Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles met with the press and discussed the state of the team and its preparations for the Saints' visit this weekend. Here are some of the topics on which Bowles touched:
1. The rookie defensive backs are learning as they go.
The Bucs drafted three defensive backs in the 2019 NFL Draft and all three of them will see the field in major roles this Sunday against a very good Saints team. Cornerbacks Sean Murphy-Bunting and Jamel Dean, along with safety Mike Edwards, have been putting in extra time with Bowles and their coaches to step up to the plate when the Bucs need them most.
"They are getting better every week," Bowles said. "They are working hard. They are learning some things on the field – a lot of things they know going into the game. As a player, you are going to learn something new every week when teams do something different. They are very intelligent, they work hard [and] they study hard, so I just look forward to getting them better."
2. The Bucs have to be ready for the Saints' offense as a whole, not just Drew Brees.
Last time in the Superdome, the Saints' long-time signal caller was out with a thumb injury, so the Bucs faced off against Teddy Bridgewater, instead. The New Orleans offense wasn't hurting with Bridgewater at the helm against the Bucs, or anyone else for that matter. The connection with wide receiver Michael Thomas was still very much alive, as it has been with Brees since his return. It's why Bowles isn't as much concerned with the change in quarterback as much as he is with the offense as a whole.
"You focus on everything," Bowles said. "Obviously, Sean is an excellent play-caller. He does a great job with what they do and putting people in place to make plays from a schematics standpoint. Drew – it speaks for itself – he is one of the greatest to play the game, obviously with his longevity and everything else. He plays extremely smart. Teddy runs better, but Teddy was smart, and Teddy threw the ball and passed very well against us. As far as we're concerned, we've got to prepare for everything. It's not just Sean, or Drew or Teddy – we've got to prepare for the Saints."
3. Newly promoted cornerback Mazzi Wilkins earned his spot.
With the team's release of cornerback Vernon Hargreaves came the corresponding promotion of cornerback Mazzi Wilkins to the 53-man roster. Wilkins was signed to the team's practice squad after he had a good preseason. Head Coach Bruce Arians called him a 'competitor' that gives you everything he has every day.
Bowles cosigned on the sentiment and the move to bring him up, of course. He also made sure to stress that while there were changing circumstances that opened a roster spot for Wilkins, it was his hard work that landed him on the 53.
"He worked," Bowles said. "He came in everyday and worked, whether he was on scout team or whether we put him in to get reps, he worked. He made a lot of mistakes, but he learned from them, he got better, he listened, and he applied it. He won't take no for an answer. He is on a steady climb. He understands what he has to do to play. He is one of those guys who will succeed at any cost and do everything to try and succeed and that's a credit to him. He got up here because of his hard work, not because people went down or people were here or people were there. He worked his way in, he got the system down pretty good and he made everybody take notice of him."