Many teams approach the bye week in different ways. Some teams practice harder and some teams take the time to refresh. For the Bucs, it was the latter. With the rest they received, they also got some of their injured players healthy again.
“That’s the position you want to be in," Lovie Smith said on Tuesday. "You start the football season off with the group of guys you feel comfortable going with. Injuries kind of derail that from time to time, but you’re always looking to get the full group, where you have all options available each week. Hopefully that will be the case. We pretty much have all of our options open this week. It’s always about the next guys stepping up when you do have injuries, and we’ve seen that. Our depth has been developed a lot more from having to play some guys, but, again, we feel like we’re ready to go. We’ve been in this stadium before, going there last year. I’ve kind of seen some of their comments about how it’s a must-[win] game. We’re saying the same thing down here in Tampa: it’s a must-[win] game for us. [We] have an opportunity to even up our record and all of that. But just to take another step from the last time we played is important.”
One of the names likely returning to the starting lineup is cornerback Johnthan Banks. In his absence, Mike Jenkins has received the focus of negative comments with his poor play. While Banks will be an improvement, he alone will not fix the struggling Bucs defense.
“Our football team hasn’t played as well as we need to at times," Lovie Smith said. "I’m just not going to single out [the secondary]. I was asked some questions about the secondary and that last game we didn’t play as well as we need to, but we feel good about our group as we go forward. Every group needs to make improvement; it’s as simple as that. [The] defensive line can help them to keep pressure on and when we get opportunities to make the plays back there, we will. So, again, just like the rest of the group, as far as what we’re able to see, you see the same things you see after every game. You identify the mistakes and start correcting them and we feel like we’ve done that.”
The Bucs should have success against the struggling Kirk Cousins this week, but on the horizon is Matt Ryan, Eli Manning, and Andrew Luck. The Bucs need to fix their defense in a hurry.