QB Shaun King and the Bucs' passing attack looked sharper on Friday than they had on Thursday
That the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' two-game losing streak was followed by a Monday night tilt was good timing, by Head Coach Tony Dungy's way of thinking. The extra day in the schedule allowed the team to spend another day resting, recovering from a very physical contest in Washington last Sunday.
Dungy's opinion didn't change even when the Bucs returned from that two-day rest to put together a less-than-scintillating practice on Thursday. Dungy chalked it up to rustiness and assumed his team would be back in form on Friday.
They were. Tampa Bay was relatively sharp on the field for Friday's two-hour afternoon session, particularly in the two-minute drills that ended the practice. There were some drops and deflections early, but the passing game moved the ball very effectively at the end.
"Today's practice was much better than yesterday's," said Dungy. "I thought we were sharper and quicker and more into it. Maybe we're shaking off a little bit of the rust from two days off."
By the peculiar math of a Monday night lead-in schedule, Friday's session was actually a Thursday practice. The typical late-morning, early-afternoon workout the team usually pulls on Friday will come on Saturday, and the team will fly out for Minneapolis on Sunday.
Minnesota's offense understandably gains most of the press, but the Viking defense is tied for 12th in the NFL and is a concern for the Buccaneers. The numbers might indicate that Minnesota is vulnerable to the run, but the Bucs are trying to decipher in practice and in the study room what the Vikes' weaknesses truly are.
"I guess we're trying to figure that out," said Dungy. "They put a lot of pressure on you. They've played a lot of aggressive defenses and blitzed a lot. When that happens, you'd like to think you have a chance to get some big plays throwing the ball."
The Vikings have racked up 10 sacks through four games, a total near the NFL average. It's difficult to figure out where the pressure might come from. LB Ed McDaniel is the team leader with two sacks, but there are also four defensive linemen, two defensive backs and two other linebackers on the list.
Second-year defensive end John McLaughlin, a special teams ace who saw his first regular-season playing of the year last Sunday in Washington, may have to wait a bit longer until his next action.
McLaughlin had to be helped off the field by trainers near the midpoint of Friday's practice after he went down during a team drill. McLaughlin was later diagnosed with an ankle sprain and has been added to the injury report as 'questionable.'
"He got his ankle rolled up in practice and we'll have to see after he gets in what the extent of it is," said Dungy.