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Tampa Bay Buccaneers prepare without WR Vincent Jackson, RB Doug Martin

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The Sports Xchange
Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin (22) picks up short yardage against New Orleans Saints strong safety Kenny Vaccaro (32) during the third quarter at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans September 20, 2015. Photo by AJ Sisco/UPI
Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin (22) picks up short yardage against New Orleans Saints strong safety Kenny Vaccaro (32) during the third quarter at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans September 20, 2015. Photo by AJ Sisco/UPI | License Photo

On the first day returning from the bye week, Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter pulled into the parking lot at One Buc Place before 5:30 a.m. The car belonging to Jameis Winston was already there.

The Bucs probably cheated the hangman for another week with their win at Carolina Oct. 10, but they failed to build any momentum, in part because of the rash of injuries that struck.

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Winston learned a valuable lesson against the Panthers by playing more of a team game. He didn't turn the football over and let the running game control the Panthers.

"My main concentration was, 'continue to do whatever you can do to lead your team to a win,'" Winston said. "This team is so talented, so we're just trying to do everything we can do to make winning a habit around here. Trying to get on some type of roll, because that feeling just feels good and we want to feel like that more often."

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Winston will be playing even more short-handed in Sunday's game at San Francisco. The Bucs will once again be without running back Doug Martin but also will not have the services of WR Vincent Jackson, who was placed on injured reserve.

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"Every time with these injuries, guys just keep stepping up," Winston said. "We really depend on these guys and we lean on them. As a quarterback room, we try to spend more time with the guys -- most of the guys that are coming back, they're not really new, (but) they've got to adjust some stuff.

"Obviously, man, we're going to miss Vince, but the thing about Vince, he's that veteran so his presence is what we really are used to, with Vincent anyways. If Vince was back in San Diego, we still would feel that presence and his leadership in that locker room."

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The Bucs will rely on their bench to replace Jackson because it won't be done with one player.

"Now, really it just starts back to that same point that we were last year, when Vincent got injured," Winston said. "We have 'DD' (Donteea Dye) back, we have 'Hump' (Adam Humphries) and Hump is playing amazing right now.

"Obviously Donteea is going to have to step up. This is the moment he's been waiting for. He had a couple of big catches in the game when Vincent got hurt (in 2015), so you know, we trust those guys and we're depending on them. And they know that."

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The Tampa Bay defense also has problems and could once again be without three of their four starting defensive linemen. The defense hopes to have as much success against Chip Kelly's offense as it did last season when he coached at Philadelphia and the Bucs earned a 45-17 win.

"Oh yeah, there's definitely -- you watch the tape, you can see a lot of the same plays," Koetter said. "We have some players here that played on defense against their offense last year up in Philly. We have a different defensive coaching staff, number one, so a different approach in that respect. And they're not playing the same defense that they played in Philly. He brought a few coaches with him (to San Francisco), a couple on defense, but not his coordinator. So, there's maybe a little bit, but not anything to give us any big advantage."

The Bucs will turn again to running back Jacquizz Rodgers, who is not only headed back to Pac-12 country when the Bucs play at San Francisco Sunday, he will face a familiar opponent in Kelly. Rodgers was at Oregon State when Kelly coached rival Oregon.

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Kelly has great respect for Rodgers, who rushed for 101 yards on 30 carries in a 17-14 win at Carolina on Oct. 10.

"Yeah, he was just an unbelievable player in college and very, very difficult to defend," Kelly said of Rodgers. "I think he doesn't get enough credit for how physical he is just because he's not the biggest back in the world, so you automatically think that he's a nifty, nimble, make-you-miss type of guy. He can do that, but he's also a very physical runner, very sturdy, has great balance, great vision.

"He's a handful and we have to be very aware of him in their run game because really the run game sets up everything else up for them. So, I'm very familiar with Jacquizz. He had an outstanding career at Oregon State and he's doing the same thing right now in the NFL that I saw him do in college, which is a credit to him."

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