-The Buccaneers received some potentially good news following the team's first full-speed practice of Week Seven when Head Coach Bruce Arians was asked about defensive captain Lavonte David's progress working back from an ankle injury suffered against the Miami Dolphins.
"Really good," said Arians. "He's one of the guys that I've got my fingers crossed for."
To be clear, that means fingers crossed that David could potentially play on Sunday when the Chicago Bears and mobile quarterback, Justin Fields, come to town.
That would be a welcome addition considering David is the Bucs' best sideline-to-sideline guy on defense and could be instrumental in containing Fields and the members of the Bears' backfield. They have the seventh-ranked rushing offense, averaging 129 yards per game on the ground. That being said, the Bucs did an excellent job in limited another mobile quarterback last week when they faced Jalen Hurts in Philadelphia. They allowed him 44 yards, almost exclusively in scrambles, and just 115 passing yards on the night. They'll be trying to replicate that performance against the Bears and David would sure help.
-The Bears are a familiar opponent, even in the rookie Fields isn't. The last time the two teams met was in Week Four last season in Chicago, where the Bucs suffered a mostly self-inflicted loss at Soldier Field. It was a turning point in the season and can still serve as a lesson, according to Arians.
"Yeah – don't get 13 penalties," he said. "And everything else that went on up there – finishing plays, turning the ball over right before half. There are a lot of things to learn from that tape."
-The Bucs' defense will have to take that game into account, while also focusing on what's new with the Bears: namely that aforementioned rookie quarterback.
"I have to respect him like any other quarterback I go against," said cornerback Jamel Dean, who has recorded an interception in his last two games and came away with four passes defensed in Philadelphia. "He has the ability to run and he can make throws. I remember him from college because when I was at Auburn, he was at Georgia at the time. He also played good against us too, so we can't take him lightly."
But Fields isn't the only thing the Bucs will have to contend with.
"I think their speed," said cornerback Dee Delaney. "You've got to really respect their speed. They're real track guys. They can really go after it. I think that's really what I look at the most [is] their speed and the quarterback's ability to get out of the pocket."
-The good news is, the Bears will have to go toe-to-toe (or paw-to-boot?) with one of the league's most productive offenses. Considering the Bears' passing attack is ranked last in the league and they're allowing the most sacks of any team, that's going to be tough. Especially considering that the Buccaneers are averaging 32.5 points per game, the third best mark in the league, and have the NFL's top-ranked passing offense, averaging 340.7 passing yards per game. That's thanks to the league's passing leader in Tom Brady, who has already racked up 2.064 passing yards through six games, along with 17 passing touchdowns. On top of that, the Bucs' ground game has made tremendous strides as of late, with the Bucs eclipsing 100 yards rushing in each of their last three games. Running back Leonard Fournette has become a big part of that. He totaled over 120 yards from scrimmage for his third game in a row.
"He's fit in, he's found his niche," said Arians of Fournette. "When 'RoJo' (Ronald Jones II) got hurt he took over and he's not looking back. It's hard for 'RoJo' to get back out there unless he gets hurt. It's nice to have both of them, that's for sure, but he's playing really, really well."
The other part of that equation is the Bucs' offensive line, which is opening things up not only for the ground game, but they are protecting well and allowing the passing game to thrive. That hasn't gone unnoticed by one of the Bucs' top receivers.
"Watching all of our units, just the way we communicate now – we're a band of brothers," said Mike Evans. "Those big guys up front, they really came together this year and had it in their minds to be one of the best offensive lines in the league and they've proven that. They're keeping Tom [Brady] safe back there, keeping him clean, giving him time to throw us the rock. We appreciate those guys. [They are] opening up big lanes for the running backs. They're doing a great job this year."
It's allowed Brady to lock and load with all of the Bucs' offensive weapons. Evans, Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown are each on pace for 1,000-yard seasons. Fournette is on pace for 1,000 yards on the ground with another 600 receiving. And Brady has become the catalyst for all that production.
"That's not just with me," said Fournette. "I think when there are one-on-one advantages, any one of our guys could win. I think that's the special part about this team, whether it's run or pass, we have guys that can make those plays in one-on-one opportunities. I think we just keep working at it, keep getting better, keep trusting in Tom, his decision making and what he thinks is going to help us at the end of the day. The sky is the limit for this offense."
It comes with some work, though. Fournette also detailed the extra work he and Brady have put in on routes that Brady likes his running backs to run. Fournette also elaborated on the run-scheme meetings Brady has set up. Brady, his offensive line and the offensive backfield have been meeting every Friday for an hour after their normal work day has ended since before the Miami game. I'd say it's paid off.
Bucs Tweet of the Day: