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Bucs Winfield Up for Rookie of the Week & Improvement in the Trenches | Carmen Catches Up

Rookie safety Antoine Winfield Jr. is up for Rookie of the Week after his 11-tackle performance on Sunday and Ndamukong Suh, Ali Marpet talk about improvements on both sides on the line. 

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-Rookie safety Antoine Winfield Jr. is up for Rookie of the Week after forcing a fumble on a strip sack and recording 11 combined tackles in Sunday's game against the Panthers. He's the only defensive player to make the list and you can vote for him (as many times as you want).

-The Broncos are looking ahead to facing the Bucs this Sunday. After a much-improved day on the ground and seeing their first 100-yard rusher of the season in Leonard Fournette, Denver is now fully aware of what Fournette can do in this system.

"He's a physical back that when he's in the hole, he looks to run hard," said inside linebacker Josey Jewell. "He can also bounce it out. He's got speed. There's a lot of great backs in the league right now, and he's definitely one of those up there. We're going to treat him like a good running back and be able to play physical football and just know that he can get to the outside edges. We'll have to play fundamental football to get that done."

-Part of the reason for Fournette's breakout game was an improvement all along the offensive line. Left guard Ali Marpet said it was due to a combination of what the Panthers were doing on Sunday and the unit as a whole taking a step forward.

"I think technically we were a lot better," he said. "I think the looks that we got were probably easier – I think we got a couple more three-down looks, which makes it easier in pass [protection]. Ultimately, I think across the board everyone just took a small step forward, which helps out."

The other side of the trenches saw an uptick in production, too. Defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh had his first multi-sack game as a Buccaneer, recording 2.0 on the day. Defensive lineman William Gholston also registered two tackles for loss himself and Vita Vea had one of the same for the guys up front. The latter two players' improvements haven't gone unnoticed by their linemate, either.

"Truthfully, I've seen an amazing growth with Vita," said Suh. "First and foremost, him understanding the game [and] him understanding how people want to block him. Then, his athleticism – I think he took time this offseason to work on himself as an individual athlete. That's showing up as well as consistently staying in the weight room, doing extra work after practice and before practice to maintain his success. Going [with] the same thing with Will. Will took it upon himself this offseason to compete with me in wanting to come in at a certain weight and then get stronger, which he's done. I'm very proud of him from that aspect. He's understanding the game a lot better, understanding our defense, how he fits in and how he can be a dominant force. I think truthfully, now you guys are just seeing their hard work pay off for them."

The guys up front have built up a rapport with each other much as the rest of the defense has in their second year within Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles' system. They returned 10 of 11 defensive starters from the latter part of last year, the only newcomer being Winfield Jr., who has clearly been able to step up and fit right in. That continuity has manifested itself in the amity among the entire defensive side of the ball, which has only helped their on-field play.

"I think it's extremely important," Winfield said of that camaraderie. "We all have to be out there on the same page to do our jobs. They were all here before I got here, so obviously being the new guy, you can see how close everybody was when I first got here. It's good to have that sense and feeling that everybody's connected, because that allows us just to play better."

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