Beat Writer & Videographer
The Bucs are 2-0 despite serious lack of production from the halfbacks. Cadillac Williams and Earnest Graham are only averaging 2.3 yards per carry and things will only get tougher this week against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Many people did not see this coming. The lowly and rebuilding Buccaneers, who won just three games last season, sitting at 2-0 and heading into a battle of unbeatens on Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers. One person not perplexed by the Bucs’ hot start is running back Cadillac Williams.
“One of the things I like about this team is even though we are 2-0, no one is surprised and we are taking it with a business approach,” Williams said. “It’s almost what we expected to do, which is win. We go out and give our best effort. We have a great challenge coming in this week and we look forward to going 3-0.”
To get that third win in as many games, Williams and the Bucs will first have to defeat a tough, physical Steelers team. The Bucs’ halfbacks as a unit have struggled to run the ball through two games. Williams has 49 carries for just 126 yards (2.6 avg.). Fullback Earnest Graham has nine carries for 11 yards (1.2 avg.) and a fumble. Things won’t get easier this week against a Steelers defense that limited Titans’ running back Chris Johnson, who rushed for over 2,000 yards last season, to just 34 yards in 16 carries (2.1 avg.) Despite the numbers, Williams feels like he and the offensive line can get the job done on Sunday.
“A lot of times things just aren’t pretty,” said Williams. “I confident in those guys to get some push, getting things going and what better way to start it then against Pittsburgh and that great defense. I think as an offense we are kind of taking it personally and looking forward to it.”
Last week marked the second game in a row in which Williams carried the rock over 20 times, yet did not have much to show for it. However, Williams cares more about winning games and less about how many yards he racks up on the ground.
“When you have two season-ending knee surgeries and you go through rehab, then you 3-13 last year, I don’t care how the wins come,” said Williams. “If that’s me carrying it 10 times or 30 times for 20 yards or whatever, it just feels good to get back to that winning edge. When you are losing sometimes work is not fun. It’s just not fun.”
Of Williams’ 27 carries against the Panthers last week, his longest was only eight yards. In Week 1 he did have 20-yarder and two other long gains negated by penalties, but even though it hasn’t happened yet, Williams feels like he is due to bust a long run at any moment.
“No doubt. I definitely want to break one, but it’s coming,” Williams said. “It’s Week 3. It’s a long season. That is our approach as a whole. Things are going to get better. We just have to stay confident and let’s not start feuding between each other. Let’s not point fingers at who is doing it and who is not doing it. Let’s stay on one accord and let’s make this thing work.”
Ever since his first year in the NFL, Williams has not been a big threat to break long runs. After his rookie year in 2005, Williams has not averaged over four yards per carry in any season and his longest run is 38 yards. But this year part of the problem has been the struggles of the offensive line. Williams has been met in the backfield on a few occasions by defenders and when he is not being tackled behind the line of scrimmage, the offensive line has not given him many holes to run through.
“I just feel like we have to be better with our execution,” said Williams. “We just have to man up as a whole - the O-line and myself. Maybe I need to break more tackles here and there, but we need to man up and we will get it done.”
Even though the yards or touchdowns may not be there, Williams is still keeping a positive attitude.
“We are winning,” Williams said. “It would be different if we were losing, but we are winning. It is what it is. I have total confidence that running game will get going. As an offense, for us to keep winning and for us to keep competing with some of these tough teams that we have coming up, we are going to have to run the football.”
Head coach Raheem Morris loves his starting running back’s mentality and he too, like Williams, is not worried about the lack of production from the running ground as long as his team is prevailing over the opposition on gamedays.
“That’s the kind of guys that we have in this locker room,” said Morris. “It’s to the whole room – Earnest Graham, Cadillac, and all those guys – they are about team first. They are all about the winning mentality and when we get into that locker room with wins, nobody looks at that stat sheet.
“I keep using the cliché “stats are for losers” because they really are. We look at stats when trying to find out what’s wrong. After wins, I’m not trying to find out what’s wrong. I’m trying to enjoy it with my players as long as I can and move on to the next opponent.”
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