Bucs expert Matthew Postins and Jaguars expert Charlie Bernstein begin their pregame breakdown of the Buccaneers-Jaguars matchup in this edition of "Behind Enemy Lines," discussing the Bucs running back situation, the progress of the Tampa defense, and what Monte Kiffin's defense will do to try and slow down the Jags.
Tampa Bay has obviously had major injuries at the running back position, losing Cadillac Williams for the year and Michael Pittman
for an extended period of time. How is former Florida
Gator Ernest Graham progressing, and when will Michael Bennett
be ready to play?
Matthew Postins: I think Graham's play will be spotty all season. Yes, he had a great game against Detroit, but their run defense wasn't anything special. Graham will play well against weak run defenses, and find the sledding tough against stout run defenses (see his game against Tennessee, when he barely cracked 25 yards). As far as executing his role in the offense, Graham is fine. Bennett has a bigger learning curve, but I envision him seeing more the four carries he had last week. His use relies completely on grasping the scheme. He said the Bucs had about 10-15 plays set up for him last week. It could be double this week. Bennett will probably see anywhere from 5-8 carries, and maybe a catch or two.
The Buccaneers have had some problems scoring this season, yet quarterback Jeff Garcia
is having a fine season statistically. What is the major problem causing their inability to put points on the scoreboard?
MP: The Bucs are actually better in the red zone this year than last year - around 50 percent. But Jon Gruden isn't happy with that. I think it boils down to the fact that Garcia's only real playmakers are Joey Galloway and Ike Hilliard. No one else has stepped up in the pass offense to be a weapon, so there's little defensive respect by opposing secondaries beyond those two players. So that makes the Bucs easier to defend. If the Bucs are going to get anywhere, they need Alex Smith, Jerramy Stevens or Maurice Stovall to start producing and taking the heat off Galloway and Hilliard.
Tampa's defense has appeared to have gone through a rebirth this season after struggling mightily in 2006. Why is the defense so much better?
MP: They've gambled on some things and won. First, starting rookie free safety Tanard Jackson was a smart move. He's a hard-hitting safety with cover skills. MLB Barrett Ruud has assuaged any fears that he can't play in the middle, as has strong side linebacker Cato June (though he has dissapeared in two games this year). Re-signing Phillip Buchanon as the third cornerback was smart, especially since Brian Kelly has been hurt all season. Buchanon appears to be a great fit for the Cover 2 and has eased the pain of not having Kelly at full strength (a luxury the Bucs didn't have last year). Plus this unit is not banged up as it was a year ago (the offense has taken care of that). They haven't lost a starter to a season-ending injury - yet.
The Buccaneers seem to dink and dunk their way down the football field on offense. Will they try and stay with that familiar game plan, or will they take more shots deep to the ageless wonder, Joey Galloway?
MP: Gruden wants to go downfield, but it's really predictated on what the defense does. Everyone knows he wants to go deep, so everyone brackets coverage to stop Galloway. Galloway's bigger plays this year have come on slants and drags, where he's able to make something happen after the catch. He's also gotten big plays on days when the running game is going well, so he kind of disappeared against Indianapolis and Tennessee. They didn't take a shot at him last week because Detroit played so well in their Cover 2 that Galloway couldn't find a seam. They will this week, though I don't anticipate much success because the Jaguars secondary is pretty good. A third receiver stepping up would help Galloway tremendously.
Tampa Bay is ranked 21st in the NFL against the run. Will they try and load up the line of scrimmage with defenders to stop the Jaguars rushing game, or continue to play them straight up?
MP: The Bucs don't make many tweaks when it comes to defense. Monte Kiffin has confidence in the scheme and his players, so he's not into creating exotic defenses on the fly, as some coaches do. But he'll commit to stopping the run because he knows in doing so that he can put the game in Quinn Gray's hands, a matchup the Bucs want. But they won't sell out to the run. They'll maintain their base scheme, though don't be surprised if Kiffin uses a little 3-4 to shake up Gray.
The Jaguars swarming defense may be susceptible to trick plays. Does Jon Gruden tend to dip into his bag of tricks, or does he play offense closer to the vest?
MP: For all of Gruden's accolades, he's not a terribly creative play-caller in that regard. He'll use the occasional end-around, but he hasn't used staples like a reverse, a fake punt or field goal or a halfback pass all season. He did use a flea-flicker earlier this year. I don't think you can make calls like that unless you have supreme confidence in your entire offense, and Gruden doesn't. If he pulls something like that on Sunday, I'd be shocked.
Charlie Bernstein is the Editor-in-Chief of Jagnation.com, and a regular syndicated contributor to FoxSports.com, Sirius NFL Radio, and Sportsillustated.com. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers Association, and is a columnist for the New Smyrna Observer. Charlie can be reached -HERE-
for questions or comments.