Matthew Postins: I think Garcia's success is partly due to a perfect marriage between his skills and Jon Gruden's scheme. You have to think Rich Gannon, but a bit more mobile. Since the 2003 season, when Brad Johnson began to decline, Gruden has looked for an accurate, efficient quarterback that doesn't put his team in bad situations. Garcia has done that this year. He's thrown no interceptions, compiled a solid quarterback rating and his mobility has accounted for at least three scoring drives this season. His leadership has filtered throughout the entire offense and has carried the team through this whirlwind of injuries. Now, if he gets hurt? This team is done. It's that simple. This team will go in the tank. The line has done a decent job of protecting him, and his mobility keeps him out of some physical situations. Can he hold up? At the moment, I'd say yes.
NC: Losing Cadillac was a tough blow to the Buccaneers, but they acquired Michael Bennett a few days ago. Will Bennett step in right away, and if not, who will carry the load against the Lions on Sunday? What should Detroit prepare for?
MP: Earnest Graham will be the starter on Sunday. How many carries Bennett will receive depends on how quickly he can pick up the playbook (he called it like trying to learn Chinese in 48 hours). I expect the Bucs will put Bennett in a package of plays that he's grasped during the week and will maximize his speed and possible big-play impact. Graham, about 20 pounds heavier, will do the heavy lifting. I fully expect Bennett to be the starter at some point, perhaps by after the bye week. Graham is a nice change-of-pace back, but he's not a bell cow. If I were Rod Marinelli, I would prepare for both.
NC: Tampa Bay's defense seems to be more effective against the pass versus the run. If you were Mike Martz, would you load up on with the weapons in the passing game, or do the Lions need to run the ball to have success on Sunday?
MP: I'd actually try to run it. Bucs defensive end Greg Spires told me Wednesday that the key to stopping a Mike Martz offense is to stop the run and make the offense one-dimensional, as in, more predictable. The Lions have the weapons to load up in the passing game and have success. But Tampa Bay's secondary is playing at such a high level right now that I'm not sure how much success the passing game will have. This run defense can be exploited if Mike Martz commits to using Kevin Jones and Tatum Bell about 30 times on Sunday. Tampa Bay has allowed two 100-yard rushers already this season. Even though I've heard that the Lions' run blocking isn't that great, a productive run game would suck the Bucs' safeties toward the line of scrimmage and give the cornerbacks less help in coverage of the Lions' receivers.
NC: There were questions surrounding Jon Gruden's job in Tampa Bay during the off-season. What does Tampa Bay need to accomplish this season to keep his status intact?
MP: Given the weakness of the NFC South this season and the good start, I'd say all Gruden has to do is finish above .500. The talk of this being a "hot seat" season for Gruden has died down for now. It's amazing what a good quarterback can do for a coach.
NC: Obviously, Rod Marinelli came to Detroit from Tampa Bay. What kind of reputation did Marinelli have during his tenure in Tampa Bay, and was he always looked at as a potential head coaching candidate when the Lions hired him?
MP: First of all, the Lions hiring Marinelli was a stunner to most folks around here. I don't think anyone looked at him as head coaching material. I thought he was more likely to become a defensive coordinator somewhere. Whatever that 'it' factor a head coach is supposed to have, Marinelli didn't have it in my opinion. That said, the undercurrent of respect for Marinelli by those that played for him in Tampa is immense. Chris Hovan credits him for restoring his career after he left Minnesota. Spires speaks highly of him. I know Simeon Rice openly lamented Marinelli's departure last year. There was a real lack of discipline up front last year, which has been restored by line coach Larry Coyer. Sure enough, Coyer and Marinelli are two of a kind -- tough, gruff and no-nonsense. There will plenty of hugs on Sunday between Marinelli and those linemen.