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Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense lacks speedy options

Darren Sproles, a speedy running back, was a free agent this past offseason and signed with the Saints.

Associated Press

Darren Sproles, a speedy running back, was a free agent this past offseason and signed with the Saints.

TAMPA — Having big-armed quarterback Josh Freeman play in an offense that lacks the speed for a vertical passing game is like taking an oversized driver to the Putt-Putt course.

No wonder Freeman has felt the pressure to force the ball downfield as the lack of explosive plays and play-makers has been crippling this season.

The Bucs' fastest receiver is Arrelious Benn, who is coming off a torn ACL. Mike Williams makes some yards after the catch and found the end zone 11 times last season as a rookie, but he's not a burner.

In the backfield, the Bucs have preferred big backs to scat backs.

"I think that's kind of a truth serum," coach Raheem Morris said. "We don't have (Saints RB) Darren Sproles. We don't have (Saints WR) Devery Henderson. Regis is kind of our explosive guy. He's got to come back and be explosive for us.

"You need an explosive guy. You need to keep adding tools. But by no means have we said we're a finished product. No doubt about that. And you see that when you get clear-cut examples coming to your stadium like the New Orleans Saints and how explosive they are."

The Bucs have only nine pass plays of 20 yards or longer this season, only one by Williams. After five games last season, they had 16.

Most of the big plays in the passing game have been set up by play-action, the result of RB LeGarrette Blount's relentless pounding that forces safeties to creep increasingly closer to the line of scrimmage.

But Blount has a sprained left knee that likely will force him to miss the next two games. And his replacement, Earnest Graham, is similar in speed if not stature.

Of course, the Bucs had a chance to address this problem during the offseason. But general manager Mark Dominik wasn't that interested in making a run at Sproles or Reggie Bush to add some dash to the backfield, and there weren't many free agent receivers who are deep threats.

So the Bucs will have to grind it out again this season.

"We'll continue to get better," Morris said.

"But until then, I won't make excuses for not having that type of guy."

CONCESSION: Morris made a sobering but honest assessment last week about playing Saints QB Drew Brees: He's going to throw for at least 300 yards.

"Got to look at the history," Morris said. "Wins, losses, whatever. At the end of the day, he has 300 yards. You can't stop him. But you might have two picks. You run back a punt. Something happens that changes the game."

LESSONS LEARNED: Former Bucs defensive line coach Rod Marinelli used to say there are two kinds of players and coaches in the NFL: those who are humble and those who are about to be humbled.

That's why the Bucs' 48-3 loss at San Francisco last week might not be the worst thing to happen to them this season.

A young team, even one that had won 13 out of 20 games, has to learn to be prepared each week or they can get their block knocked off.

"You've got to move in silence," Morris said. "You've got to move humble, and you've got to win humble.

"A lot of good things happen when you get humbled."

Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense lacks speedy options 10/15/11 [Last modified: Saturday, October 15, 2011 5:30pm]
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