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OPPONENT: Jacksonville Jaguars

WHERE: Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla.

WHERE THE JAGUARS STAND: The Jaguars are 4-2 and are tied with the Tennessee Titans for second place in the AFC South division.    





OVERALL: 24th (314.9 ypg)
RUSHING: 19th (102.7 ypg)
PASSING: 18th (212.1 ypg)

OVERALL: 12th (308.9 ypg)
RUSHING: 21st (123.3 ypg)
PASSING: 5th (185.6 ypg)

OVERALL: 14th (333.7 ypg)
RUSHING: 3rd (148.5 ypg)
PASSING: 26th (185.2 ypg)

OVERALL: 13th (318.0 ypg)
RUSHING: 13th (103.8 ypg)
PASSING: 17th (214.2 ypg)

… the Jaguars are 2-0 on the road this season?


Jacksonville made one of the more controversial moves of the preseason when it released former first-round pick, QB Byron Leftwich, who had underachieved with the Jaguars. That move anointed David Garrard the Jaguars’ undisputed starting quarterback. It’s been tough for anyone to question that decision. Garrard has completed 66.2 percent of his passes for 1,142 yards and tossed six touchdowns and no interceptions this season. However, Garrard injured his ankle on Monday night in a 29-7 loss to Indianapolis and will not play against Tampa Bay. That's significant blow to Jacksonville’s offense as backup QB Quinn Gray, a former Florida A&M standout, struggled in Garrard’s absence, completing just 9-of-24 passes (37.3 percent) for 56 yards and tossing no touchdowns and two interceptions.

Running Backs
The strength of Jacksonville’s offense is its running game. In fact, the Jaguars currently have the third-best ground attack in the NFL, averaging 149 yards per game. The Jaguars will rely on running backs Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew even more if Garrard is unable to play. Both players are dangerous runners. Taylor has carried the ball 72 times for 352 yards (4.9 avg.) and Jones-Drew has rushed 67 times for 359 yards (5.4 avg.) and four touchdowns. These two players are the main reasons why the Jaguars have been converting 45 percent of their third downs in 2007. Tampa Bay’s defense has had mixed results against the run this season. Last week, the Bucs allowed the Lions to rush for nearly 150 yards and average 6.1 yards per carry. Tampa Bay will aim to stop the run and dare the Jaguars to beat them through the air on Sunday, even if it means bringing strong safety Jermaine Phillips up in the box to help the front seven contain Taylor and Jones-Drew.

Wide Receivers
Jacksonville’s wide receiving corps is littered with talent, but most of these players have underachieved in Jacksonville. Veteran WR Dennis Northcutt has had a consistent career and is Jacksonville’s most reliable receiving threat. He leads the team in catches with 22 for 308 yards and one touchdown. Former first-round pick Reggie Williams is Jacksonville’s other starter. He has caught just 11 passes for 102 yards, but has proven to be a dangerous red zone threat, evidenced by his three touchdowns.

Should the Jaguars feature three-receiver sets, Ernest Wilford will take the field. He has hauled in 13 passes for 132 yards. Both players are 6-feet-4, but they have trouble separating from defenders. The Bucs are hoping to get cornerback Brian Kelly back from a groin injury this week, but they might not need him. If Kelly can’t play again this week due to injury, nickel CB Phillip Buchanon and Ronde Barber will start while Sammy Davis likely will see action as the team’s nickel cornerback. The two other players Tampa Bay’s defense must account for in the passing game are Jones-Drew, who has 16 catches for 174 yards and is a threat on swing and screen passes, and tight end Marcedes Lewis, who has also hauled in 16 passes for 174 yards. Tampa Bay will rely mostly on outside linebackers Derrick Brooks and Cato June to help cover Jones-Drew out of the backfield. Phillips could be called on to help contain the 6-foot-6, 235-pound Lewis.

Offensive Line
This might be the most physical and biggest group of offensive linemen Tampa Bay’s defense faces this season. Jacksonville’s offensive line consists of all veterans, including left tackle Khalif Barnes (6-5, 325), left guard Vince Manuwai (6-2, 325), center Brad Meester (6-3, 300), right guard Chris Naeole (6-3, 330) and right tackle Tony Pashos (6-6, 320). Tampa Bay’s front four is quick, but undersized, which could present some real problems for defensive ends Kevin Carter and Greg Spires and defensive tackles Jovan Haye and Chris Hovan. The Jaguars likely will have some success running the ball, but the Bucs must continue to keep players fresh by working Gaines Adams, Greg Peterson and Greg White into the rotation and get the defense off of the field on Sunday. While Jacksonville’s offensive line is extremely physical and capable of opening up holes for the running backs, pass protection has been an issue for this unit. The Jaguars have surrendered 18 sacks through six games (average of three sacks per game). They probably won’t do it often, but when the Jaguars have Quinn drop back to pass the Bucs front four must get after the passer in a hurry.

Defensive Line
It won’t be easy for Tampa Bay’s offense to move the ball against Jacksonville’s defense, which ranks 13th in the NFL and is giving up the second-lowest number of points per game (14.5) of any team this season. Everything starts up front with Jacksonville’s defense, which features two former first-round draft picks along the line in defensive tackles Marcus Stroud and John Henderson. The 6-foot-7, 325-pound Henderson likely will draw double teams from Bucs center John Wade and rookie left guard Arron Sears, which should leave Stroud (6-6, 306) in some one-on-one matchups with Bucs second-year G Davin Joseph, who has been inconsistent. Left end Reggie Hayward will go up against Bucs right tackle Jeremy Trueblood, who had his worst outing of the season last week against Detroit while battling a stomach bug. He’ll have to be on top of his game against Hayward, who has one sack, and DE Paul Spicer, who is used in obvious passing situations and has been quite effective, evidenced by his five sacks, when healthy. Tampa Bay left tackle Donald Penn will be responsible for protecting the blind side of quarterback Jeff Garcia. He will go up against DE Bobby McCray, who still is looking for his first sack, and Spicer. It could be extremely difficult for the Bucs to find success running the ball since RB Earnest Graham might not have the speed necessary to attack the perimeter, and speedy RB Michael Bennett is still learning the offense. That said, look for Bucs head coach Jon Gruden to call on Garcia to run bootlegs in an effort to keep Jacksonville’s defense off balance and attack weaknesses in the secondary.  

Jacksonville middle linebacker Mike Peterson is a good run defender. The Jaguars often times call on him to blitz. He has two sacks and currently is ranked second on the team in tackles. The Bucs could attempt to work this part of the field with their tight ends and running backs in the passing game, but TE Alex Smith (ankle) may not play. Graham, however, is coming off of a 13-catch performance vs. the Lions and should see more passes thrown his way. Jaguars outside linebackers Clint Ingram and Daryl Smith will also attempt to defend the run and pass and are not considered great playmakers, but they could be tested early by Tampa Bay’s ground game, which should attempt to move the ball along the perimeter. The Jaguars are surrendering an average of 104 yards rushing per game this season.

The Jaguars play quite a bit of man-to-man coverage, which could bode well for the Buccaneers passing attack. This type of coverage should allow Garcia to get WR Joey Galloway more involved in the passing game. However, Galloway won’t have an easy time getting open vs. Jaguars cornerback Rashean Mathis (6-1, 200). Mathis is a tremendous playmaker and good cover corner. He hauled in eight interceptions last year and has already picked off one pass and forced a fumble in 2007. Jacksonville strong safety Sammy Knight actually leads the team in tackles, which means he’s having to play the run and/or tackle players after they make receptions too often. The Jaguars would like to leave Knight back in coverage, but if he has to play near or inside the box look for Garcia to throw Galloway’s way. With Galloway struggling to get open vs. zone coverage over the last few weeks, WR Ike Hilliard has emerged as Garcia’s favorite target. Hilliard has caught a team-leading 36 passes for 455 yards and one touchdown. He will be covered by CB Brian Williams, who has a team-leading two interceptions. Williams will receive some help from rookie free safety Reggie Nelson, who has one sack and one interception this season. Jacksonville is allowing its opponents to pass for 214 yards per game and convert nearly 42 percent of their third downs.

Special Teams
Tampa Bay’s coverage units will have to be on top of their respective games vs. Jacksonville. Jones-Drew is averaging a whopping 28.4 yards per kickoff return this season. His longest return, a 64-yarder, came against the Colts on Monday night. Northcutt handles punt return duties for the Jaguars and is averaging 7.1 yards per return. The Bucs simply cannot afford to give the Jaguars offense, which ranks 14th in the NFL, a short field to work with. Jaguars kicker John Carney has made 7-of-9 (77.8 percent) of his field goals this year. Both of his misses were within the 40-49-yard range. Bucs K Matt Bryant has made 81.8 percent of his kicks this season, but he had a costly miss vs. Detroit last Sunday. Field goals will be huge in this game, which likely will be low scoring. Punter Adam Podlesh is averaging just 40.9 yards per punt. While he isn’t known for his strong leg, Podlesh did have a 56-yarder this season. With return specialist Mark Jones going on injured reserve this week, the Bucs likely will use several players, including Hilliard and Buchanon, to return punts.

FLYNN’S FORECAST: Buccaneers 13  Jaguars 10

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