The Buccaneers will see some shifting in their secondary as both Isaiah Johnson and Justin Evans have been ruled out for Sunday's game against the Saints. Coach Koetter said Friday that the Bucs will be dressing nine defensive backs but didn't say specifically which positions would make up those nine. You'll likely see players stepping into different roles to account for the injuries to the safety group. The good news is that cornerback M.J. Stewart looks like he could play for the first time in weeks and there is a chance, though slim, that cornerback Carlton Davis could join him.
With the rash of injuries to the secondary and linebacking corps, the Bucs have gotten creative with how they utilize certain players. For example, though he's listed as a safety, Andrew Adams (who had three picks against the Panthers last week, in case you hadn't heard already) was used as more of a linebacker as the Bucs elected to put more defensive backs (by trade) on the field in nickel and dime sub-packages. With Carlton Davis and M.J. Stewart out, it was Javien Elliott, Ryan Smith and Brent Grimes who covered the corner spots. Safety Justin Evans has been battling a toe injury and Isaiah Johnson was able to step in with rookie Jordan Whitehead but Johnson suffered a concussion last Sunday and has not cleared protocol as of Friday. The Bucs picked up safety Josh Shaw a couple weeks ago and he's now had a chance to get his feet wet in the Bucs' system but look for a few unique combinations when it comes to the defensive personnel on the field.
Week 14 marks the second straight week that wide receiver DeSean Jackson will miss the start. Last game, it was wide receivers Adam Humphries and Chris Godwin that helped fill in. Godwin passed the 100-yard mark and both receivers had a touchdown against Carolina. They'll look for similar production again this week while New Orleans cornerback Marshon Lattimore tries to contain Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans.
The Saints will come into Tampa Bay relatively healthy. After missing Wednesday, wide receiver Michael Thomas did not practice on Wednesday with an ankle injury but has since returned in a full capacity and looks to be a go on Sunday, much to the chagrin of many Bucs fans. Thomas had a career day against the Bucs in Week One despite the Saints' loss. Thomas caught 16 of 17 balls thrown his way for 180 yards and a touchdown in that game. So while Lattimore will be locked up with Evans, the Bucs will be trying to contain Thomas on the perimeter as much as possible.
The only player New Orleans will be without is offensive tackle Terron Armstead.
See below for the full injury report.
S Justin Evans (toe) – Did Not Participate – Out
WR DeSean Jackson (thumb) – Did Not Participate – Out
S Isaiah Johnson (concussion) – Did Not Participate – Out
CB Carlton Davis (knee) – Limited Participation – Doubtful
T Demar Dotson (knee/shoulder) – Limited Participation – Questionable
CB Brent Grimes (knee) – Full Participation – Questionable
DE Jason Pierre-Paul (knee) – Limited Participation – Questionable
CB M.J. Stewart (foot) – Full Participation – Questionable
DT Gerald McCoy (ankle/shoulder) – Full Participation
T Terron Armstead (pectoral) – Did Not Participate - Out
WR Michael Thomas (ankle) – Full Participation
T Ryan Ramczyk (shoulder) – Full Participation
DT David Onyemata (hip) – Full Participation
FB Zach Line (concussion) – Full Participation