-Though quarterback Tom Brady may not be quite as familiar with this week's opponent as he was last Sunday night, there is still some significance of playing a former division rival. Not only has Brady played the Miami Dolphins 35 times in his career – by his estimation, he has faced off against Miami Head Coach Brian Flores, once the linebackers coach and defensive playcaller of the New England Patriots, well into four digits.
"Thousands of practices, probably 1,500 practices," Brady said Thursday. "It's a lot over a long period of time and 'Flo' (Dolphins Head Coach Brian Flores) does a great job. He's a great football coach. He's coached different positions on the defensive side of the ball, so I think he has a great understanding. Josh Boyer, who I know really well, he was coaching defense when I was with the Patriots for a long time. He does a great job with the secondary, he's a great play-caller. They have really good pressures, a variety of fronts. They do a good job disguising coverages and they try to throw the quarterback off a bit. I've just been studying them all week and going back into last year, stuff last year. Obviously, I've got a lot of familiarity with things they've done in the past. I try to be prepared for as much as I can."
Not only that, but Dolphins starting quarterback, Jacoby Brissett, was Brady's backup as a rookie in 2016 in New England.
-But while Brady may be familiar with this defense, he's still mostly worried about improving his offense no matter who they are playing – as is his coach, Byron Leftwich. It's a long season and we're only four weeks into it. The offense, and the team for that matter, is still a work in progress.
"We're trying to play our best football,"Leftwich said. "I don't think we played it yet. Obviously, the numbers don't mean anything until the end of the year. We're still in Week 4, we're early in the season. We'll worry about what the numbers at the end, but right now we're just trying to get better. We're just trying to get better and do what we need to do to help the team win that Sunday. That's really how we approach it. If it's scoring a bunch of points, it's scoring a bunch of points. Obviously, we try to do that every week. There's going to be times when you don't, but if you can win football games when you don't, that's a sign of a good football team. So, we all have our hand in the pile trying to do what we can to win football games. That's our approach week-in and week-out."
-On the other side of the ball, the Bucs are hoping to build on their improved pass rush with an improved pass defense. With the news that cornerback Carlton Davis is headed to injured reserve and Jamel Dean's status uncertain for Sunday, that may rest heavily on a veteran player who has only been in Tampa a week: Richard Sherman.
Sherman had a sort of baptism by fire into the ranks of Bowles' defense, playing all but one defensive snap in New England. He only knew he'd be starting the night before and didn't know he wouldn't get a break until halfway through the game itself.
Under the circumstances, Sherman did well. He said when he first arrived he'd need at least a full week of practice to feel comfortable playing at the level he's used to playing. Ahead of the matchup with Miami, he'll cross that threshold. So what's a realistic expectation for Sherman in his second game as a Buccaneer?
"Well, we'll see," said Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles. "Hopefully he gets more comfortable. It's all about getting your legs underneath you and getting in football shape, so to speak. He's tough enough to gut those type of things out, but we've got to keep an eye on that, as well. We'll monitor the situation. He's getting better the last couple days as he has practiced, but it's still only been a week. It's been a week and a couple days, so we want to make sure we don't over-work him, make sure he's comfortable and go from there."
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