressed."

The typical score of a Bills game this season is roughly 17-14. The Buffalo offense hasn't generated much yardage, ranking 31st in the NFL, but it has also committed just two turnovers. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor is a mobile threat with a very strong arm and long-time running back standout LeSean McCoy is the focal point of the attack, leading the team in both rushing and receptions.

"On offense, Tyrod Taylor and LeSean McCoy are their game-wrecker type of players," said Koetter. "Defensively, they're a team that just feeds off each other. They're very aggressive to the ball, they're second in the NFL in takeaways and they play fast, they play downhill."

Buffalo's offense will be without its receiving-yardage leader, as tight end Charles Clay is out with a knee injury. The team did recently add wide receiver Deonte Thompson, who scored the Bears only touchdown against Tampa Bay in Week Two, and they are getting presumptive number-one wideout Jordan Matthews back from an injured thumb. On defense, the Bills will have to roll without linebacker Ramon Humber, their second-leading tackler.

In addition to Clay and Humber, the Bills have also deactivated WR Kaelin Clay, T Seantrel Henderson, T Conor McDermott, G John Miller and DT Cedric Thornton.

The Buccaneers and Bills kick off at 1:00 p.m. ET at New Era Field in Buffalo, New York. The game will be televised regionally by FOX and broadcast by the Buccaneers Radio Network and its flagship station 97.9 FM, 98ROCK.