TAMPA — With a road game against the Redskins this weekend, the Bucs defense hopes to build on the good it found in Sunday's loss to the Giants — and find a way to improve on the bad.
Aside from Ahmad Bradshaw's 38-yard run in the first quarter, the defense made New York's offense work for its yards: a 12-play scoring drive to open the game, a 13-play drive at the end of the half that ended with a botched field goal, a 12-play drive in the third quarter culminating with a field goal, and a 12-play drive putting the Giants on top by their final margin, 24-0, early in the fourth quarter.
On the flip side, the defense was unable to make a stand on third down or force any turnovers on those extended drives.
Coach Raheem Morris attributed lack of turnovers to missed chances. "The opportunities we had last week — the dropped interception by Aqib (Talib) on the first drive … we had two tipped balls by D-linemen that ended up being in two Giants receivers hands," he said during his Thursday briefing. "Usually that's how they occur. The big sack-fumble — we have to get the pressure to get it."
At the same time, he said the defense improved in the tackling department and not allowing big plays. "I wouldn't say big strides, but they made strides," he said. "It's about tackling. It's about hustling. It's about hitting. … The people who were supposed to accept responsibility accepted it. The people who missed a tackle … know how to fix it.
"You can't say you made too big of a stride when you give up a 200-yard rushing day. But they made strides in the secondary — there was no big play where you could say, 'What were you thinking? What were you doing?' The communication was right. Everything was on point. There were no excuses."
Added cornerback Talib: "We definitely felt like we covered guys better than the first two games. We made progress, but we didn't get any turnovers so we still have to build on it."
Getting a better pass rush is also part of the equation, said Morris, to "force the second and longs, and third and longs … and make them one-dimensional."
INJURY UPDATE: DE Gaines Adams (groin) and RB Derrick Ward (knee) missed their the second straight practices. If Adams isn't ready to go Sunday, Stylez White will start. Asked about Ward's progress, Morris said: "He's doing fine. He's in the training room today." C Jeff Faine (triceps), DE Kyle Moore (knee) and QB Byron Leftwich (hip) missed practice. WR Antonio Bryant (knee), G Marcus Johnson (ankle) and G Jeremy Zuttah (hip) were limited. CB Torrie Cox (ankle), RB Earnest Graham (hamstring), WR Maurice Stovall (knee), DT Roy Miller (ankle), RB Clifton Smith (quads) and RB Cadillac Williams (knee) participated fully.
MISCELLANY: LB Adam Hayward could get increased playing time Sunday, having performed well at both the weak and strong sides. "It's not an indictment of anybody," Morris said. "It's more of a reward for Hayward." In addition, Morris said WR Brian Clark, a former Chamberlain High standout, could see more time: "He came out there last week, had five tackles on special teams, played well at receiver, got some confidence. Let's see what he can do when given a role."