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How strong will the Bucs’ defense be in their game vs. Saints?

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It sounds like the worst nightmare imagable for the Tampa Bay Bucs.

No Lavonte David.

No Kwon Alexander.

Not much Gerald McCoy.

That was what coach Lovie Smith had to work with on Thursday in anticipation of the upcoming game against Drew Brees – the quarterback who has beaten the Bucs more than anyone – and the New Orleans Saints.

“I would be concerned if my favorite players aren’t practicing,” Smith said. “If they have been here long enough they know I’m going to wait until Sunday to kind of see who plays. If a guy is practicing on a limited basis I’m still pretty pumped up about it. Unless someone has been ruled out – which no one has been – if I’m a fan I’m pretty excited about this Sunday and can’t wait to get there.”

Alexander will begin to serve a four-game suspension for PEDs, which he says came from an energy drink.

There are so many things he was doing well,” said defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier. “His play-making ability is the first thing that comes to mind. He’s made a lot of big plays for us both in the run game and the pass game as well. You always want your playmakers on the field. Unfortunately, he won’t be with us this coming Sunday and for a few weeks. The playmaking ability, that’s the thing that stands out.”

Frazier hopes that McCoy will be able to play.

“If he’s able to get out there that would be a big plus for us obviously, but we’ll see,” Frazier said. “We’ll see how he does, if he is able to practice today or tomorrow. He’s going to have a big cast on his hand either way, but just having Gerald out there is a big deal for us. It’s still tough to single block him if he’s able to play.

In all, it presents a challenge for the Bucs.

“We’re probably still going to be missing some guys,” Frazier said. We won’t be where we want to be from a health standpoint, but that gives some other guys an opportunity. We’ll be close to having just about everybody back. There’s still a couple guys that we would like to have that won’t be playing in that ball game.”

The Bucs play host to the Saints Sunday at 1 p.m.

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

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