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CadillacPower24_2006

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: October 03, 2006, 09:04:03 AM

TAMPA - It's hard to say who actually lit the torch. All anyone knows for sure is that for more than a decade, it continued to burn as one team of defenders successfully passed it on to the next.

When Hardy Nickerson passed the torch to John Lynch and Warren Sapp, it kept on burning. When Lynch and Sapp passed it to Derrick Brooks and Ronde Barber, it kept on burning.

Now the flame is flickering.

The Bucs defense came out of Sunday's games ranked 31st in the league against the run and 19th overall.

The only category it leads the league in is queries regarding what has gone wrong.

Some say age has caught up to a group that includes up to seven starters 30 or older. Some say injuries, such as those suffered by Brian Kelly and Shelton Quarles, are to blame. Others say the defense misses former line coach Rod Marinelli.

It's likely all three factors have had a part in the unit's slow start.

But the players say their early season slump is more the result of factors they can control.

For instance, nose tackle Chris Hovan believes the defense has struggled because too many players are concentrating more on covering up for their partners than they are doing their own job.

"It all comes down to one saying, and it's a saying that guys around here have been using since long before I got here," Hovan said. "The saying is, 'Do your job,' and it's well-documented that it works.

"It's been proven that this defense will work if everyone just does his job. And when you're afforded an opportunity to make a play, make the play. That's all there is to it, really.

"We're not getting pushed off the ball or [beaten physically]. It just comes down to doing your job, and we're coming to the realization that if everyone does that and trusts and believes in everybody else, we'll be all right."

Safety Jermaine Phillips agrees with Hovan. During the best of times, he said, the trust level between players is always high.

Only a few Bucs defenders truly are capable of dominating an opponent physically, so most succeed by taking the proper angle to the ball and ball carriers, and by tackling and shedding blocks as if they're taping a how-to video.

"It's about being on the details," Phillips said. "But lately we haven't been doing as good a job as we should be doing or as good a job as we're capable of doing there."

The Bucs spent their bye week focusing on those details. Just as they do every week, they honed those compulsory moves, but they did it last week with a little more intensity than before.

"It's a matter of really focusing in on it on every play while you're out there at practice and not letting anything slip by," Phillips said. "We do that because it really is the little things that have made this defense great."

The statistics don't back his claim, but linebacker Ryan Nece says the Bucs defense still is great. He says he sees greatness on the same game film that explains their 0-3 start and low rankings.

"There are some errors, some things we need to correct on that tape," he said. "We need to fit up our runs better, we need to tackle better. But at the same time we saw a lot of good things on that tape, too.

"You tend to beat yourself up when you lose. You tend to try to find what's wrong and the next thing you know you're repeating these bad things over and over in your mind and you're missing the good things.

"That's what we're trying to focus on now. We're saying to ourselves, 'You know what? This is a good team. This is a solid team.' We know we're better than what we've shown so far."

The next chance to prove that is Sunday at New Orleans, where the Saints are proving to be a good test even for defenses that aren't struggling.

Reggie Bush hasn't burst onto the NFL scene the way many thought he would, but he's still an effective weapon. And the fact he has teamed with fellow running back Deuce McAllister makes the Saints even tougher to stop.

And then there's quarterback Drew Brees. He came out of Sunday's games ranked third in the league in passing yardage, so the Bucs will have a hard time breaking out of their slump. Difficult or not, though, Phillips believes he knows the solution.

"It's about being on the details and getting back to the old way of Bucs football," he said. "It's about getting back to the standards that Hardy Nickerson and John Lynch left behind. It's about carrying that torch."

BucsFan1976

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#1 : October 03, 2006, 09:08:15 AM

I know they play different postions but Ruud reminds me of a young John Lynch.

Boid Fink

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#2 : October 03, 2006, 11:38:25 AM

The Bucs need to stop wearing the whites right about now.  It should be cooling off just enough to start wearing the reds again.  Those white jerseys look wrong.....lol!



pewtersurf

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#3 : October 03, 2006, 12:04:17 PM

"It's about being on the details," Phillips said. "But lately "I" haven't been doing as good a job as "I" should be doing or as good a job as "I'm" capable of doing there."

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wildbuc99

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#4 : October 03, 2006, 05:26:03 PM

 Im worried myself about the "torch" of the D being passed. The neglect of impact players on D through the draft is catching up with us big time.  I think we got this year and next year for the front office to replace some of our leaders.  Brooks has looked better the past two games, Rice has picked it up, but other than D. White, Will Allen, Ruud, and hopefully Alan Z, we are hard pressed to find that next generation of All-Star talent on D. [banghead]

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