Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden indicated that Baltimore's unorthodox 4-3/46 defense has impressed him in his film study, and could cause problems for the Buccaneers in Sunday's season opener.
"It's unorthodox," Gruden said. "It's very effective. They do a great job. You watch them against the Steelers, you watch them against anybody – they do a hell of a job playing team defense. They have two great corners in [Samari] Rolle and [Chris] McAlister. They got Ed Reed, who is as good as there is at safety. Throw in Trevor Pryce to go with the guys we've talked about – and we haven't even talked about Ray Lewis for cryin' out loud. They have a lot of real good players and they have a real diverse scheme and they're not afraid to call it, either. They're not afraid to call anything, and I like that about Baltimore."
One of the players that has caught Gruden's eye is defensive end/linebacker hybrid Terrell Suggs. Suggs has tallied 30.5 sacks over his three-year NFL career, including eight last season.
"He plays everywhere," Gruden said. "[Number] 55 is all over the tape. He does a lot of great things. He's a good passer rusher, certainly, but he is a great space player and covers. He does a great job for them. He and [number] 96 [Adalius] Thomas – they do a tremendous job moving around and creating confusion and they're very athletic, skilled people. They use them unlike I've never seen players like that used. These guys are special."
After Monday's practice, Gruden also singled out another Baltimore Raven who has impressed him – tight end Todd Heap. Heap is coming off a career-best season in which he caught 75 passes for 855 yards and seven touchdowns.
"He's a great tight end," Gruden said. "He's one of the premier tight ends in football. Heap is a problem. He can run and catch and he's a good blocker. He's got some guys around him. I think (Mark) Clayton and Derrick Mason are very good as well. They have a huge back that can slam it inside. They can create plays a lot of different ways. This is as talented a team as you'll see all season, and it's a challenge for us."
GRUDEN ANXIOUS FOR THE SEASON OPENER After practicing against itself for the last couple of months, Tampa Bay is anxious to start the season, according to head coach Jon Gruden. After three consecutive years of starting the season on the road, the Buccaneers finally start the season at Raymond James Stadium where they were 6-2 a year ago.
"It's nice to open the season," Gruden said. "It seems like this offseason program and training camp is an everlasting one. We're really excited to play a game and see exactly where we are. To have a chance to play at home, I'm always partial to that."
The Bucs are 2-2 in season openers under Gruden, losing at home 26-20 (OT) against New Orleans in 2002 and 16-10 at Washington in 2004, and winning 17-0 at Philadelphia in 2003 and 24-13 at Minnesota last year.
JOLLEY CATCHING ON QUICKLY After getting a couple of days to study tight end Doug Jolley, Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden has been impressed with his new acquisition on offense. The Bucs traded an undisclosed draft pick, believed to be a sixth- or seventh-rounder, to the New York Jets last week for Jolley, who will bolster the team's depth at the tight end position behind Alex Smith and Anthony Becht.
"He's a quick study," Gruden said. "He's going to learn our staff very fast. Here's a guy that's started in the Super Bowl, so he's got talented. He's a very good pass receiver. I've been impressed with his ability to learn quickly. I think he's going to be a good blocker because he's athletic, he's a tough guy, and he'll finish plays and compete. He gives us a third tight end that we like, and that's very important to us."
Jolley has 119 catches for 1,296 yards and six touchdowns in his four-year NFL career.
THE FINAL WORD "If we did have a third that we thought was any good, yeah. If you don't like your third quarterback, why would you keep him? You wouldn't want to keep any players if you didn't think they could help you win. It's something that I've never done, but if you're not pleased with what you're seeing and you're not getting results, why would you keep three? If you don't like your third quarterback, you're probably going to punt a lot anyways, so you might as well get somebody else who can play." – Bucs head coach Jon Gruden, when asked if he would consider keeping only two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster, which seems to be a trend these days in the NFL.
Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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