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Bruce Arians: Bucs’ Sean Murphy-Bunting better than expected in return

The cornerback played 57 of 58 possible snaps in his first game since the season opener.
Bucs cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting (23) knocks the ball away from Giants wide receiver Darius Slayton (86) during the first half Monday night in Tampa.
Bucs cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting (23) knocks the ball away from Giants wide receiver Darius Slayton (86) during the first half Monday night in Tampa. [ MARK LOMOGLIO | Associated Press ]
Published Nov. 23
Updated Nov. 23

Days before his team’s Monday night encounter against the Giants, Bucs coach Bruce Arians spoke of initially moderating cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting’s workload as he returned from a 2½-month absence.

Turned out, Murphy-Bunting played 57 of his team’s 58 defensive snaps in its 30-10 victory, and the only thing overwhelmed was Arians.

“Way better than I even expected it to be,” Arians said Tuesday of Murphy-Bunting’s effort, which included seven tackles and a forced fumble. “He played really well. He used his arm, punched the ball out with that hand, created a fumble. I think he should have a ton of confidence going into this week.”

And just like that, the Bucs’ cornerback outlook has segued from bleak to bright.

Murphy-Bunting, who dislocated his elbow in the season opener against the Cowboys, soon could be rejoined by fellow opening-night starter Carlton Davis. On Tuesday, Arians said he is hopeful Davis, on injured reserve since sustaining a quad injury Oct. 3 at New England, can begin his practice window this week.

Toss in the evolution of safety Mike Edwards into a serviceable slot cornerback, and the Bucs appear sturdier in the secondary than they did only a few days ago. After allowing a 13-play field-goal drive on the Giants’ first possession Monday, the Bucs essentially played shut-down defense the rest of the way, holding New York to 215 total yards and a 1-of-9 effort on third down.

Related: Bucs defense brings the passion, pass rush and a couple of picks

Edwards played 41 snaps Monday, getting his third interception of the season on a pass tipped by Devin White. Converted safety Ross Cockrell logged three snaps.

“Mike’s bigger. He’s a safety body where Ross is more of a corner body,” Arians said.

“We used them both a little bit, so we’ll just keep interchanging. (Safety) Antoine (Winfield) went in there a bunch last night also, so we have such interchangeable safeties. When the three safeties are on the field, they can all be in the box or be back deep, so it gives us good flexibility.”

Injury update

Arians reaffirmed that left guard Ali Marpet sustained an oblique injury Monday night, leaving his status uncertain for Sunday’s game at resurgent Indianapolis (6-5), which has won five of its last six after a 1-4 start. He added that nose tackle Vita Vea (knee) should return for Sunday’s game.

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Receiver Antonio Brown (ankle), who has missed the last four contests, is making progress, Arians added, but his status for Sunday likely won’t become clearer until the Bucs practice Thanksgiving morning. Wednesday’s practice will be mainly a walk-through.

“It will probably be all the way to the end of the week before we know (on Marpet),” Arians said. “Vita should be ready to go; he was real, real close. With not having any practice last week, I didn’t really want to put him out there, and guys stepped up.”

Contact Joey Knight at jknight@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls

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