Packers focused on Bucs' shiny, new ‘Cadillac'

One of the few bright spots among the Green Bay Packers this season is the team's run-defense. The Packers have performed well against Detroit's Kevin Jones and Cleveland's Reuben Droughns in the first two weeks of the season. But with Tampa Bay's Carnell "Cadillac" Williams rolling into Green Bay this Sunday, the Packers' young defense faces its biggest challenge to date.

The Buccaneers have been riding behind Williams, their top draft pick this year (5th overall), who's broken in his rookie tires and gotten optimum mileage on a full tank to become the NFL's top rusher. Williams has totaled 276 rushing yards and two touchdowns in his first two games, the fifth-best debut over two games in NFL history. Williams leads the NFL in rushing and is the first rookie since Edgerrin James in 1999 to begin his career with back-to-back 100-yard rushing games.

"He's playing like a four-year pro," said Packers coach Mike Sherman. "His legs look alive. He's powerful. He's fast. He's tough. He's a very good back. He has really made a splash this season so far. I'm sure he has plans to continue that."

Williams opened the season with 148 yards rushing in Tampa Bay's 24-13 win over the Minnesota Vikings. He followed that performance with 128 yards as the Bucs whipped the Buffalo Bills, 19-3, in Tampa Bay's home opener.

"He's just a great competitor who wants to play," said Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden. "What can I say? That's one of the things that makes him unique. That's a great strength of his, his mental and physical toughness. His want-to, his drive, his motivation is tremendous. I learned that first-hand on Sunday. It was great to be a part of it."

To Green Bay's advantage, Tampa Bay's "Cadillac" may not be firing on all cylinders Sunday. Williams sustained a strained muscle in his left foot against the Bills. He did not practice with the team on Wednesday, but is expected to practice today and play on Sunday.

"I'm definitely going to go 100 percent," Williams said. "That's how I've been playing this game my whole life. Getting an injury here or there – it's football. You're not going to go through the season healthy, I promise you that."

The Packers enter the game ranked seventh in the league in run-defense, surrendering 78.5 yards per game. Tampa Bay is second in the league in rushing, averaging 168.5 yards per game.

The Packers held Droughns to 50 yards rushing last Sunday, and Jones to 87 yards in the season opener.

"(Quarterback Brian) Griese does a good job throwing the football and mixing it in there, but their emphasis is to run the football," Sherman said. "I hope that we can hang our hat on it. We've tackled pretty well this year, and we're going to need good tackling in order to bring this young man to the ground. We have to play a very physical football game against him and against the line."

Williams, who starred at Auburn, is seeking to become the first rookie in NFL history with three straight 100-yard games to start a career. Williams thrives on his quickness and ability to stop dead in his tracks, then re-accelerate past defenders. A knock on Williams going into the draft was that he would have trouble running between the tackles, however, he has quickly proven critics wrong.

"You have to gang-tackle," said safety Mark Roman. "In this league, period, you can't be tackling every running back with one guy. There are very few running backs that you can tackle with one guy. Williams is a guy that you need to gang-tackle. It has to be a total team effort for us."

Williams believes that defenses will begin to game plan to stop him, but he feels confident in Tampa Bay's ability to adjust.

"I think so, because as Derrick Brooks was telling me earlier in the year, most teams haven't seen me so they really don't know what I can do," Williams said. "Now they've seen a little bit, so I'm sure their focus now coming in is going to be to stop the run. That might change things up, but the way our offensive line is playing and the way [Brian] Griese is handling things, I don't think it will change much."

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