TAMPA — The Bucs embarked on something of an experiment when they decided to play rookie DT Brian Price at nose tackle.
At UCLA, the second-round pick played more of a pass-rushing, gap-oriented position, referred to as the 3 technique (the player who lines up in the 3 gap). That allowed Price to take advantage of his quickness and explosion to shoot the gap and create havoc in the backfield.
What the Bucs are doing by using him as a nose tackle, however, is quite different. While first-round pick Gerald McCoy plays the 3 technique, Price is learning to play lined up over the center and take on double teams at nose tackle.
It all raises the question of whether Price's talents are being used properly. When asked, coach Raheem Morris said Price can be an effective 3 technique, adding the team plans to use him there from time to time.
"He's prepared and ready to do all those things," Morris said of Price. "Any time you play those inside positions, you have to be willing to move around a little bit. He plays some nose tackle for us to spell Roy (Miller). He can play some 3 technique to spell Gerald. We also have Ryan Sims, who is able to play those inside positions as well and have those guys in different packages to exploit their best talents. That's what we're trying to set those guys up in those positions to do."
Sims is listed as the backup to McCoy. Does that mean anything?
"If you write it down on paper, you'd say Sims is the backup 3 technique and (Price) is the backup nose. But I think when you play a football game … those guys are interchangeable, and that provides great depth for our roster."
The Bucs are looking for rapid improvement on their defensive line, and Morris believes there will be no matter who plays where.
"We're excited about these young players," he said. "If these guys can get out there and be able to provide for us what they've been able to provide in the preseason — a great push — hopefully we can get some results out of this and get to some quarterbacks and put some people on the ground. We're looking for that next step."
'Slippery' threat: The Bucs, who ranked last in the NFL in rushing defense last season, know they'll have their work cut out for them against Browns RB Jerome Harrison.
Harrison, who is Cleveland's featured back with Montario Hardesty out for the year, rushed for 561 yards over the final three games last season, including 286 against the Chiefs.
"You've got to make sure we have sure tackles," Bucs LB Geno Hayes said. "Because he's a guy who can really hurt you in the running game. He's kind of slippery. The guy has a lot of wiggle to him, and he runs hard."
Familiar face: Browns QB Jake Delhomme knows the Bucs well from his seven seasons with Carolina, going 9-2 against them as a starter. And it appears Delhomme has shaken off his struggles from last year, when he threw 18 interceptions (and just eight touchdowns) with a 59.4 rating and lost his starting job before getting cut.
Delhomme said the problems started with the five interceptions he threw against the Cardinals in the 2008 playoffs.
"I enjoyed all my time in Carolina except last year, football-wise," he said. "After playing so poorly in the playoff game, I think I put so much on myself not to make a mistake, and I'm not a player who plays that way. I let it get to me, trying to stay perfect, and it didn't work for me."
Stephen F. Holder can be reached at [email protected]