Bucs prepare for a last year’s opponent

by Gary Shelton on November 12, 2021

in general

Brady wants across-the-board improvement./(Tori Richman/Tampa Bay Buccaneers via AP)

Friday, 4 a.m.

They remember them in the rear-view mirror, the way they were. They remember a young and reckless defense. They remember a quarterback who no one knew anything about. They remember a challenger who didn't pay attention to the won-loss records.

This year, the fates have not been as kind to the Washington football team. Then, they had the fourth-best defense in the NFL. Now, they are 28th. They have won only two of their first eight games. Times have been hard.

But to the Tampa Bay Bucs, Washington remains a young, talented team with Chase Young and Montez Sweet. It is a better way to remember an upcoming opponent, as one with weapons, as one with possibilities.

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That's the way it works. One team imagines the other team at its best. That way, if it wins, it feels as it has accomplished something.

Just ask the Bucs, who squint and somehow imagine the team that last year's playoff team from Washington was supposed to grow up to be.

"It was a tough game," Bucs' quarterback Tom Brady says of Washington . "They were down but never out, and they made a lot of really clutch plays. A lot of guys really played good football for them. It's a really great defensive front. There are some young players, but it's all like fourth year, fifth year, sixth year. It's a very young defense in that aspect, there are no 12-year guys and they’ve got some young guys that are really talented players.

"It's going to be a great football environment. We've got to go on the road, the road's going to be colder than we're used to. We've got to go play great football and see if we can come off the Bye and start playing better than the way we've played."

The Bucs have started out 6-2, but no one seems satisfied with the way the team has played. The pass rush has sputtered, the secondary has been wounded and the linebackers aren't making enough plays. The offense seems to leave points on the field because of penalties and turnovers.

"I don't think there's one area where I think that we can't be better," Brady said. "Everything I think we can improve. A lot of it is just great communication, us being on the same page. You've just got to continue to talk through things. As much as we think we've been together, we really haven't been together that long. I was with players for seven, eight years, 10 years, where nothing needs to be said. We've only been together a year-and-a-half. The meetings are important, the walk-throughs are important, practices are important – just being in constant communication with everything to try to improve everything that we're doing."

Despite its start, Washington still has talented players.

“You see the same thing you saw last year, " offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich said. "They have players everywhere. They have players everywhere and the record means nothing. We’ve been on the field with this group of men on the opposite side and we understand the players that they have on all levels of their defense. So, we know what we’re up against. We know that this is a good group – a bunch of high draft picks.

"You look over there and that’s all you see are draft picks. Guys that have been in a lot of different situations just with the game of football when they were in college, so these are big-time guys who know how to play the game of football. We understand who we’re up against. We had an opportunity to play against them last year, so we know what we have going against us on Sunday.”

Leftwich said he doesn't mind high expectations.

“The good thing is [with] what we did, the expectations are high for everybody," Leftwich said. "You want 17-0 and that’s the expectation of everybody outside of this building. This building is just trying to get better and win football games in the process with the awareness. We’re really in it, so we’re not watching TV all day and we’re not playing fantasy football, we’re playing real football. We don’t view it that way. We view it as trying to be better, trying to become a better football team, win football games and be playing at our best when the time is ready for us to be playing at our best.”

Brady thinks the Bucs have work to do.

"I think we've got, obviously, a lot of football ahead of us and we're going to have to work at it every day to be the best we can be," Brady said. "There's nothing guaranteed in the league here, there's no easy games, there's nothing – you can't roll your helmet out there and think you're going to win. So, we've got to come out here and put the work in every day, grind through these days. Very important weeks, these Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays where we've got to improve on a lot of different things we're working on. Everything is ahead of us.

According to Leftwich, that starts with taking care of the ball.

“The number one thing is just turnovers," Leftwich said. "I think we can be better there. I think we should be better there and I just think we’ll be better there. Hopefully, we’ll be better there from a turnover standpoint and just from a ball security standpoint, I guess I should say. Just a ball security standpoint I think that’s what we can be better at. I think there’s a lot of little things I don’t really want to mention that I think can really help us be better. Just sit there looking at ourselves scouting and doing the things we can do well. I think we’re doing a lot of things well though. I just think we have a good group that comes in every day and tries to be better.”

The Bucs and Washington kick off at 1 p.m. on Sunday.

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