Bucs WR Mike Williams acknowledged that head coach Raheem Morris called him and the entire receiving corps out for not winning one-on-one battles in Tampa Bay's 31-14 loss to New England last week. The offense is expected to be at full strength with WR Arrelious Benn and TE Kellen Winslow playing against Miami.
Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris has lauded the play of the team’s receivers and has called that unit the strength of the team on more than one occasion. But after Thursday night’s 31-14 home loss against New England, Morris called out the wide receivers for not winning the one-on-one battles against the likes of Devin McCourty and Kyle Arrington, a former Buccaneer who picked off quarterback Josh Johnson in the third quarter.
With the receivers not getting open against New England’s press coverage, quarterback Josh Freeman was forced to hold onto the ball and was sacked twice while completing just 5-of-10 passes for 33 yards in a quarter-and-a-half’s worth of play.
“He called the receivers out as a group because he calls us the leaders of the bus,” Williams said. “He really called me out for real. He told me that in man coverage, we’re going to the X (split end). In man coverage that’s where you’ve got to go – the X. On some plays, I don’t know, I guess you can say I got gloved up. On some plays there was just a lot of pressure. Basically he just called me out and told me that I have to win quickly and win now and do like I did last year. There’s no excuses or anything, but it was kind of like we were limited with our plays and I knew I was coming out. It was kind of hard to get into a rhythm.
“It was kind of hard knowing you had a minimum number of plays and getting into a rhythm. During a game you have to get into a rhythm to find out what is going on first before you get big plays. It was kind of hard knowing you had only 12 or 13 plays.”
Williams was held to two catches for 14 yards against New England, including a 12-yard reception that helped the Bucs pick up their initial first down of the game after Tampa Bay went three-and-out on its first two series and fell behind 14-0 against the Patriots.
“They were playing press man the whole game really,” Williams said. “I hope we see them again. That’s what I’m saying. I hope we see them again with that same type of coverage.”
The second-year receiver, who caught a franchise-record 11 touchdowns during his sensational rookie season, said that the loss to the Patriots, who were up 28-0 at halftime, served as a wake-up call for the entire team.
“Oh yeah, we definitely have to play better overall as a team,” Williams said. “We’re going to see. It’s going to be a test for us playing the whole first half and some of third quarter [this Saturday against Miami]. We’re really going to see where we are now. I think last week was a good test for us, a good show for us to tell us that we’re not unstoppable like we think we are. We’re going to come back this next game and see what we’ve got.”
Williams said that despite the humbling nature of the defeat at Raymond James Stadium the Buccaneers receivers still haven’t loss their swagger.
“We’re still as confident as we were,” Williams said. “It’s the preseason. You work on things in the preseason and get better for the regular season. You see some things and we didn’t come out with a game plan and they did. Sometimes you just have to adjust to certain things like that. Like I said, it was hard to adjust with a limited number of plays.
“We don’t think we have to gain our confidence, especially in the preseason. We think we’re good where we are. This is the week where we have to go out and prove we are the receivers we say we are.”
Williams said that the game plan was very vanilla and basic against the Patriots, but that offensive coordinator Greg Olson is game-planning against Miami and treating it like a regular season contest. Aside from playing the X receiver (split end), Williams has been cross-trained at both the Z (flanker) and slot receiver positions and looks forward to being freed up from double teams by moving around prior to the snap.
“I kind of saw more attention the last six games,” Williams said. “Sometimes I expect more attention. I’ve kind of been working on beating double teams and working out of the slot and working out of the Z positions with them moving me around. I am kind of prepared for it.”
The Bucs offense has not been at full strength in the preseason with tight end Kellen Winslow and wide receiver Arrelious Benn sitting out the first two exhibition games due to precautionary measures. Winslow has not missed a game since the Bucs traded for him two years ago, but he has had six operations on his knee and the team likes to take a cautious approach. Benn is recovering from a torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) he suffered in Week 16 and is expected to see his first action in a Buccaneers uniform since Tampa Bay’s win over Seattle in the 2010 home finale.
“Just go out there and do my job,” Benn said. “I’m not anticipating doing anything out of the ordinary; just follow my game plan and do what I need to do. Just to get out there, get back in football shape and just go out there and have fun. Just get ready for the regular season and iron everything out that we need to iron out as a unit offensively and with myself.
“I definitely want to get hit, get tackled and catch a pass. I'm looking forward to going out there and just having some fun.”
Williams is looking forward to redeeming himself against the Dolphins and having the offense at full strength to show what it can do.
“I can’t wait to see that,” Williams said. “We always say with us as receivers if we are all rotating together nobody can stop us. To see the whole offense together with Rejus back, it’s going to be good.”
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