Bucs to be thin at receiver against Chicago

by Gary Shelton on October 7, 2020

in general

Can Evans limp to success again?/TIM WIRT

Wednesday, 3 a.m.

Now that the old man is young again, now that Tom Brady has turned back time, a new challenge seems to await him.

Where in heck is je supposed to throw the ball now?

Hey, even for a great quarterback, it's a problem. Over his career, counting playoffs, Brady has completed more than 7,500 passes. And guess what? There was a receiver on every one of them.

This week, Brady might turn into an option quarterback. Receiver Mike Evans is on one leg. Receiver Chris Godwin is still injured. Backup

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receiver Justin Watson is hurt. Scotty Miller is hurt. Tight end O.J. Howard went on injured reserve Tuesday. Running back Leonard Fournette and Shady McCoy are hurt. Backup running back Kenjon Barner was suspended by the league for illegal substances.

So who's up for a game?

“We had two (running backs) practice today," Bucs' coach Bruce Arians said: "RoJo (Ronald Jones II) and Ke’Shawn (Vaughn). Shady (LeSean McCoy) has an ankle (injury) and with the new rules, we can’t bring in another one. We might be in this ballgame with two guys.”

And the receivers?

“Nobody practiced today. Mike, Chris, Scotty and Justin were all out.”

Oh, the Bucs will have enough players to play. But they'll be thin against a good Chicago Bears defense on Thursday night.

“I think we’ve done a good job – Byron (Leftwich) has done a heck of a job," Arians said. "He and Kevin Garver, knowing what (Cyril) Grayson can do and [what Jaydon) Mickens can do – those guys that have played some. Just tailor the game plan to what our guys can do. If one of those other guys pops back in the picture, we know what they can do. They can do everything these guys can do. Don’t ask them to do too much.”

Leftwich isn't certain who he will have to play.

“It’s a lot of thought that has to be put in (because) you don’t know," Leftwich said. "The unknown, the inability to really, truly know until you get to the game – it always makes it a little more difficult. Hey, it is what it is [and] it’s what everybody has to go through every Thursday night, probably. Thursdays get here quick when you play on Sunday, so it’s a lot of work that has to be done. We’re doing double time – that’s us as coaches [and] us as players. We’ve been here before – we’ve played Thursday Night games before. We know they’re a little difficult – especially when you’re traveling – so we’re just trying to do everything we can to prepare.”

For the Bucs, it all adds up to needing good play from the defense, and exceptional play from the offensive line.

“I think every game starts with the offensive line with what they do and how they handle their business," quarterback Tom Brady said. "Ryan (Jensen), Cap (Alex Cappa), Ali (Marpet), Donnie (Donovan Smith])and Tristan (Wirfs) have just done a great job. ‘Goody’ (Harold Goodwin) is a great line coach.

"Those guys are so coordinated and they’re playing so well together. Their communication is really good, they’re tough (and) they really set the tempo. We got off to a really good start in the run game. That first drive was really good, and it’s got to be more than that, too, as we move forward. When you’re really good in the run game it just sets up more opportunity in the pass game. When you do well in the pass game it just sets up more opportunity in the run game. The problem is [that] if you struggle in one area, it just forces you into the other area, which makes it even harder. If you’re struggling running the ball, they’re going to try and make you one dimensional and throw it, which is very hard to do that."

Arians stressed the Bucs' improvement on defense.

“Lavonte (David) can play in any defense you want to draw up – he’s a great football player," Arians said. "It’s not really a scheme fit – he fits everything. I think when you’re drafting and getting free agents, it’s more just getting football players. Find out what they can do – Todd [Bowles] does a great job of putting them in position. Whether you’re in a 4-3 or a 3-4 – it’s just schematics because we play them all. Put a guy in a position to whip his guy one-on-one and make a play.”

The Bucs and Bears play at 8:20 p.m. on Thursday.

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