Dirk Koetter spoke with the press on Monday afternoon, approximately 24 hours after the conclusion of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Week Six loss in Arizona. Koetter had an opportunity to review the tape from that game as well as some key medical-examination results to gain a better understanding of what transpired on Sunday and how it might impact the Buccaneers' next game.
So, upon further review, here are a few things Koetter and the rest of us learned from – and/or what new questions were raised by – the Buccaneers' Week Six loss to the Cardinals.
1. The results of Jameis Winston's X-ray and MRI constitute good news, but his availability for next Sunday in Buffalo remains an open question.
Starting quarterback Jameis Winston exited Sunday's game in Arizona in the second quarter as the result of an injury to his throwing shoulder that apparently occurred in the first quarter. Winston, one of the Bucs' toughest competitors, admitted to Koetter that he didn't feel like he could drive the ball sufficiently on this throws, and thus he reluctantly gave way to reserve quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
On a day that saw former Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers sidelined by a broken collarbone that will put much of the remainder of his season in jeopardy, Winston's injury was potentially a turning point for the Buccaneers'' season, as well. However, it appears that the Bucs' young passer has escaped serious injury. The X-ray examination was negative for any break, while the MRI showed an AC sprain. Winston is considered "day-to-day," rather than "week-to-week," and that's good news regardless of whether he can play next Sunday in Buffalo.
"You don't want anybody to be hurt, but the fact that he's not definitely out, that's obviously good news," said Koetter. "You don't want your quarterback to be hurt. Jameis, he took a shot, landed right on that thing. Obviously, everybody saw the clip of what happened with Aaron Rodgers. We're hoping for the best, and the fact that he hasn't been ruled out is good news."
Winston likely won't throw much this week. Koetter said that Fitzpatrick would run the first-team offense on Wednesday while Winston could get in some snaps during run-game periods. Fortunately for the Buccaneers, quarterback Ryan Griffin, who is on injured reserve due to a preseason shoulder injury, just happens to be eligible to return to practice this week, so he can run the scout team. That gives Koetter and General Manager Jason Licht a little extra time to decide if it needs to bring in another quarterback to get through Sunday's game.
"Jason and I have talked about that, and that's something that we'll just have to see how the week unfolds," said Koetter. "The players' day off is tomorrow, so we couldn't do anything tomorrow anyway with the new player. So we're going to just see how Jameis feels in a day or so."
Koetter said that Winston would not be in danger of making his injury worse if he were to play in Buffalo. Technically, it might be considered a pain-tolerance issue, but Koetter knows Winston would not hesitate to play through discomfort. Instead, the deciding factor will be whether or not the young quarterback feels like he can get enough on his throws to run the offense.
"The way I understand it, he will be cleared medically to play," said Koetter. "So the way I understand it right now, the answer to [the pain-tolerance question] would be, 'Yes.' I know Jameis can handle a lot of pain, that's not going to be an issue. I think it will be more [about], does Jameis feel like he can play at the level he needs to play at? Obviously, the number-one thing in all of this is that Jameis's long-term health has to be the number-one thing."
2. Speaking of quarterbacks, the Buccaneers' defense may be close to getting its signal-caller back.
Linebacker Lavonte David returned to the lineup on Sunday after missing two games with an ankle injury and promptly forced two fumbles, one of which he returned for a touchdown in the Bucs' furious comeback bid. It's possible that David will get his middle-of-the-defense running mate back on Sunday in Buffalo.
Starting middle linebacker Kwon Alexander hasn't played since suffering a hamstring injury in the Bucs' season-opening win over Chicago. Rookie Kendell Beckwith has filled in admirably but the Tampa Bay defense would love to get back their play-making play-caller. That has a good chance of happening this week.
A behind-the-scenes look at the Buccaneers' Week 6 matchup with the Cardinals.
"He is cleared to go this week as far as starting Wednesday," said Koetter. "Now, that is barring a setback but we're going to have a better injury report on that when it next comes out. If nothing happens. He's going to be cleared to practice full on Wednesday."
Beckwith has performed more than admirably in Alexander's place, but the Bucs' defense could use a spark after giving up more than 400 yards in consecutive games. Beckwith would presumably go back to the strongside linebacker spot, where he started in Week One before moving into the middle.
"It will certainly be good to get Kwon back," said Koetter. "He is [an] outstanding player."
3. The Buccaneers have to start faster.
Tampa Bay is 2-0 this season when it scores the first points of the game, and 0-3 when it does not. Last year, the Bucs were 6-3 when scoring first and 3-4 when their opponents lit up the scoreboard first.
Sunday's game in Arizona was a rather extreme example of that dichotomy. The Cardinals raced out to a 24-0 halftime lead and made it 31-0 early in the third quarter. The Buccaneers rallied for 33 of the game's last 40 points, but that extremely rough start rendered the comeback moot. Tampa Bay won five of its first six games on the road last season but has since dropped four straight away from home. The Bucs know they can't afford to fall behind early when in a hostile environment.
"The lesson is we've got to start faster," said Koetter. "We've got to execute better early in games on offense. We've turned into this team that looks like gangbusters in the fourth quarter, but does not look like gangbusters in the first quarter. It's a four-quarter game. We've got to start faster. Our defense normally hasn't had as much of an issue, but yesterday we had that issue on defense as well. That's something as a coaching staff we've got to get figured out."