-The Buccaneers announced on Tuesday that they had traded a 2022 sixth-round pick to the New York Jets in exchange for nose tackle Steve McLendon and a 2023 seventh-round pick. McLendon had been with the Jets under now-Bucs Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles and had previously played for the Steelers while Head Coach Bruce Arians was the offensive coordinator from 2009-2011. McLendon was signed by Pittsburgh in 2009 as an undrafted free agent out of Troy and proceeded to spend the first six seasons of his career there.
The Jets had just awarded McLendon a contract extension for the 2020 season after his 2019 campaign where he started all 16 games and recorded 2.5 sacks and 36 tackles, 10 of which were for loss. He already has 14 tackles this year for the Jets. The 11-year veteran should provide another piece to use in the rotation up front for the league's most dominant defensive line. In fact, the Bucs are currently ranked first in total defense after they completely shut down the league's number on scoring offense in the previously unbeaten Packers on Sunday.
-Which brings us to what Head Coach Bruce Arians had to say about his team after a statement win that left no doubt about who this team is and what they're capable of. Arians said it after the loss to the Bears in Chicago, 'we'll find out what kind of team we are next week.' Turns out, that team is a pretty dang good one after schooling what many considered the best team in the NFL to the tune of a 38-10 victory.
"There's no doubt – that is the standard," said Arians specifically about the defense and how utterly dominant they were. "Knock on wood [we] stay healthy and keep preparing on the practice field. I could've told you last Thursday we were going to play [well]. We had Thursday and Friday practices that we've never had before. We've had great practices, but there was something special in the air on Thursday and Friday's practices. It's like, 'What are we going to do this week?' Our message is, 'Let's make sure we're doing the same thing every single day this week.'"
After confusing perhaps the league's most sure-fire quarterback (Arians said after the game he thought that was the first time he had ever seen Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers confused), the weight of expectation has now set in. The defense has known what they're capable of all along, sure, but that doesn't mean everyone else did. And now they do as the Bucs inherit the number one spot and therefore, a target on their backs. But the team knows that.
"It's definitely a standard that we have to uphold now," said inside linebacker and defensive captain Lavonte David, echoing the words of his head coach. "Especially with the coaching staff we have – they're not going to accept anything less than our performance that we had. We've got to be able to be consistent, not get too high [and] not get too low and just stay the course. We know we played a good football game yesterday against a great football team, but now that's in the past. We have to keep on moving forward and keep on stacking them. In order for us to be the best defense that we want to be at the end of this year, we have to keep putting together those type of performances. Everybody knows that. Everybody on the staff knows that and our whole defensive unit knows that. Coach definitely made an emphasis on it when we got into a team meeting today, so that's something we have to try to establish here."
As a result of the defensive performance, the offense was able to get themselves in a rhythm and have some fun. It was finally the breakout game we all wanted to see from tight end Rob Gronkowski, who got into the end zone for the first time as a Buccaneer. It was capped off by the first left-handed spike of his career, too, as he battles a right shoulder injury that didn't seem to affect him at all throughout the day. It was his first time scoring an NFL touchdown in 679 days.
"That was my first left-handed spike in my career," Gronkowski laughed on Monday. "It was kind of weak, from the ratings I've been getting. They don't understand – I thought it was a 10 out of 10 for my left hand. It felt good to get back in the end zone. It's been quite some time and it just feels real good to get my first with the Buccaneers. It was just cool to see my teammates excited and my coaches excited for me to get back in the end zone, which was something pretty cool. The game plan – you just never know how it's going to go week in and week out. You prepare to plan for everything in the passing game and the run game. Some games you just really never know until the game starts. You may get 10 catches, you may get two catches. A wide receiver may get 10 catches and then two catches the next game. It just depends on how the game goes, but you've just got to prepare to the best of your ability that you can week in and week out, and just be ready for any situation any given week."
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