Bucs Trying To Overcome Youth Movement

Quarterback Brian Griese may feel a little extra heat while trying make up for some young offensive linemen, and almost half of the Tampa Bay roster is made up with first- or second-year players. To add to it, the Bucs coaches aren't exactly sure what to expect from the Vikings either.

The Bucs have a mix of youth and experience, but it could be a deadly cocktail.

That's because most of the inexperience is on offense, where two offensive linemen will be making their first NFL start and the biggest weapon is rookie running back Carnell "Cadillac" Williams, the fifth overall draft pick from Auburn.

How much balance the Bucs can have in their offense and how well they protect quarterback Brian Griese will be the key to Sunday's game against Minnesota at the Metrodome.

Griese has more responsibility with two players on the offensive line making their first NFL start and a second-year pro at right guard. But he seems ready for the challenge.

"Being in the league for as long as I have been, I've been in situations where we've had young guys play every year," Griese said. "We haven't had as many young guys at one time on the field as I think that we're going to have this year. So my job is first and foremost to move the team to score and there are a lot of things that go into that.

"For me, I'm going to try to help them as much as I can. I've told each and every one of them, if they have questions about assignments or where they need to be, ask me and I'll help them. It puts a little bit more burden on me, but I'd rather we're in the right formation, they have the right assignments and it's a little but more burden on me than for something to go wrong. I just have to prepare a little bit harder and make sure I know their assignments backward and forward."

Veteran receiver Joey Galloway, 33, makes a difference when he is healthy and could create some open spaces underneath for Michael Clayton. Tight end Anthony Becht also should provide more thump in the running game.

But how so many new players respond to the noise of the Metrodome against one of the NFC's elite remains to be seen.

The Bucs also don't know what to expect from the Vikings defense, which has added CB Fred Smoot, LB Napoleon Harris and S Darren Sharper.

"They have made so many changes to their football team, you have to speculate a little bit," coach Jon Gruden said. "They're a completely different team on defense than they have been."

Defensively, the Bucs might have a bigger task with the departure of former Vikings receiver Randy Moss.

QB Daunte Culpepper is more relaxed and the Vikings offense is less predictable, enabling him to spread the ball around.

"He's the engine in their car," DT Anthony McFarland said of Culpepper. "He makes them go. Obviously, a big part of what they do offensively is keyed on him."

Culpepper also is capable of tucking the ball and running it, and is probably the hardest QB in the league to bring down.

"You see how scary he is when throws the ball," linebackers coach Joe Barry said. "But then you see when he doesn't throw the ball and he tucks the ball and runs, you're like, ‘Oh my god, he's just as dangerous.' Even in a Michael Vick sort of way. That's the thing, he's got a cannon, he can run and when you do get there, he's 260 pounds. He's a special, special player, no doubt about it.

"Granted, Randy Moss is a Hall of Famer. But at least the tape I've watched, there isn't much of a dropoff. They've got this rookie from South Carolina, they've got (Nate) Burleson, I mean, they've still got some legitimate weapons, just like they always have. Even when you go back six years ago, they've always got that receiving corps that's a bitch to deal with. And this year is no different."


  • To prepare for playing in the din of the Metrodome, the Bucs have piped in crowd noise over loudspeakers during practice this week.

    "I don't know if it can get much louder," coach Jon Gruden said of the Metrodome. "There might be some teams that take offense to that, but when the Vikings are playing well and at the top of their game, when things are going particularly well, that place is just devastating from a noise standpoint.

    "It's hard to call plays and get your sideline communication organized, let alone communicating on offense."

  • RB Carnell Williams isn't sure how he will celebrate his first NFL touchdown.

    "A lot of people have asked me that and I tell them I don't know," Williams said. "It's no telling what I am going to do. I might hand the ball to the official or spike it and throw it in the stands. It all depends on the moment and what I'm feeling."

  • Baton Rouge, La., native Michael Clayton is keeping close tabs on his hometown following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

    "I think the people of Louisiana have to come together," Clayton said. "It's a drastic event that took place there. Just to go over the obstacles is just really going to pull those guys together. When you deal with stuff like that, you do the best you can and obviously, it's going to impact a lot of guys. My heart goes out to those guys in high school trying to get scholarships, situations like that where they're not able to get onto the field due to what happened in New Orleans. You just hope for the best."

  • The Bucs signed receiver/punt returner Mark Jones, who was released by the Giants Sunday.

    Jones originally was a seventh-round pick by the Bucs in 2004 before he was claimed off waivers by the Giants. He was the Giants' primary punt returner last season, averaging 6.7 yards on 34 returns.

    To make room for Jones, the Bucs waived receiver Larry Brackins, a fifth-round pick from Pearl River Community College.

    The Bucs also added first-year tackle Drew Strojny to their practice squad and waived receiver DeAndrew Rubin.

  • DT Chris Hovan returns to his former team where he was a first-round pick in 2000. "It's just a business trip," Hovan said.

  • RB Michael Pittman will be used at WR, TE and possibly FB against the Vikings.

  • CB Ronde Barber needs only two sacks to become the first CB in NFL history with 20 or more sacks and interceptions.

  • P Josh Bidwell led the NFL with a 53.0 punting average in the preseason.

  • DE Simeon Rice leads the NFL with 42.5 sacks over the past three seasons.

    BY THE NUMBERS: 21 - Bucs players in their first or second season of NFL service, including 12 in their first season.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "Our offense may put up 50 points. We may give up 49. Who knows?" -- LB Derrick Brooks on what to expect Sunday at Minnesota.

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