|Bucs know what to expect from Vikings' backup QB|
MINNEAPOLIS -- While Mike Zimmer waits for the return of quarterback Sam Bradford, who missed last week with a knee injury, this week's opponent isn't so sure Zimmer might be better off sticking with backup Case Keenum.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who come to Minnesota on Sunday, have seen plenty of Keenum through the years and haven't enjoyed the experience.
Keenum has beaten Tampa Bay each of the last two seasons while playing for the Rams.
"We probably shouldn't be calling him a backup, because he's beat us two years in a row," Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter said Wednesday. "They might be better off with him playing. He seems to have our number. It looked like the Vikings ran their offense last week."
Bradford was named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week after throwing for 346 yards and three touchdowns in a season-opening victory over the New Orleans Saints. But Bradford sustained a knee injury and couldn't play in a loss at Pittsburgh last week.
Keenum completed 20-of-37 passes for 167 yards in his place.
Minnesota isn't sure whether Bradford will be able to return in time to play Sunday. He practiced in a limited capacity Wednesday. Zimmer started his press conference by answering his own question.
"He's doing good," Zimmer said after jokingly asking himself how Bradford is doing.
But Zimmer also said the decision on Bradford's status will likely come down to Sunday.
"It's day to day, how do I know?" Zimmer said.
Bradford or Keenum will face a Tampa Bay defense that forced four turnovers in a 29-7 victory over the Chicago Bears last week, the Buccaneers' first game of the season after Week 1 was postponed because of Hurricane Irma.
Tampa Bay sacked Chicago's Mike Glennon only once but came up with two interceptions. The Buccaneers also recovered two fumbles and allowed the Bears only 20 rushing yards on 16 attempts.
"Up front, Gerald McCoy, one of the premier guys in this league," Keenum said of Tampa Bay's defense. "And the linebacking crew is fast guys who can play, and they're solid on the back end, too. So we've got our work cut out for us."
In the two wins over the Buccaneers the past two seasons, Keenum completed 65.12 percent of his passes for four touchdowns, one interception and a 118.8 quarterback rating.
If Bradford's knee improves, he will surely be back under center for Minnesota.
"I would like to think that they're good, but a lot of it just depends on how my knee responds when we go out there and practice this week," Bradford said of his chances to play Sunday. "Hopefully, it'll continue to get better. I think a large part of that is how it responds."
Minnesota's offense, as a whole, struggled against Pittsburgh. Rookie running back Dalvin Cook had 12 carries for 64 yards after rushing for 127 yards in Week 1.
Koetter knows Cook's potential well. He said Wednesday that he looked at Cook "a lot" before the draft.
"He can run with power," Koetter said. "He can run with speed. He can catch the ball out of the backfield. He's demonstrated all of that the first two weeks of the season."
Zimmer sees similarities between his unit and the Buccaneers' defense.
"Scheme wise they're very similar, safeties are aggressive, linebackers are fast," Zimmer said. "Gerald McCoy is a great player at three-technique. Corners play a lot of off coverage, but they're in a lot of man-to-man. They're good. They're a turnover machine. They got four last week. That's kind of been their M.O. Last year same thing. They play fast and they play hard."
Zimmer's defense will have to contend with Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston and receivers Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson a week after seeing Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and receivers Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant.
Brown was held to five catches for 62 yards. Bryant had the big game with 91 yards on only three catches and one touchdown.
"Whoever lines up against me, I'll have to be ready for," Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes told the team's website. "If I'm on DeSean, I'll have to do a lot of hamstring workouts. If I'm on Mike Evans, I'll have to get in the weight room."
Evans and Jackson didn't have to do much against Chicago and Winston threw for 204 yards. Tampa Bay ran for 117 yards and scored once on defense.
"We hope we can do that every game," Evans said Wednesday. "The defense, they're some savages. I love our defense."
McCoy didn't participate in Wednesday's practice because of an ankle injury and the Buccaneers were also without linebacker Kwon Alexander (hamstring) and defensive tackle Chris Baker (illness). Cornerback Brent Grimes (shoulder) was limited.
For Minnesota, linebacker Anthony Barr (hamstring) was limited in Wednesday's practice.