TAMPA — The Bucs struggled slowing down a trio of running backs — the Steelers' Rashard Mendenhall, Bengals' Cedric Benson and little-known Chris Ivory of the Saints — the past three games.
And on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium, Tampa Bay faces its toughest challenge yet, in Rams two-time Pro Bowl RB Steven Jackson.
Jackson, 27, who is also a weapon as receiver, has rushed for more than 100 yards in back-to-back weeks and needs 32 against the Bucs to become the Rams' all-time leading rusher, passing Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson (7,245 yards).
The Bucs rank 31st in rush defense (157 yards per game).
"He's big, he's powerful, he's fast," coach Raheem Morris said. "He can catch the ball out of the backfield, he can do it all. He can run routes. He plays on third downs. He's able to block. He's one of those rare commodities in the league where people can go with one back."
Bucs DE/DT Kyle Moore said a big thing with Jackson is he's so … big (6 feet 2, 231 pounds).
"He doesn't go down easy," Moore said. "So when you hit him, you've got to really hit him. Everybody has to swarm to the ball to get him down. Arm tackles and shoulder tackles are not going to bring him down. Swarming will be a big thing."
Jackson is a pass-catching threat out of the backfield or lined up at receiver. Since 2006, he leads the NFL with 121.4 yards from scrimmage per game (minimum 40 games).
"Steven Jackson, he's a problem," Morris said. "He's a dynamic pain in the neck to watch when you watch on tape from a defensive coordinator's perspective."
STEPPING IN: Offensive coordinator Greg Olson has said the Bucs would give RBs LeGarrette Blount and Kregg Lumpkin a hard look this week and, potentially, use Lumpkin in a dual role (fullback/tailback), depending on FB Earnest Graham's injured hamstring.
Lumpkin said he has had a lot of reps at fullback during practice and is excited for the potential opportunity. Since getting claimed off waivers Sept. 5, Lumpkin has been active for two games, with no carries.
"You've just got to be an all-around back, that's what I'm trying to be," he said. "When my number is called, I'll be ready."
Lumpkin said he played fullback before he started as a tailback but hasn't played the position in the NFL or at the University of Georgia. He's still trying to catch up on all the Bucs terminology, but he has impressed coaches.
"He's an intelligent player, he's got quickness," Olson said. "He's shown some good speed."
INJURY REPORT: LB Barrett Ruud (toe), Graham (hamstring) and TE Kellen Winslow (knee) returned to practice Thursday. G Davin Joseph (knee) missed another practice, but Morris said he expects him to play Sunday.
"He's not been participating, but he's been at a couple walk-throughs and has been a part of everything as far as the meetings and the schedule," Morris said.
Morris also said that G Keydrick Vincent was limited due to back spasms. With both Vincent and Joseph out, Morris said Ted Larsen, James Lee and Derek Hardman (on the practice squad) got reps in practice at guard.
Times staff writer Stephen F. Holder contributed to this report. Joe Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.