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September 14, 2010 @ 3:06 pm
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Bucs' Run Defense Gets Big Test

Written by Charlie
Charlie Campbell


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The Bucs are preparing for their annual grudge match with the Carolina Panthers. Tampa Bay knows that Carolina is going to feature their rush attack on Sunday.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Carolina Panthers have had some tough grudge matches since the NFC South first started play in the 2002 season. Both teams have gone to the Super Bowl in that time, and made multiple playoff appearances. While the Bucs and Panthers are viewed as being in a rebuilding program because they field the two youngest teams in the NFL this year, that won’t change the fact that a physical football game will be played next Sunday in Charlotte, North Carolina. Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris knows that the Bucs are going to have to stop the Panthers’ ground game first and foremost.

“I said we have to tackle. That’s what you got to do. This is a team that is going to force their will on you and they are going to run the ball. You can’t let it kill you,” said Morris. “You can’t let it take you out of your game. You can’t let it take over your game. You have to tackle and you have to get off on third down when you have the opportunity. The thing that makes those guys so special is, and I’ll start with Jonathan Stewart, I’ve never seen a man with better contact balance than Jonathan Stewart. When he gets hit he stays on his feet. He runs sideways better than anybody I’ve seen through a hole. He’s able to lower the boom on you. After he gets on the open grass he runs away from you.

“DeAngelo Williams creates different problems. He has the same type of jump-cut moves expect he can actually disappear in that hole and run away from you, and be dynamic with it as well and he is also powerful. The combination of those two guys remaining fresh throughout the game is very dangerous. It is very difficult to deal with and the way to stop those guys is to get those guys off the grass and force them into a situation where they have to throw it. That is tough to do when you have two dynamic running backs like that and you got a physical type mentality of their head coach, so that is the dynamics and that’s the toughness of dealing with the Carolina Panthers.” 

The key for the Bucs is limiting the Panthers ground game. Last year Tampa Bay was last in the NFL in run defense, but the team showed signs of progress last week in the Buccaneers’ Week 1 victory over the Cleveland Browns. In the first half against Cleveland the Buccaneers allowed 87 yards on the ground. Over the final two quarters Tampa Bay held the Browns to only 17 yards rushing.

“We just played Buc defense,” said defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. “We got overzealous in the first half and got out of our fits. Not taking anything away from Cleveland they are a good run team and they played well. There were just some miscues on defense. We had to tighten it up and play better.”

Now the Panthers' Williams and Stewart will test the Bucs. Last season Williams ran for 1,117 yards and seven touchdowns while averaging 5.2 yards per carry. Williams was barely edged by Stewart who led Carolina with 1,133 yards and averaged 5.1 yards per carry with 10 touchdowns.

“They are really good. We are going to have to strap it down and make some key tackles,” said McCoy. “They can go sideline to sideline. Their skills are incredible, jump cuts are out of this world, and they always got their cutback angle. They both can do it. We just have to be ready. We have to tackle well this week. It is all about tackling.”

Over the last three meetings Carolina has had a lot of success running the ball against the Buccaneers. The Panthers ran for 299 yards in the last game against the Bucs in 2008. Carolina ran for 267 yards and averaged 5.6 yards per carry in the first game in the 2009 season. In the ’09 re-match after Morris took over the Bucs defense the Panthers ran for 157 yards and averaged 4.8 yards per carry. Buccaneers defensive tackle Ryan Sims has gone up against the Panthers the previous three seasons, and he explained what would be the difference for Tampa Bay this time around.

“Right now we are a different football team,” said Sims. “If you just look down our roster it is a totally different football team. We have a different mentality. A different coaching mindset, we are a morphing team. We play a little bit of everything now, so that right there is letting you know the things we put on tape last week and us showing that it is definitely a different team.”

The Bucs had a good game from linebackers Barrett Ruud and Geno Hayes in Week 1 against the Browns. Those linebackers tied for the team lead with eight tackles, and Ruud provided a key turnover with a forced fumble. The Buccaneers also showcased a lot of variety in their defensive formations. Morris had the Bucs run some 3-4 defense and 3-3-5 defensive sets. Keeping outside linebackers Hayes and Black on the field for all three downs is a big reason for those packages.

“We got speed linebackers, you’ve got to use them,” said Sims. “You got tackles that you want to use too, so you’re mixing in the 4-3. When you have an athletic end like Stylez [White] you can stand him up. It is technically a three-man line but you still got four defensive linemen.”

The Week 2 matchup with Carolina will provide a measuring tool for the young Bucs to see how far they’ve progressed in stopping the run since the rough matchups against Carolina in the past three meetings.

“It is good to do it early and see where we are at,” said McCoy. “If we can come out and play well against Carolina and stop the run I think we can stop anybody in the run game because they are one of the best.”
Last modified on Friday, 17 September 2010 13:48

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  • avatar

    I'm excited for these young men. Live & learn together.The past is the past let's build a new legacy in Tampa Bay. Go Bucs!
  • avatar

    If our boys can play defense as well as they did in the second half of last week we should have a shot. Shut the run game down then moore or clausen will have to beat us. Like our chances there. Hope the O-line dominates up front let Caddy run wild with no holding calls bringing them back. At least all the ban wagon Bucs fans can see the game this week and see we have a pretty good team and maybe show up to some of the home games. Go Bucs!!!
  • avatar

    No mention of us actually pounding them in the running game to have a better chance .. The Bucs must pound the ball to keep these RBs off the field
  • avatar

    Sometimes I have Ideas just let me know if anyone think this is crazy... I would start EJ and Aqib putting Ronde in the Slot he is an amazing blitzer... Second put Stylez G at LE next to Roy and Price wtih McCoy ant RE hes fast enough and will be tougher to double team...Maybe it me but this would be something special in my mind.
  • avatar

    Also let's not forget that we have Vincent and he will no doubt have an idea of what the Panthers tried to do historically on us in the run game. He was in on those Panther meetings when they said, "This is what we're going to do...".
  • avatar

    This will be a great test for our run defense. I will be at the game and cant wait to see us live.
  • avatar

    They run the ball, it's what they do. I'll be at the game. If we do an average job of stopping the run, we should win. However, the game still has to be played.
  • avatar

    I'm just so excited that it will be on TV, I can't wait! Crush them Bucs.
  • avatar

    Not only do the panthers have a great set of running backs, but if Matt Moore doesn't play then they will REALLY be pounding the rock. And with Talib back, that really puts a damper on their one serious threat through the air, Steve Smith. Buckle those chin straps boys, it's gonna be a slobber knocker!! GO BUCS!!!
  • avatar

    We haven't stopped carolina in about 3 years from running the ball. If it happens on Sunday, it would be a welcomed change. Just keep forcing fumbles like we did against the Browns and we should be ok.
  • avatar

    “It is good to do it early and see where we are at,” said McCoy. “If we can come out and play well against Carolina and stop the run I think we can stop anybody in the run game because they are one of the best.” Yes indeed, this types it all. The Buccaneers can look forward to a very strong test of their run D. A huge weakness last year, a turnaround in this area will be very very meaningful. Excellent article Charlie!
  • avatar

    This will be a huge test for our young D. I know we will be better than in years past, but I hope we will be good enough. Go McCoy, Price, Miller.
  • avatar

    Definetly can be a statement win for this young team. That Panthers running attack has been a thorn in our side for years now and if we can slow it down to a min then we know we are for sure on the right track.
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