By Tom Krasniqi
You hear the adage all the time in football – It all starts up front. The Bucs offensive line is starting to blow people off the ball. The offense is starting to click and the running game is finally getting off the ground.
Over the last two games, Tampa Bay has rushed for 345 yards and that came against the Seahawks and Dolphins, two teams who aren’t pushovers defensively. Even with running backs Doug Martin (shoulder) and Mike James (ankle) on injured reserve, the Bucs have found a way to pound the running game.
The offensive line has emerged the last two weeks. What was the turning point? You can point to couple of different things. First off, the play of Jamon Meredith at left guard has been outstanding. The 27-year old has been physical in the run game. Meredith was a 5th round pick of the Packers back in 2009 but he’s bounced around the league. He’s also been with the Bills, Giants and Steelers before coming to Tampa Bay last season. The fact that he’s a journeyman actually helps his cause.
“Whenever you got a guy who’s going to give you everything’s he’s got—he’s tired of bouncing from place to place and ready to find a true home—he’s just humble and he’s hungry. That’s big,” right tackle Demar Dotson explained when talking about Meredith.
Right guard Davin Joseph is looked upon as the leader of the group. Two weeks ago before the Seattle game, Joseph delivered a pep talk to the rest of the offensive line: Let’s crank up this running game.
“Being physical and doing all the little things to make the run game work,” Joseph said after Thursday’s practice. “We had some really good success [in Seattle] that we carried over to this week [against Miami] and we like it. We like the fact that our head coach and offensive coordinator put that trust in us.”
Head coach Greg Schiano is a run-first type of guy and he’s getting those results. The most impressive part about all of this is that Martin and left guard Carl Nicks had nothing to do with this. In fact, the Bucs are down to their 3rd and 4th string running backs after James went down in the Dolphins game. Brian Leonard and Bobby Rainey picked up the slack and combined for 102 yards on 28 carries.
The Bucs could have more success this week as the faltering 2-7 Falcons come to town on Sunday. Atlanta’s rush defense is 27th in the NFL as they allow an average of 127 yards rushing per game. Expect the Bucs to keep pounding that rock.
As for the Thursday injury report, LG Carl Nicks (foot) and DE Da’Quan Bowers (concussion) did not practice. CB Mike Adams (knee) and SS Mark Barron (knee) were limited. WR Vincent Jackson (knee), RG Davin Joseph (knee), WR Chris Owusu (foot), LT Donald Penn (calf), DT Akeem Spence (wrist) and CB Danny Gorrer (groin) practiced fully. VJax, Joseph and Owusu were upgraded to full practices on Thursday.
Injuries for the Falcons: TE Tony Gonzalez (toe), WR Harry Douglas (knee) and DE Malliciah Goodman (calf) did not practice. DT Corey Peters (knee), DT Peria Jerry (toe) RB Jason Snelling (knee) and WR Roddy White (shoulder) were limited. RB Steven Jackson (toe) and LB Sean Weatherspoon (foot) were upgraded to full practices. Douglas was added to the injury report on Thursday.
News & Notes:
- Bucs DE Da’Quan Bowers hasn’t been cleared yet to practice because of concussion-like symptoms. His availability for Sunday is in doubt.
- Schiano says LG Carl Nicks (MRSA/foot) is improving, but no decision yet on whether he’ll return this season.
- Schiano on rookie DE William Gholston: “He’s growing up. He’s learning how to use all his strength.” Gholston saw 21 snaps against Miami and could be in line for more playing time if Bowers doesn’t play this week.
- Jonathan Casillas has been starting over Dekoda Watson at SLB. Schiano praised Casillas’ play over the last two games: “Very physical player.”
- Schiano defended Dashon Goldson’s personal foul penalty against Dolphins WR Rishard Matthews. Goldson got in the face of a helmet-less Matthews and was flagged. However, Schiano was not happy with punt returner Eric Page’s personal foul call. Schiano called it a “rookie mistake.” His message to Page: “It better never happen again.”
- The Bucs are holding their annual “Sack Hunger” food drive this Sunday. Fans are urged to bring canned foods, including boxed nonperishable food and peanut butter, to the game. Collections will take place from 11am-1:30pm. Volunteers from Feeding America Tampa Bay, Metropolitan Ministries and Raymond James Financial will accept donations at yellow collection tents right in front of the parking lots as you approach the stadium.
- This Sunday, the Bucs welcome in the Atlanta Falcons to Raymond James Stadium. You can catch the game on 620 WDAE and 95.3FM with our coverage beginning at 9am with Countdown to Kickoff.
- For the latest Bucs news, keep it locked all day long on 620 WDAE and 95.3FM, your home of the Bucs and the best Bucs coverage. Don’t forget to check out the Bucs blog at 620wdae.com for the latest news and audio clips.