MJS: Obviously everyone in Denver is curious as to how Brian Griese took the reins from Jeff Garcia, especially with Griese's knack of tossing out the INTs. Give me your take on what went down with the whole quarterback carousel and is Gruden sold on Brian to play out the remainder of the year?
MP: The problems started in the offseason when Garcia wanted a new contract, one that would extend his deal past 2008. For some reason, despite his leading the Bucs to a division title, the Bucs were not interested. Then the Favre debacle. Garcia surely didn't feel welcome in Tampa Bay, despite both the Bucs' and Garcia's protestations that the Favre courtship wasn't a big deal. Garcia's calf injury in training camp allowed Griese to get more reps, thereby allowing Gruden to get more comfortable with his former starter. So when Garcia laid an egg against New Orleans in the opener, Gruden had no problem making the change. Gruden is sold on whichever player can get him a victory. If it's Griese, so be it. If it's Tom Tupa, so be it. Gruden's only loyalty is to the W. He'll accept Griese's interceptions as long as he wins. Once he stops, Gruden may start looking harder at his roster for another hot hand.
MJS: The Bucs consistently rank among the top defensive teams in the NFL, while the Broncos tend to linger somewhere between miserable and catatonic. Is it more a matter of Monte Kiffin's system or man-for-man are Tampa Bay's players that much better than everyone else in the league?
MP: The system is king in Tampa Bay, that's for sure. The Cover 2 — or the Tampa 2, as some refer to it — has kept the Bucs among the Top 10 defenses in the NFL for the last decade. Now, that's not to say that Kiffin isn't flexible. He's used 3-4 fronts and 5-2 fronts to throw off opposing teams. He's pretty crafty that way. What the Bucs are great at, however, is finding the right players to fit their scheme. They've done a great job of finding young, talented players to turn over their aging unit, including Barrett Ruud, Greg White, Gaines Adams and Tanard Jackson. So while the scheme is king, the Bucs have done an above-average job of filling it with the right talent.
MJS: I know LB Derrick Brooks had a hamstring problem in the season opener, but last week against the Packers he had a sweet pick on Aaron Rogers and a forced fumble that the Bucs brought back for a score, is he back at 100 percent right now and how effective do you think he'll be going against Jay Cutler's high powered offense?
MP: Brooks is getting the "veteran" treatment right now. He gets at least one workout per week off from Wednesday through Friday. I'm not sure he'll be 100 percent this season, but he's healthier than he was two weeks ago, that's for certain. Brooks is still capable of making big plays, he just doesn't do it as often as he did five years ago. Cutler has played great football so far this year, but he's still only in his third season. Brooks like to take advantage of young quarterbacks, especially in pass coverage.
MJS: Earnest Graham seems to be tearing it up on the ground this year, and facing off against Denver, it wouldn't surprise me to see another record setting day. Will he be the main focus for Gruden's offense this Sunday or will they try and gamble through the air on Griese's arm?
MP: Gruden is an anomaly in the West Coast offense family tree. He actually likes to run the football. Maybe it's because he doesn't have the weapons in the passing game to really fling it like he wants to. But Graham and Warrick Dunn are the players he turns to first to establish the offense. Given the fact that the Broncos run defense has been so porous, Gruden would be dumb to put this game in Griese's hands unless he had to, as he did when he had Griese throw more than 60 passes vs. Chicago.
MJS: Breaking down the matchup I would give Denver the edge on offense, but Tampa Bay is light-years ahead of the Broncos on the defensive side of the ball. Do the Bucs really have enough to stop Cutler and his high-powered offense, and do you expect turnovers to play a significant role again this week?
MP: Turnovers and pass rush play a big role for the Buccaneers when the defense is successful. The Bucs are tied for eighth in sacks with 11 and tied for first in interceptions with eight. In addition, they're among the best in the NFL right now at turning turnovers into points. If the Broncos want to win on Sunday, they'd better protect the football, because the Bucs are proving to be great at turning mistakes into points.
Matthew Postins is the editor and publisher of Bucsblitz.com
Michael Schon John is a contributor to Broncosupdate.com