Tampa Bay’s primary offensive weapon, running back Carnell “Cadillac” Williams, was parked in the garage on Monday morning.
Williams spent Monday morning in the training room receiving treatment for the foot injury he sustained during the second quarter of Sunday’s game vs. Buffalo. He returned to action in the third quarter and went on to rush 24 times for 128 yards (5.3 avg.) and one touchdown en route to Tampa Bay’s 19-3 win over Buffalo.
Although he was sporting a walking boot on his left foot, Williams suggested he would be ready to play against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.
“The cast is a precaution right now,” said Williams. “It’s a little sore, but overall it’s good. I’m ready to go this week.”
Bucs head coach Jon Gruden suggested Williams could be limited in practice this week.
“He’s got a sprained a muscle in his foot,” Gruden said. “We think he’s going to be okay for the game. We’ll update you later in the week when we get more information. We are very optimistic, though.
“It’s hard to say until Wednesday gets here. We think he’s going to be okay. I can just be honest and update you then. But we do think he’s going to play in the game. He might be [limited in practice] and he might not be. I don’t know yet.”
The fifth overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft, Williams has rushed for 276 yards on 51 carries (5.4 avg.) and two touchdowns through two games. His 276 rushing yards rank fifth-best in NFL history for most rushing yards through the first two pro games.
Tampa Bay’s running game finished the 2004 regular season ranked 29th in the NFL. Through two regular season games in ’05, the Bucs have the 2nd-ranked ground attack in the league and are averaging 168.5 yards rushing per contest.
Despite those impressive feats, Gruden said he’s not surprised by how his Cadillac is running so far.
“I would like to say that it’s somewhat surprising that he’s had this success, but we really felt that he was a great, great running back, to be honest with you,” said Gruden. “(Auburn head coach) Tommy Tuberville felt the same way. Everybody I talked to in Alabama said, ‘This is the greatest running back in the history of high school football in Alabama.’ Better than Bo Jackson, better than most of these guys have ever seen.
“I’m not saying he’s better than Bo. I will not say he’s better than Bo. But everybody I talked to said he’s a hell of a back. ‘Get him on your team, somehow, some way.” I think he’s proven to everybody what he’s all about. He’s a great running back, he’s a tremendous competitor, he’s got great poise and stamina. We’re really excited, obviously.”
While Williams has shown the ability to break tackles and make something out of nothing, Gruden also credits Cadillac’s supporting cast.
“He’s creating, there’s no question, but he is getting some good looks,” Gruden said of Williams. “He hasn’t been hit and stymied initially very often. We’ve been able to get him started, and at times getting him through the line of scrimmage is an outstanding thing for him because he’s an exceptional runner. He deserves a tremendous amount of credit, but our offensive line has given him, I think, some consistent looks at the hole. He’s been able to see the initial hole and he’s been able to cut the ball back because of good back-side blocking. And when we get out into space, I’ve not seen anybody block by Michael Clayton ever in football as a wide receiver. He is a great blocking wide receiver. So it’s a collection of efforts right now in the running game. We’re very proud of what we’ve done for two weeks and we also realize we have a long way to go.
“They’re getting better. What they did yesterday was quite impressive at times, the run-blocking. I thought we might some nice pick-ups in the passing game, in terms of the blitz, as did our backs. The offensive line was good. The running backs, Cadillac, [Michael] Pittman ran hard, [Mike] Alstott ran hard. I don’t think the line and the tight ends got enough credit, to be honest with you. [Anthony] Becht and Alex Smith, two newcomers here, also had a large say in our success yesterday. Mike Alstott and Jameel Cook, as lead blockers in our two-back sets, also did some really good things. So it was a collective effort, but the offensive line, as we’ve said all along, is a work in progress and so far we’re improvement.”
Williams concurred with Gruden’s assessment of Tampa Bay’s run blockers.
“Those guys are working their butt off and playing great,” Williams said of the O-line. “You all saw the game yesterday. There were gaping holes there. It made my job a lot easier.”
NOWHERE TO RUN Tampa Bay’s defense currently ranks No. 2 overall in the NFL and has yet to allow an offensive touchdown.
Much of their success is due in part to the Bucs’ ability to halt opposing teams’ running games. Tampa Bay currently ranks No. 2 in run defense, which is improved from one year ago, when the Bucs ranked 19th in that category.
Although the entire defense has stepped up, Gruden said the Bucs’ outstanding play near the line of scrimmage has made a big difference against the run.
“You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that we’re better right now up front with (defensive tackles Chris) Hovan, with (Ellis) Wyms and with (Anthony) McFarland,” said Gruden. “Throw in (safeties) Jermaine Phillips and Dexter Jackson who really weren’t here most of the time last year and (cornerback) Juran Bolden, we’re a better defensive team than we were a year ago. There’s a lot of changing on both sides of the ball, these guys have rallied and come together for the first two weeks.”
GRUDEN CONCERNED WITH PENALTIES Although the Bucs are 2-0 for the first time since 2000, Gruden has at least one complaint with his team’s performance over the first two games of the season.
Tampa Bay has committed a total of 26 penalties for 198 yards in two games. Needless to say, Gruden is concerned with this particular aspect of his team’s play.
“I’m very concerned, we don’t hire officials for every practice and our training camp for any other reason than make it important,” said Gruden. “Seven penalties on special teams is unacceptable and certainly deflated us in terms of field position and Buffalo is a challenge in itself just to make a first down let alone when you’re backed up because of penalties. There were some questionable calls that I’ll get reviewed and get some information on from the league, but there were some careless errors that have to be eliminated or it will cost us games.”
TAMPA BAY PREPARES TO INVADE GREEN BAY Tampa Bay’s 19-3 win over Buffalo gave Gruden his first win in a home opener as Tampa Bay’s head coach.
Now Gruden will turn his attention to accomplishing another feat with the Bucs – beating the Packers in Green Bay.
That’s something Tampa Bay hasn’t done since 1989. In fact, the Bucs are 0-13 in games played in Wisconsin since ’89.
Gruden, who served as a wide receivers coach with the Packers from 1992-94, suggested there were several reasons why Lambeau Field has given the Bucs so many problems over the years.
“Well, I coached for three years, so I can honestly say, maybe, I know something about it,” Gruden said of Lambeu Field. “It’s just that they’ve had such great teams; they’ve had a quarterback who’s not been chopped liver. That has a lot to do with their success. Just great tradition, arguably, that venue, in my opinion, if you’re nostalgic or whatever your word is, if you love football, that’s just a special place. The weather can be a factor with a team coming from Florida, obviously. I just don’t know, I don’t know what it is; it’s just a special place.”
Not only would a win on Sunday end Tampa Bay’s losing streak in Wisconsin, it would improve the Bucs’ record to 3-0.
“It’s a good feeling in that locker room right now,” Gruden said. “It’s eye opening because we’ve got to go to Green Bay this week, we haven’t won there — it seems like forever since we won at Lambeau. So, we got a tough, tough challenge ahead of us.
“Green Bay is 0-2 and the greatness of the Packers is going to come out Sunday in Lambeau, and we have to be ready for it.”
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