The slogan says, “Sam Adams, always a good choice.” That may be the case when deciding on a beer, but not so when you’re a rookie offensive lineman making your first NFL start.
In a world full of pints or even 40-ouncers, Cincinnati defensive tackle Sam Adams would be, without a doubt, a keg. The 13-year veteran is listed on the Bengals roster at 350 pounds, which probably means he’s closer to 360 or 365. Buccaneers guard Davin Joseph isn’t exactly diminutive, tipping the scales at 311 pounds, but when the two meet on Sunday something’s got to give.
“You have to stay low and be technically sound,” Joseph said. “Because he has experience, he’s not just big. He’s been a lot of different places and played well, so against a guy like that you really have to be on top of your technique. And against a smart player like that you cant tip away anything, pulls, pass, running plays. You have to be smart and play consistent.”
Adams’ job as a defensive tackle in coordinator Chuck Bresnahan’s scheme is not necessarily to make a lot of big plays himself, but rather to occupy space in the middle and tie up offensive linemen so that linebackers can make tackles. It’s that ability to occupy space that has gained Adams recognition around the league and three Pro Bowls over the last six years.
Cincinnati head coach Marvin Lewis signed Adams this past offseason, rekindling a relationship they shared when Lewis was defensive coordinator and Adams a defensive tackle for the Baltimore Ravens’ 2000 squad. Adams has started two Super Bowls since, with the Ravens in 2001 and in ’02 with the Raiders.
“Man, I think it will be fun. I think it will be a lot of fun,” Joseph said of his upcoming date with the King of Girth. “You get a guy like him and you just know you’re going to get a physical player. A strong dominant player. It’s great just going against somebody like that. I like bigger guys instead of the small quick guys.”
While Joseph has yet to face a single defensive tackle in an NFL game that’s meant anything, let alone a mountain such as Adams, he says that doesn’t mean he has no idea what it’s like. He simply points across the wall of lockers to an equally hefty Anthony Bryant. The 6-foot-3, 337-pound defensive tackle out of Alabama appeared in four games for the Bucs during his rookie season a year ago. Now on the practice squad, he and Joseph battle one another on a daily basis.
HEY, THAT’S MY BALL The Bucs’ first four opponents have been downright selfish when it has come to sharing the football. In four games, Tampa Bay has recorded one interception. And aside from the Carolina game, in which they recovered three fumbles, the Bucs defense hasn’t been all that successful in falling on the pigskin, missing out on six balls that hit the ground.
Buccaneers linebackers coach Joe Barry says the team’s lack of turnovers has hurt them, but he is a firm believer that “these things come in bunches.” And he’s hoping those bunches come this Sunday against a Bengals team with an early penchant for giving up the rock.
Cincinnati owned the league’s top turnover differential in 2005 at plus-24. The Carson Palmer-led offense gave up the ball just 20 times all year. But the Bengals have turned it over nine times already this season, most of which can de directly attributed to the Pro Bowl quarterback.
“This is a guy who over the last two games, against New England and Pittsburgh, when he has been sacked he has burped the ball up,” Barry said of Palmer. “And those are things that you have to prepare your team for and your players. And we do. We do interception drills and strip drills every week.”
Palmer has been sacked 15 times this season, 14 of those coming in the Bengals last three games. Barry says that pressure on the quarterback is in direct correlation to defensive turnovers.
“I don’t think you can ever go into a game and go ‘Okay guys, this Sunday we’re going to get two fumbles and two interceptions,” he said. “Now you can practice and talk about it. Obviously we believe in breaking on the football, and hopefully they come up that way, by just getting a great break on the ball and intercepting it. Obviously when you blitz a quarterback or get great pressure that helps because the quarterback might get rid of the ball before he wants to or get hit as he is throwing it.”
TIGHT ENDS HELP THE GROUND ATTACK Anthony Becht is one of the bigger tight ends around the league. At 6-foot-5, 275 pounds, his ability to run block can certainly help Cadillac Williams obtain his second 100-yard performance of the season.
In strong side formations, look for the seventh-year pro to help isolate and dispose of Cincinnati’s strongside linebacker, a position which has seen its fair share of rotation this season. Becht will most likely see Landon Johnson, who switched from weakside to strongside linebacker in the Bengals’ last game against New England.
Rookie Ahmad Brooks has also seen time at strongside linebacker as the Bengals have needed help stopping the run. At 259 pounds Brooks is a large body while the smaller Johnson (228 pounds) is the quicker of the two. Both are playing the strong side position to fill in for the loss of former first-round pick David Pollack, who broke his neck making a tackle on Cleveland running back Reuben Droughns on Sept. 17.
“I think they’re formidable linebackers,” Becht said. “[Brian] Simmons in the middle is a veteran who knows their system well and they have been rotating their strong side backer a lot. But if you’re in the NFL you’re a decent player and I respect for every one of them.
“We’ll take advantage, if he’s a bigger guy we’ll run him around, try to get him in coverage and do some things of that nature. With our sets we try to impose those four man formations where those linebackers have to cover Alex [Smith] or myself and get into space. Or, they have to cover a running back out of the backfield. So it makes it difficult for them. If we can confuse them a little bit it might be to our advantage.”
Opponents are averaging 4.6 yards per carry against the Bengals defense. New England touched them up for 236 yards and three touchdowns in a 38-13 week four loss. Becht hopes the Bucs have similar success.
“I think we got a spark on offense with our quarterback and our running game last week,” he said. “We just have to continue to improve off that. There is room for improvement. I thought we left a lot of yards out there the last game. We have to clean that up.”
INJURY UPDATE Bucs CB Juran Bolden (hip), WR/PR Mark Jones (hamstring), CB Brian Kelly (foot), TE/LS Dave Moore (rib), DE Simeon Rice (shoulder) and WR Maurice Stovall (back) are questionable for Sunday’s game. Simeon Rice, who missed practice Thursday with a shoulder injury, did return to practice Friday.
Two players – G Davin Joseph (knee), LB Ryan Nece (knee) – are listed as probable. Quarterback Chris Simms (Splenectomy) is out.