The Bucs are hoping to improve their run defense against the dangerous Steven Jackson. Tampa Bay reviewed the old Bucs to try and correct their mentality towards run defense.
With the Buccaneers run defense reeling after getting gashed by the New Orleans Saints for 212 yards, St. Louis Rams running back Steven Jackson comes to town on Sunday. The Buccaneers are trying to shore up the issues that have plagued their run defense in 2010, and it will be critical as the Rams are a run-oriented offense.
“The thing is we were executing and we were playing fast, there were just some times where we had wrong fits and there would be bad tackling,” defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. “There would be some times where it was a bad call, and there would be some times where we just didn’t make the extra play that we needed to. We graded ourselves critically and we’re going to fix it. We will fix it. We just have to keep playing hard.”
This season Jackson is fifth in the NFL in rushing and has run for 507 yards with an average of 4.0 yards per carry and two touchdowns. He also has 14 receptions for 130 yards this season. The Rams have the 17th ranked rushing attack and are averaging 104.3 yards per game on the ground. Jackson, 27, runs behind a line that features two high draft picks in offensive tackles Jason Smith (second-overall pick in 2009) and Rodger Saffold (33rd overall pick this year).
“They got a good o-line and he runs that ball hard,” said defensive tackle Roy Miller. “He’s a hard physical runner and does a great job with the ball.
“He’s a great running back and you watch him drag guys around the field. We just have to prepare and get more technically sound this week and come out ready to play.”
Thus far in 2010 the Buccaneers are ranked 31st in the NFL in run defense. They are allowing 157 yards per game on the ground, and that comes on the heels of the 2009 season when they were last in the NFL in run defense and allowed 158 yards per game. This year Tampa Bay is allowing 5.3 yards per carry, which is last in the NFL.
“You either get better or you get worse, and right now you can’t do too much worse against the run,” linebacker Quincy Black said. “We have some things we need to clean up.”
“There are a lot of things we have to correct and a lot of things we have to fix. There are issues we have to address. It’s run fit things, and it’s some effort things. There are some different things we have to address. It’s not just one thing that is going to fix it.”
Bucs head coach and defensive coordinator Raheem Morris agreed the team had to improve immediately.
“That’s every week in this league it is no different than every week you go against a great running back,” said Morris. “We got to get better there is no secret there. I’m not going to sit here and sugar coat it. We got tackle better. We got to pursue better, and we got to play better. I have to coach better. It is everything that is involved. I won’t point fingers.”
The Bucs held a meeting on Wednesday where defensive line coach Todd Wash and Morris met with the defensive line and went over the dominant Bucs defense that led Tampa Bay to their lone Super Bowl championship in 2002.
“We kind of had a talk today as a d-line. We watched a lot of film, and [Morris] had a meeting with us about the old Bucs that played and the way they played it,” said Miller. “Definitely answering a lot of questions for guys and trying to free up a lot of things that guys had. It maybe a little different as far as the d-line.”
Morris said that watching old Bucs tape is nothing new, but disclosed what the emphasis was on Wednesday.
“I always show old tape of the Bucs defense, but in particular you want to show that d-line how they got off the ball. How they play. How fast they played. How much disruption they caused,” said Morris. “I was with Rod Marinelli for a long time. I’d sit in his room and sneak in the back and sit on a stool and be quiet so [Warren] Sapp wouldn’t yell at me. When you sit back there and listen to those talk they’d say if the front four plays the way it is supposed to play you can give everybody else a pink slip.”
Miller said the Bucs had some technique issues on the defensive line, and missed tackles plagued the defense overall. The biggest change that Tampa Bay may make is in the mental part of the game.
“It is not that we weren’t really doing it before, it is that we weren’t really in that mentality,” said Miller. “We had to change mentalities and clear up some things. We just had to watch some film on the old Bucs and take a lot of personal responsibility for a lot of things that this defense is built on the way the d-line plays. That was just the main thing of that meeting.”
While the Buccaneers review the past to improve in the present, they will have to do so while being tested by one of the better running backs in the NFL. Tampa Bay passed on Jackson in the 2004 NFL Draft in favor of drafting wide receiver Michael Clayton. One-year later Tampa Bay drafted running back Cadillac Williams with the fifth-overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft. In Jackson’s seven-year career he has run for 7,214 yards on 1,675 carries averaging 4.3 yards per carry with 43 touchdowns. Jackson also has caught 295 passes for 2,417 yards and seven touchdowns.
“We just got to play better. It was a poor, poor week against the run against New Orleans,” said middle linebacker Barrett Ruud. “Misfits. Bad technique. Basically them out playing us, sometimes those games are good for you because you can sit down and say this week we got to make a big change and it starts this week in practice. It is actually good for us to have a challenge like Steven Jackson, cause if you’re not ready to play the best than you’re going to have trouble. It’ll be a good challenge for us.”
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