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Bucs defense starting to get healthier

TAMPA — The Bucs got much-needed good news on the injury front Wednesday as five defensive players who had been limited — including DT Gerald McCoy — were back on the field for the team's first practice preparing for Sunday's home game against the Saints.

McCoy (hand) was inactive for Sunday's win against the Falcons, as were DE George Johnson (calf) and LB Bruce Carter (concussion). CB Jude Adjei-Barimah, who left Sunday's game with an elbow injury, was also back at practice, as was DE Will Gholston, who was evaluated for a concussion after Sunday's game and had limited participation Wednesday.

Coach Lovie Smith said LB Lavonte David "tweaked his ankle a little bit" during practice. Still out is DE Jacquies Smith, who missed Sunday's game with a hamstring injury. LG Logan Mankins did not practice but was getting a veteran's rest day.

NOT CHANGING: The Bucs face a Saints defense that ranks last in the NFL in total points, total yards and rushing yards allowed and 31st in passing yards allowed. Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said he won't change his offense from what has gotten the Bucs to this point.

"We are not tempted to get out of our lane," Koetter said. "We just have to stay right with what we're doing. We're doing fine."

The Saints have allowed 35 passing touchdowns, seven more than any other team and on course to break the 52-year-old record of 40 set by the 1963 Denver Broncos.

GREAT LOSS: Tampa Bay can appreciate how much was gained by losing to the Saints in Week 17 last year, thus clinching the No. 1 pick of the draft, which was used on QB Jameis Winston.

The Bucs led 20-7 in the fourth quarter, in position to lose the No. 1 pick to the Titans. But the Saints outscored them 16-0 in the fourth, including a go-ahead touchdown with 1:57 left and a safety as fans cheered the loss at Raymond James Stadium.

Bucs WR Mike Evans was asked Wednesday if the team was trying to win that game: "I was trying my hardest to win the game," said Evans, who caught a touchdown in the second quarter but didn't play in the second half. "We didn't get the job done, but we got the No. 1 pick. Great player."

THIS AND THAT: Adding depth with LB Kwon Alexander suspended, the team signed LB Orie Lemon, who has been cut by Tampa Bay twice this season but started three games at strongside linebacker last year and had 17 tackles. … The team's all-red "Color Rush" uniforms, to be worn in next week's Thursday night game at the Rams, will be unveiled during tonight's Vikings-Cardinals game. … Saints coach Sean Payton on where the Bucs are most improved: "When you're stopping the run as effectively as they are and running the ball as effectively as they are, that's a good starting point."

Contact Greg Auman at gauman@tampabay.com and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.

Bucs defense starting to get healthier 12/09/15 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 9, 2015 9:55pm]
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