After surviving — or more specifically, steamrolling — the Bears with a number of marquee starters sidelined, the Bucs could get some replenishments for one of their tougher road tests of the season.
Coach Bruce Arians said Monday he’s hopeful tight end Rob Gronkowski (ribs) and inside linebacker Lavonte David (ankle) can return for Sunday afternoon’s NFC South clash against the Saints in New Orleans. Veteran cornerback Richard Sherman (hamstring) also is a possibility, he added.
Gronkowski has missed the last four contests after fracturing ribs in a Sept. 26 loss to the Rams in Los Angeles. David was injured in the win over the Dolphins two weeks ago. Sherman exited early in the Oct. 14 victory in Philadelphia.
“I would hope that Gronk could be ready to go, Lavonte could be ready to go,” Arians told reporters Monday morning. “Maybe Sherm, we’ll see.”
Arians had no update on cornerbacks Dee Delaney (ankle) or Jamel Dean (shoulder), both of whom exited in the second half of Sunday’s 38-3 rout of Chicago. Delaney, however, said after the game he’s “good to go.”
The return of David would be especially timely — and critical — as the Bucs prepare to face Jameis Winston, their former No. 1 overall pick trying to re-boot his NFL career in New Orleans. With David absent, the Bucs surrendered their first 100-yard performance of the year Sunday, when Bears rookie Khalil Herbert totaled 100 on 18 carries.
Winston’s passer rating (108.1) ranks eighth in the NFL, and his adjusted net yards per attempt (7.52) ranks 10th. Arians suggested his former pupil has benefited from the presence of multi-faceted veteran Alvin Kamara, who has run for 368 yards on 94 carries (3.8 ypc), with 15 catches and three receiving touchdowns.
“When he gets going, Jameis has always been a really good play-action quarterback, and he can put it down the field,” Arians said. “I mean, they’ve got some weapons. So we’ve got to stop the run. We can’t go down there and let Alvin Kamara run like Herbert did on us.”
Taking their efficiency on the road?
While winning mostly has remained the common denominator for the Bucs whether home or away, they’re clearly delivering cleaner and crisper performances inside Raymond James Stadium.
Tampa Bay (6-1) is averaging 40.5 points at home, but only 23.7 on the road, where they have yet to score 30 points in a game. While some of that has to do with the level of competition, Arians said efficiency — or a lack thereof — also is culpable.
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The Bucs are averaging seven penalties for 78.3 yards on the road, slightly higher than their home figure (6.75 penalties, 61.5 yards). Their pre-snap discipline will be tested mightily before a Halloween-night audience Sunday in Caesars Superdome.
“This one’s going to be crazy, Halloween in New Orleans,” Arians said. “It’s the second time I’ve had that one, so it’s always fun to look in the stands and see how crazy they can actually be down there, and what a great crowd. And communication will be paramount this week.”
Contact Joey Knight at email@example.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls
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