Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers run defense shows early encouragement

Chris Hovan, stretching at training camp, helped limit the Titans’ powerful run game Saturday.

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times

Chris Hovan, stretching at training camp, helped limit the Titans’ powerful run game Saturday.

TAMPA — Last season, the sight of running backs blasting up the middle of the Bucs defensive line for big yardage became all too common. But if the preseason opener against Tennessee was any indication, Tampa Bay's defensive tackles have started to close the gap.

Chris Hovan, Ryan Sims and rookie Roy Miller clamped down on the Titans' high-powered running game in the first half Saturday, helping to prevent a run of longer than 5 yards by intermission. Tennessee made six first downs in the opening half, but none came on the run — a sign that the interior line may be gelling as it prepares for Saturday's preseason game in Jacksonville.

"It's a different mentality than last year," Sims said. "We're trying to be more physical with the offensive line. We're about attacking them. So this defense is built totally different than last year."

Instead of lining up in the gaps or trying to plug them, the tackles now set up facing the offensive linemen, allowing the linebackers to shoot the gaps.

"Everything starts with your line," Hovan said. "It always sets the tone for the game. Let Barrett (Ruud) and Quincy (Black) run free and make plays. It's up to us to set the tempo at the line of scrimmage."

"We just went out there and did what we've been practicing," said Miller, a third-round pick out of Texas. "We've been doing a good job all camp against the run. And we just need to keep getting better."

Coach Raheem Morris stressed Monday that there will be a three-man rotation all season. "Obviously, they all played really well the other night. Twelve (rushing) yards at halftime with smash and dash — I'm pretty ecstatic about that."

QB decision soon: Morris is still on schedule to name the starting quarterback after the Jacksonville game. That means Luke McCown or Byron Leftwich will be No. 1 heading into the third preseason game against Miami on Aug. 27 at Raymond James Stadium. Leftwich, drafted by the Jaguars No. 1 in 2003, will play the first quarter with McCown set to play the second.

"Here's your week, here's your show," Morris said. "It's been the whole process, the whole thing. They'll be graded on what they've done and what they're going to do this week."

Morris said he has seen leadership characteristics from McCown and Leftwich. Early next week, his decision on who will guide the offense could be divulged.

Clayton back: WR Michael Clayton, out the past week with a minor hamstring injury, returned to practice Monday. "It was a good time off; I did a lot of rest and recovery," he said. Clayton acknowledged it was frustrating to miss the preseason opener, but he's thrilled to be back at work. "The atmosphere around here is one to love. Everybody's happy when they come to work. Every team that I've been on and have had success with has had this type of atmosphere. So I'm really excited about the task at hand — being able to come back out here and finish off camp strong is going to be big for me."

Injury report: In addition to Clayton, C Jeff Faine (groin) and LB Angelo Crowell (hamstring strain) returned to practice. Morris expressed enthusiasm about Crowell's development as a strong-side linebacker and his determination (having missed 2008 with a knee injury). K Matt Bryant (hamstring) will be evaluated this week and could play Saturday.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers run defense shows early encouragement 08/17/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 18, 2009 7:49am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Rays journal: Alex Cobb brilliant, Alex Colome worrying in 10-inning victory (w/video)

    The Heater

    PITTSBURGH — RHP Alex Cobb couldn't have been much better for the Rays on Tuesday, taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning while working eight solid. And Alex Colome couldn't have been much worse, blowing a two-run ninth-inning lead.

    Rays starter Alex Cobb carries a no-hitter into the seventh and pitches eight shutout innings in his best outing of the season.
  2. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Tuesday's Rays-Pirates game

    The Heater

    RHP Alex Cobb continues to look better and better, which could make the decision whether to trade him tougher. Cobb had a no-hitter through six and threw his biggest pitch with a 1-0 lead in the seventh, getting Josh Bell to roll into a double play.

  3. For good of the Rays, Tim Beckham should embrace move to second

    The Heater

    PITTSBURGH — The acquisition of slick-fielding shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria said a lot of things, most notably that the Rays are serious about making in-season moves to bolster their chances to make the playoffs, with a reliever, or two, next on the shopping list.

    PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 27:  Tim Beckham #1 of the Tampa Bay Rays celebrates with teammates after scoring during the eighth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on June 27, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) 700011399
  4. Rays at Pirates, 7:05 p.m. Wednesday, Pittsburgh

    The Heater

    Tonight: at Pirates

    7:05, PNC Park, Pittsburgh

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    PORT CHARLOTTE, FL - FEBRUARY 18:  Blake Snell #4 of the Tampa Bay Rays poses for a portrait during the Tampa Bay Rays photo day on February 18, 2017 at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Floida.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
  5. Rays sign first-round pick Brendan McKay to record bonus

    The Heater

    PITTSBURGH — Determining whether top draft pick Brendan McKay will be more productive as a pitcher or a hitter or can handle the demands of doing both professionally will be a long endeavor that could take years.

    Louisville pitcher Brendan McKay  connects for a grand slam home run during the Atlantic Coast Conference baseball tournament against Notre Dame in May in Louisville, Ky. [Timothy D. Easley/theACC.com via AP]