Late-comer Brandon McDonald playing big role in Bucs secondary with Saints passing attack on tap
The Bucs fared well last Sunday in their first game without suspended cornerback Aqib Talib, but this weekend's game against the Saints presents a stiffer test.
The pass-heavy, wide-open New Orleans offense will put a strain on a Bucs secondary that has less depth in Talib's absence.
But when the team needs a third cornerback, coaches won't hesitate to call on little-known Brandon McDonald. Having joined the team just before the start of the regular season, it was thought he might be a long shot to make the roster.
But the veteran has ended up playing extensively as a backup, netting 17 tackles and an interception. Not bad for a guy who couldn't previously find a job.
"I was at home for so long that when I got the call, I was just happy the phone rang," said McDonald, who played for the Lions the past two seasons. "I had been out since January. So, given the chance to go show a team that I can still play at a high level, I just had to come in and start fast, learn the defense as quickly as possible and earn a spot on the team."
Without McDonald's capable play, the Bucs would be settling for undrafted rookie Leonard Johnson or inconsistent Myron Lewis as their nickel cornerback without Talib. Promising second-year player Anthony Gaitor is out with a hamstring injury and won't return until late in the season, if at all.
The Bucs actually had little, if any, expectations when it brought McDonald aboard.
"I didn't think he'd do this," coach Greg Schiano said. "We signed him because we needed some depth. But he came in here immediately and showed professionalism and quickly grasped what we were doing. So, good for him. Good for us."
Now in his sixth season, McDonald, 27, said his experience helped him make up for lost time.
"I've played a lot of ball," said the 2007 fifth-round pick of the Browns out of Memphis "But I think it was the fact that when I came here, they threw me right in. I didn't have a choice but to learn it and try to be effective on the field."