Bucs defense prepares to face Saints and maybe Jameis Winston

Sunday, the Bucs defense may square off with their former starting quarterback, looking to take advantage of their familiarity with him to create opportunities for turnovers.
Bucs linebacker Lavonte David celebrates after he forces the Eagles to lose yards during a third-quarter play on Monday night.
Bucs linebacker Lavonte David celebrates after he forces the Eagles to lose yards during a third-quarter play on Monday night. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]
Published Sept. 29|Updated Sept. 30

TAMPA — Lavonte David knows who he is likely facing Sunday.

It wasn’t that long ago that Saints backup quarterback Jameis Winston was a very popular member of the Bucs’ locker room after Tampa Bay selected him first overall in the 2015 draft. With Derek Carr dealing with a sprained AC joint and listed as questionable, Winston seems likely to get the start against the Bucs.

“You never know,” David said this week. “They’ve got a whole different scheme over there, and they do a lot of different things with different people. It’s definitely going to be fun going against Jameis. Obviously, playing with him for five years, we know what type of competitor he is.

“We know he’s going to try to light us up and beat us the best way he can. It’s definitely going to be a challenge for us, but it should be a fun game.”

The Bucs need to bounce back after their loss to the Eagles on Monday night. Winston has a penchant for turning the ball over, and the Bucs’ defense is all about creating and taking advantage of turnovers.

Through three games, the Bucs have seven takeaways: five interceptions, tied with the Cowboys for second most in the league behind the Bills, and two fumbles.

Saints quarterback Jameis Winston drops back to pass during the second half last Sunday's game against the Packers.
Saints quarterback Jameis Winston drops back to pass during the second half last Sunday's game against the Packers. [ MATT LUDTKE | AP ]

“Making an emphasis on it — we always say we’ve got a goal and we want to get a certain amount of turnovers to be at the top of the defenses and keep ourselves in football games,” David said. “That’s what we try to do. We’ve got a lot of veterans on the defensive side of the ball, and we’ve got guys who can be playmakers and take the ball away.”

Last season the Bucs finished with just 10 interceptions. They also recovered 10 fumbles, with none returned for a touchdown.

Turnovers clearly have been more of a focus this season.

“We would consider a fourth-down stop a turnover,” defensive line coach Kacy Rodgers said. “From our standpoint, we want to keep getting those and keep getting the ball back for our offense. That’s really our No. 1 job.”

If Winston is starting for the Saints, the Bucs’ defense may have a chance to pad their stats.

In the last of his five seasons with the Bucs, 2019, before being allowed to head into free agency, Winston finished with 5,109 passing yards, 33 passing touchdowns, one rushing touchdown, 30 interceptions and five lost fumbles. Winston’s seven interceptions returned for touchdowns set an NFL record.

In the 10 games he has started with the Saints the past two seasons, he has eight interceptions

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Rookie defensive back Christian Izien leads the Bucs with two interceptions. The loss to the Eagles was the first game this season in which he didn’t have a pick, so he’s soaking up the knowledge that his older teammates have about Winston to get back on track Sunday.

“I was just talking to Carlton (Davis) about it in practice,” Izien said. “Just getting some inside tips and some planning on Jameis … picking just his brain on what Jameis likes to do, the type of passes he likes to throw.”

Second-year cornerback Zyon McCollum, who is looking for his first interception this season, said it doesn’t matter who is throwing the ball on the other side, the Bucs are forcing turnovers because of the way they play. They are prepared and working together.

“Just being on the same page, really. We watch a ton of film, as a group with coaches and also voluntarily on our own,” McCollum said. “So that’s especially in the back end and those linebackers that are watching film, and just being able to call things out before we get there on game day has really helped us a lot.”

Injury update

Defensive lineman Calijah Kancey (calf), linebacker SirVocea Dennis (hamstring), and cornerbacks Jamel Dean (neck/shoulder) and Derrek Pitts (hamstring) are out for Sunday’s game. Carlton Davis (toe) will be a game-time decision but is trending in the right direction, coach Todd Bowles said. Nose tackle Vita Vea (pectoral) and linebacker Devin White (foot) also are listed as questionable, but are expected to play.

Contact Kristie Ackert at

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