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Bucs Elevate Keenan Isaac, J.J. Russell to Patch Thin Spots on Defense

Rookie CB Keenan Isaac and second-year LB J.J. Russell were elevated from the practice squad on Saturday, making them eligible to play against the Saints and provide depth at two positions recently hit by injuries 


The Tampa Bay Buccaneers elevated rookie cornerback Keenan Isaac and second-year linebacker J.J. Russell from the practice squad on Saturday, making both players eligible to play against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday. The Buccaneers' depth chart at those two positions has recently been thinned by multiple injuries.

The NFL introduced the practice squad elevation option in 2020, which allows teams to activate up to two practice squad players for each game. By utilizing both options in Week Four, the Buccaneers have increased their game day roster to 55 players for their matchup with the Saints. They will be able to keep 48 of those player active for the game, naming seven inactives prior to kickoff.

Each player on the practice squad can be elevated up to three times during the regular season and an unlimited amount of times in the postseason. After the game, elevated players automatically revert to the practice squad without having to pass through waivers. This is Russell's final elevation option of the season, while Isaac has been brought up for the first time and will likely make his NFL debut on Sunday.

The Buccaneers have already ruled out starting cornerback Jamel Dean for the game due to an injury in his neck and shoulder area, which he sustained on Monday night against the Philadelphia Eagles. The team's other starter, Carlton Davis, has missed the last two games with a toe injury and was listed as questionable on Friday's injury report. In addition, rookie cornerback Derrek Pitts, who saw his first action on defense against the Eagles, has been ruled out due to a hamstring strain.

Isaac signed with the Buccaneers as an undrafted free agent out of Alabama State in May. He played in all three preseason games, with two starts, and recorded 11 tackles, three passes defensed and two forced fumbles. In 36 games at Alabama State he amassed 161 tackles, five interceptions and 31 passes defensed.

Rookie linebacker SirVocea Dennis was also ruled out for Sunday's game due to a hamstring injury, which means he will miss his third straight contest. Starting linebacker Devin White is considered questionable for the game thanks to a foot ailment. The only other off-ball linebackers on the current roster are Lavonte David and K.J. Britt.

Russell has played 39 snaps on special teams over the past two weeks and has logged one kick-coverage tackle. An undrafted free agent out of Memphis in 2022, he has appeared in eight total games for the Buccaneers, recording 45 snaps and four tackles on defense.

The practice squad elevation option was introduced as part of the new collective bargaining agreement in 2020. The new rule was something of a compromise, as it did not expand the active rosters beyond 53 players but did give teams a few more options on game days.

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