TAMPA — Why did the Bucs put out the welcome mat for Albert Haynesworth?
There are several reasons, not the least of which is they are a little desperate for help at defensive tackle.
The season-ending injury to Gerald McCoy left the Bucs with no defensive linemen who can be effective playing the three technique (on the outside shoulder of the guard in the B gap), the centerpiece of Tampa Bay's 4-3, one-gap scheme.
At 6 feet 6, 350 pounds, Haynesworth still has the quickness to penetrate and beat blockers one on one, meaning opponents can't simply slide protection toward NT Brian Price or double-team the defensive ends.
Haynesworth has about $750,000 left on the $1.5 million contract for 2011. What's more, having lost three of their past four games, the Bucs needed a little boost of confidence.
Acquiring Haynesworth sparked the locker room a bit, and veteran players said they took the move as a sign the Bucs front office was still in it to win it.
"I think we all feel there's still a big second half to this football season," GM Mark Dominik said. "That's eight more opportunities for these guys to really get this thing rolling the way we feel we can play defense. I don't think we've been a complete team all season. I don't want to make excuses. It is what it is. But at some point, we need to play more consistently.
"I'm hoping an addition like Albert Haynesworth, what his contribution can be and what he can do for us on Sundays, could continue to help the rush numbers, the pass numbers and all those numbers defensively and hopefully get more pressure on the quarterback as well because he plays in that three technique as well; to hopefully help us get more interceptions and possibly more turnovers. I hope he can bring that to us, and I've been encouraged by his practices."
As a waiver claim, the Bucs really have nothing invested in Haynesworth. They believe he will be motivated because this is his third team in a year — and first one that will allow him to play the same position he played during his heyday in Tennessee.
START ME UP: Unbelievably, the Bucs have not scored an offensive touchdown in the first quarter this season — eight games and counting.
Whether it has been a lack of execution, penalties or play-calling, the slow starts and frantic finishes are likely weighing on QB Josh Freeman.
"That's not the thought going into the game, and that's certainly an area we've got to continue to evaluate and fix," offensive coordinator Greg Olson said. "You don't go into the thing thinking, 'Let's not score in the first quarter. That's not the plan going in.
"We've got to get better with our execution. We've got to get better with the play-calling. We've got to get better with a lot of different things. But Josh Freeman, again, he's an NFL quarterback, and he's a good one. We're lucky to have him, and he'll be just fine."
FINE REDUX: Remember Phonegate? The NFL fined the Bucs $250,000 because coach Raheem Morris made seven calls from his cell phone to players during the lockout even though none of those conversations lasted more than five minutes. However, the league reduced the fine to $150,000, which was paid by the organization, not Morris.
Rick Stroud can be reached at email@example.com.