Bucs-Panthers Behind Enemy Lines I

This week's big clash between the Buccaneers and the Panthers has everyone talking. Bucsblitz.com's Matthew Postins and Panthersinsider.com's Brad Thomas are examining the game from every angle. Today, it's Behind Enemy Lines Part I, as Postins clues Thomas and Panthers fans in on what's going on at One Buc Place.

Brad Thomas: What is going on with the QB situation in Tampa?

Matthew Postins: I wish I knew. I'm not sure head coach Jon Gruden does, either. We do know that Brian Griese left last Sunday's game with an elbow injury and a strained shoulder. We just don't know how serious the injuries are. Information doesn't flow through One Buc like it does at other organizations, so we may not know how severe it is at all. But one thing is certain – Gruden likes his starters to get plenty of reps, and if Griese isn't on the practice field this week, Garcia will get the reps and should start on Sunday. This is an intriguing situation, because there is definitely some tension between Garcia and Gruden leftover from the summer's machinations, including Garcia's contract extension request and the Bucs' flirtation with Brett Favre. Will the pair mesh on Sunday? That's probably the better question, and no one will know until Sunday.

Brad Thomas: The Panthers' defense has not allowed a single running back to gain 100 yards rushing so far this season. How do you think Tampa game plans for that?

Matthew Postins: If the Bucs are smart, they run the football. That offense is most effective when Earnest Graham and Warrick Dunn are running the football. The biggest surprise last week was the Bucs' sudden departure from the run in a close game with Denver. RB Earnest Graham averaged 5.9 yards per carry but only had 10 chances. Warrick Dunn had 74 yards on 11 carries. The Bucs played against a three-man defensive front and chose not to dominate on the ground. Gruden does this occasionally, eschewing the run for the pass for no apparent reason. He gave no clear reason for it afterward. The best thing the Panthers can do is do what Chicago did – make the yards hard to come by on the ground and force the game into Garcia's hands. If the Bucs get within the Panthers 5-yard line, though, I like Graham's chances of ending that streak.

Brad Thomas: What do you think concerns the Buccaneers most: the Carolina running game or the Carolina passing attack?

Matthew Postins: Jake Delhomme has torched these guys in the past, but the Bucs have a clear advantage at secondary this year. What intrigued me about last week's Panthers victory was the emergence of DeAngelo Williams. Now, I know DeAngelo is usually good for a great game or two, followed by inconsistent play. But I think rookie Jonathan Stewart is a better back than DeShaun Foster ever thought of being and that gives the Panthers an edge they haven't had in recent years. The Bucs will say all week that Delhomme concerns them, but they know if one of those backs gets loose it's going to be big trouble.

Brad Thomas: Will Barrett Ruud suit up against the Panthers? If not, who will replace him?

Matthew Postins: Barrett, according to reports, has a foot sprain. He told reporters on Monday that he'll play. But it will all depend on how quickly he recovers. That would be a big blow to the Bucs' defense, because Ruud has progressed to the point where the Bucs can't do without him. If he can't go, Matt McCoy is his likely replacement. The journeyman is solid, but certainly not in Ruud's class, and the Panthers might choose to run inside the tackles more in an effort to take advantage of that.

Brad Thomas: Some have said that the Bucs defense is getting old and slow with Derrick Brooks and Ronde Barber. Is that true?

Matthew Postins: Old? Sure. Slow? I'd dispute that. So would Barber and Brooks. They're obviously not the players they were five years ago, but their play this year is evidence that they're still effective. The Bucs have done a great job of surrounding them with young, talented players that can assume more responsibility in the Cover 2 scheme, thus taking some heat off Barber and Brooks. People should remember that the Bucs made Jay Cutler look ordinary last week and Barber and Brooks had plenty to do with that. They'll retire one day, but don't expect it before 2010.


Matthew Postins is the editor and publisher of bucsblitz.com

Brad Thomas is the editor and publisher of panthersinsider.com


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