The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' defensive backs were tested in more ways than one against the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday night. In addition to Dak Prescott throwing for over 400 yards in his return to action from a devastating injury last year, the Bucs dealt with an injury bug themselves throughout the team's secondary.
It all started with safety Jordan Whitehead being ruled out before the game, as he already missed the entire preseason with a hamstring injury. To make matters worse, cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting left the game in the first quarter with a dislocated elbow, and safety Mike Edwards was sidelined for a chunk of snaps mid-game, requiring an IV.
"We were thin real fast last night," head coach Bruce Arians said on Sunday.
Murphy-Bunting does not have a timetable to return from his injury, currently. The hit to his arm, while he and Antoine Winfield Jr. attempted to prevent a touchdown by CeeDee Lamb, was gruesome, but Arians has spoken optimistically about his injury and the possibility that he will return this season.
As for Whitehead, Arians said on Sunday that there is a chance the Bucs' starting safety will return to practice prior to the Atlanta Falcons game next Sunday.
"He's looking really, really good. It's probably about 90 percent right now," Arians shared. "Hopefully we can get him back with these three more days and have him practicing next week."
When Ross Cockrell entered for Murphy-Bunting and Andrew Adams filled in for Edwards, the Buccaneers were left with only two backup defensive backs in cornerback Dee Delaney and safety Chris Cooper - not to mention, Cooper was a healthy scratch against the Cowboys in week one.
Getting Whitehead back into the lineup, besides the obvious fact that Tampa Bay will regain a starting contributor, will help re-establish the team's depth on the backend, particularly in Murphy-Bunting's vacated role at nickel corner.
"[Whitehead's upcoming return] gives us great flexibility," Arians explained. "Antoine has played it and Mike has played it, so it gives us some really good flexibility to interchange those guys a little bit more and still have Ross on the field, too. Yeah, it gives us a lot more flexibility."
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