The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took the practice field Wednesday in preparation for their next opponent - the Seattle Seahawks.
The Bucs were without several players, including wide receiver Michael Clayton (knee), tight end John Gilmore (head) and running back Cadillac Williams (team decision).
Clayton has missed two straight games due to his knee ailment. Although he didn't practice Wednesday, Clayton apparently has made progress and could play vs. the Seahawks on Sunday.
"You have to believe it's getting a little better," said Bucs head coach Raheem Morris. "It's still not to the point where he can go obviously. We'll see where he is tomorrow."
Unfortunately for Tampa Bay, the Bucs will be without Gilmore, who is considered the best blocking tight end on the team.
While the Bucs have tight ends Kellen Winslow and Jerramy Stevens on their 53-man roster, the team might get creative at the tight end position by playing rookie offensive tackle Demar Dotson (6-9, 315) there in some situations.
"John Gilmore being out, we're still trying to find a way to aid us in protection there," Bucs offensive coordinator Greg Olson said. "We've now moved Dotson in some at tight end to help us in that area with our run game and with some protection issues. We're trying to find solutions."
In other injury-related news, Bucs defensive tackle Roy Miller (ankle), cornerback Derrick Roberson (groin), wide receiver Sammie Stroughter (back) and Winslow (knee) were limited today.
Bucs linebacker Geno Hayes (hamstring) and guard Davin Joseph (shoulder) had full participation during Wednesday's practice. Practice Makes Perfect
Bucs head coach Raheem Morris was critical of his team, particularly the offense, for turning in a poor practice last Friday. Morris said that woeful workout contributed to Tampa Bay's embarrassing 26-3 loss to the New York Jets on Sunday.
So how did the Bucs fare on the practice field Wednesday?
"It was great," Morris said of Tampa Bay's practice today. "That was a one-time deal. I give [the media] too much information sometimes and we let it go off the deep end. You guys have been out at practice before. You see how lively they are normally. We had a one-time bad deal last Friday, and hopefully we'll learn from it.
"We got our butts kicked by the New York Jets. I told my team and gave them some choice words of what I thought about the tape from that game."
The Bucs are scheduled to practice again on Thursday morning and Friday morning before leaving for Seattle on Friday afternoon.Offensive Line Underachieving
Tampa Bay's offense currently ranks 28th overall in the NFL, and Bucs head coach Raheem Morris suggested Wednesday that the team's offensive line, which was supposed to be a strength of the team heading into the season, has played a significant role in the offense's woes.
The Bucs have invested heavily in their offensive line. Tampa Bay made center Jeff Faine the highest-paid center in 2008, invested a first-round pick in right guard Davin Joseph, two second-round selections in right tackle Jeremy Trueblood and left guard Arron Sears and a third-round pick in guard Jeremy Zuttah, who has been starting in place of Sears due to his absence.
Expectations were high for Tampa Bay's offensive line, which hasn't delivered for the Bucs offense this season.
"They haven't played their best football," Morris said of the offensive line. "We talked about that when [quarterback Byron] Leftwich lost his job. Leftwich didn't miss the block on the defensive end or nose tackle, and he didn't fumble the ball. We have to get better up front and we have to get better running the ball. I think you have to definitely call it an underachieving year for the offensive line."
The Bucs implemented a zone blocking scheme under Jeff Jagodzinski, who was fired 10 days before the start of the 2009 regular season. Tampa Bay has since integrated more power blocking under quarterbacks coach/offensive coordinator Greg Olson, but the team's running game still is struggling, averaging just 98 yards per game. That's disappointing to the Bucs, who hoped to be a dominant rushing offense heading into 2009.
"I don't know it has anything to do with the coaching change," said Morris. "I don't know that we ran the ball really well last year. We have to run the ball better than we have the past year, period. We weren't exactly an offensive juggernaut last year, so we're trying to get to that point."Morris Enjoying Dual Role
Bucs head coach Raheem Morris has enjoyed running the defense since taking over the role of defensive coordinator after Week 11. The Bucs defense struggled for most of the season under new defensive coordinator Jim Bates. After a 38-7 loss to the New Orleans Saints, Bates was demoted and Morris took over defensive coordinator duties.
While Morris was said to be taking the Buccaneers back to the Tampa 2 defense they ran for years under former defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, Morris said Wednesday that Tampa Bay has been doing a variety of things to keep offenses off balance.
"I've been trying to create a little bit," said Morris. "I love it. Keep calling us the Tampa 2. I hope teams don't watch the tape and just read your stories. That would be awesome for me because when you come in you don't know what you're going to see. I played some 3-4 last week. We've given them under, we've given them jam, we've given them 4-3, we've given them zone dog, some five-man fronts, we've given a little bit of everything. We have a plethora of different packages that I've always had dating back to Kansas State, and now I'm just showing you my version of the defense. We're trying to get it going. You have to be careful, too. At some point I might find out I gave them too much and we'll have to scale it back a little bit."
The Buccaneers have the 26th-ranked defense in the NFL. They are 31st against the run and seventh against the pass. When Morris took over the defense they were last in the NFL defending the run. Certain players have impressed Morris as the defense has played some improved football lately. He named linebacker Quincy Black, linebacker Barrett Ruud, and safety Tanard Jackson as the players that were standing out to him.
Morris was asked if he could go back to the beginning of the season would he run the defense all year.
"I've learned a lot," said Morris. "I learned how much I missed it, first of all, but I've also learned some nuances on defense that I can use now. I'm starting to see some things. If I could have the knowledge I have now and go back and hit the restart button, yes, there's no question I would go back in time and start over, but I can't do that. I've learned so much in terms of how to manage the game, how to control the game, how to be in the flow of the game and how to have eight hats on at once. No, I think I'd do it the same way. You have to live and learn."
Going forward, Morris sounded as if he would like to remain the defensive coordinator in 2010, but that decision would be made after the season.
"I do enjoy the dual role right now," said Morris. "I'm going to continue to do that right now, and we'll evaluate that just like we're going to evaluate everything else at the end of the season."Quote of the DayBucs head coach Raheem Morris when asked what he needs to do over the last three games of the season to retain his job in 2010.
"It's not my job to worry about that. That is for mentally weak people to worry about my future. My job is to coach the team week in and week out. I have to go and beat Seattle. That's what I have to do. Then I have to beat the next team after that. Job security in this business, in case you haven't looked around, there's a coaches' ticking clock every day. If I didn't want to worry about that I wouldn't be coaching. I'd be a reporter."
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