Tampa Bay tight end Rickey Dudley has caught two touchdown passes in two games with the Buccaneers, which is one more than All-Pro wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson's touchdown total through 15 games last season.
The Bucs signed Dudley, who played three seasons under Jon Gruden in Oakland, to a one-year contract two weeks ago and it hasn't taken him long to find his groove in Tampa Bay. So, what's Dudley doing right?
"It's great play calling," Gruden said jokingly. "He's just a good player. He's a guy that can really run. I think all of you can see his speed. He's a big target and he has a knack for getting open. He's made big plays throughout his career in this league. We hope this is the start of a real solid career here with the Buccaneers. That was a big play he made yesterday to tie the game and a big play right before the half against St. Louis. Those are just some things he brings to our football team – size, speed, and downfield ability. He's also a great blocker."
BUCS' DEFENSE KEEPS GOING, AND GOING…
Tampa Bay's defense has posted two shutouts in four games this season. The scoreboard wouldn't support that fact on Sunday because the Bengals had seven points, but Cincinnati's defense put those points on the board when they intercepted QB Brad Johnson's pass and returned it for a touchdown. Needless to say, Gruden is very pleased with his defense's effort thus far, but he still believes there's room for improvement.
"They're a very talented group," Gruden said of Tampa Bay's defense. "They play well together, they're well coached, they're well disciplined, they're very athletic and all 11 men are very good tacklers. Our corners tackles, our safeties tackle, our linebackers can play. They play on every down and they're capable of doing that because they have a lot of energy. They have a lot of confidence in themselves and when you combine all of that, you should be pretty good. We expect that to continue and we expect the standard to increase and for the performance to continue to improve. We can do that with the group of men we've assembled here."
BUCS GIVE GAME BALL TO LG JENKINS AFTER PLAYING WITH INJURY:
Bucs left guard Kerry Jenkins, who suffered a cracked fibula against St. Louis, started last week as doubtful for the team's game against the Bengals. But he was upgraded to questionable later in the week and eventually upgraded to probable last Friday.
Not only did Jenkins play on Sunday, but he started the game against Cincinnati. His gutsy performance didn't go unnoticed by his teammates and for his efforts, the Bucs awarded Jenkins the game ball after their 35-7 in on Sunday.
"I think it was very inspiring," Gruden said of Jenkins playing on Sunday. "We gave him a game ball after the game and you could tell that what he had done was very inspiring to everyone. This guy is a very tough guy. It sent a loud and clear message to our football team. There are a lot of guys that wouldn't have played in this game. But I think it was a real inspiring thing he did. Hopefully he can get over this injury and be 100 percent as soon as possible."
BUCS FINISH FIRST QUARTER OF SEASON WITH THREE-GAME WINNING STREAK:
Tampa Bay opened up the season with a loss to New Orleans, which disappointed the team and fans. But the Bucs have rebounded and won three consecutive games since. Having already lost to the Saints, who are a divisional opponent, the Bucs look at next Sunday's game against 1-2 Atlanta as one they can't afford to lose.
"We break the season down into four-game segments," said Gruden. "We finished the first quarter with a 3-1 record and a three-game winning streak. We won two games on the road. Those were positive things. We started the quarter, however, with a conference loss to the Saints. And we're going to begin the second quarter with a conference game against the Falcons. These divisional games are huge and what's happened in the past is in the past. We have to concentrate short term and zero in on the Atlanta Falcons and play our best football because that's what it is going to take to win."
The second quarter of the 2002 season doesn't get any easier for the Buccaneers. They'll play four games in October and three of them will be on the road.
"Being 3-1 and being in first place doesn't mean much in the big picture in terms of where we want to go," said Gruden. It is a very good start. The theme around here is going to be very simple. Be short term-goal oriented. You get what you deserve. We have to really increase the details now. We've got to pickup all the details."
And if inquiring minds are wondering, Tampa Bay posted a 7-14 record in the month of October under former Bucs head coach Tony Dungy. The Bucs certainly hope to set a different trend in October under Gruden.
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