Caddy signals arrival as goal-line back

Inside the 10 hadn't been Carnell Williams' home in the NFL — until last Sunday against New Orleans, when he touched the ball four of seven times inside the 10. The result? Two TDs for Williams and the arrival of his new role as a short-yardage back.

Seven plays announced Carnell Williams' use as a goal-line back last Sunday.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers faced goal-to-go situations seven times against the New Orleans Saints, and five of those opportunities went to Williams, the third-year back that, while fairly productive in his two-year career, had never consistently been used as a goal-to-go ball carrier.

Mike Alstott handled the goal-to-go carries for this offense the past two seasons. But with the fullback out for the season, the role fell to Williams.

"Once Mike went down I knew I was going to be the guy," Williams said on Wednesday.

Williams proved his mettle as a goal-to-go back against the Saints, scoring two touchdowns and providing positive yardage on four of those carries. The results left Bucs head coach Jon Gruden pleased with at least that facet of the run game.

"I think there was a question in some eyes that he could be a good goal line runner," Gruden said. "I think he proved he could be good. In fact he can be outstanding."

The first score, in the first quarter, came after Williams attempted to jump over the pile at the 1-yard line. Instead, the Saints defense pushed through the offensive line and stood Williams up.

On the next play the Bucs ran practically the same formation, only this time Williams ran left after the handoff, bounced off an arm tackle and scored.

At the time, it had been 207 rushes without a touchdown for Williams, the second-longest drought in the NFL.

"I didn't know how it felt," Williams said of the score. "I had one last year the second game of the season. So it had been a long time since me and my buddy the end zone communicated."

The second score came in the third quarter, and it came with the Bucs offensive line pounding away at a vulnerable Saints defense.

Starting at the New Orleans 9, Williams carried the ball three straight times — a 7-yard gain off left guard Arron Sears, a 1-yard gain off right guard Davin Joseph and a 1-yard touchdown run behind left tackle Luke Petitgout.

"The guys up front did an incredible job," Williams said. "The one I scored inside it was body on body, and that one guy in the hole was my guy, so I dealt with him."

While Williams has never been asked to run the ball inside the 10 during his NFL career, he said he did so consistently during his days at Auburn University. In fact, Williams said, he was their No. 1 option.

"That's something at Auburn that I prided myself on doing," Williams said. "They used me as the goal-line back and I was really good at it. I had a knack for the end zone. For me to get those carries (on Sunday) was big."

The next step, it would appear, would be for Williams to improve statistically. Through two games Williams has 36 carries for 121 yards, an average of 3.4 yards per carry. The running game is only averaging 3.2 yards per carry, and the Bucs are ranked just 25th in the NFL in rushing.

"We're still looking for a big gain in the running game and until we do, our statistics won't look very good," Gruden said.

Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for and the Charlotte Sun-Herald in Port Charlotte, Fla. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association and has won national awards for his Buccaneers coverage from the PFWA, the National Newspaper Association and the Associated Press Sports Editors. He is also a contributor to the Scot Brantley Show from 4-7 p.m. weekdays on WHBO 1490-AM in Tampa-Clearwater.

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