TAMPA — The injury-decimated Bucs defense will get some badly needed replenishment Sunday with the return of veteran edge rusher Jason Pierre-Paul and cornerback Jamel Dean.
Coach Bruce Arians said Friday that both are expected to play against the Dolphins at Raymond James Stadium. Arians said tight end Rob Gronkowski (ribs), safety Antoine Winfield Jr. (concussion protocol) and special-teams fixture Pat O’Connor (right calf) won’t play.
Pierre-Paul has missed the last two games with hand and shoulder issues but was seen with a large protective cast on his right hand at Thursday’s practice. Dean suffered a knee injury in the first half of a 34-24 road loss to the Rams two weeks ago but has practiced the last three days.
Arians said Dean is “full speed” but wouldn’t commit to him starting at corner, where both season-opening starters — Sean Murphy-Bunting and Carlton Davis — are on injured reserve. Veteran Pierre Desir, signed to the practice squad in September; and 33-year-old All-Pro Richard Sherman are the likely starters for Sunday. Both logged the majority of the snaps in last week’s 19-17 win in New England.
As for Pierre-Paul? “He’s ready to roll,” Arians said.
O’Connor, a reserve defensive lineman, has played nearly every special-teams snap the last three contests. Arians said the Bucs are exploring the possibility of replacing him this week with reserve linebacker Cam Gill, who’s eligible to come off injured reserve.
Contact Joey Knight at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.
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