-After more secondary shuffling in Washington when cornerback Richard Sherman suffered a calf injury in pregame and Dee Delaney suffered a concussion in the game, the Buccaneers are still searching for some good news and perhaps some continuity on the back end of their defense. Cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting, who was injured in the season opener against Dallas, is currently on the designated to return list after being places on injured reserve. He practices last week but was not activated ahead of Washington. He continued to practice this week ahead of the Bucs' Monday night matchup and especially with the extra day, could very well be active against the Giants.
"We will see where he is at the end of the week," said Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles. "That will tell the picture right there. If we play him in a game that means I'm confident in him playing full snaps, so we will see."
One guy that will be happy to get Murphy-Bunting back is cornerback, and fellow 2019 draft pick, Jamel Dean, who has been the closest to a constant for the secondary as guys rotate in and out.
"It's kind of difficult, but you have to prepare for the worst," said Dean about dealing with all the inconsistency. "We already had in mind the worst-case scenario because of the way the season has been going. We have to make sure everybody is prepared so we've been telling people prepare as if you're going to play. Especially in our room because the next man up, we expect him to still play to the standard."
Despite the rash of injuries all over the defense, that standard is still a top 10 defense. The Bucs currently rank ninth in overall defense, letting up an average of 334.0 total yards per game.
-One thing that typically takes the pressure off the defense, or has this season so far for the most part, is the fact that on the other side of the ball, the Bucs' offense has been productive. That's due to the aggressive nature of Bruce Arians' offense and Offensive Coordinator Byron Leftwich's playcalling propensities. But that aggressiveness seemed to take a back seat in Washington, where the Bucs completed just three passes over 15 yards.
"It's unusual for us not to have the explosives," said Leftwich. "I think everybody is used to us having the explosives. We've been in games before this year and we didn't have as many as we would normally have, according to the way teams have planned for us really to be honest with you. But I think that's our next growth for us really as an offense. It allows us to be better at it on Sundays. To be better at it on Sundays. The way teams plan for us, you can't control the way teams plan. We don't really care to be honest with you. We don't care what they put out there. We're just trying to execute versus whatever the defense is and sometimes you may not have as many explosives. It may be eight, nine, 10-play drives. You can't be mad at that. We're not mad at that. We just have to do what we need to do at the end and it's ultimately coming down to scoring points. We talk about it. We need to do a better job of scoring points."
The good news is that the Bucs still have one of the most productive offenses in the league. They are the third-highest scoring offense, averaging 31.0 points a game and their passing offense still ranks first, averaging 315.6 passing yards per game. That's good for the third-ranked unit overall, putting up an average of 406.4 all-purpose yards each outing. Monday Night Football will be a good chance to remind everyone of that.
-The players, however, don't need to be reminded of the team they are. After losing the last two games with the bye week in between, there still isn't a panic and there's perhaps even a silver lining.
"The mentality is we know what we have to do," said running back Leonard Fournette. "These losses could be good for us too. It could wake us up or just know that we stick for our team and just coming in with that right mindset and just trying to fix it. That's what all of this is about right now just fixing little things. That's what's hindering us to be where we need to be."
And the fact of the matter is that Bucs players feel like they aren't at all where they need to be and haven't reached their peak yet this season.
"I don't think we have given any team our best shot yet – as a defense, offense and special teams," said outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul. "We try to forget that we're the Super Bowl champions, but you've got to understand that all 31 teams are looking to play their best game against us. Even if they're sorry because there is no sorry team in the NFL. Any given Sunday a team could lose, easily. That's why I don't ever go off the hype or anything. You've got to actually go out there and play your best ball. I don't think we've been playing our best ball, but we're capable of playing our best ball. I think, right now, the whole team is trying to get in sync and play as one. Once we find a way to do that, then you'll see the true Buccaneers come out. Everybody is going to give us their best shot. I knew that from the get-go since we came back in here. They're going to give us their best. We've just got to figure out a way to give them our best shot – better now than never."
"It's just holding each other accountable," Donovan Smith said. "We're out there to do one thing and one thing only and that's to win. Everybody doing their jobs and clicking. We look forward to that. All of it includes playing physical, playing fast, playing with passion, playing smart, playing all of those things. So, you have to make sure you come to work and have all of those things out there on Sunday. For guys like me and other guys, you have to rally around the younger guys or whoever it is and get them up to speed. That's the cut and dry answer there, so just have to do more of that."
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