Make us your home page

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 running game problems do not concern coach Raheem Morris

Raheem Morris says the Bucs are still working on the zone blocking schemes installed during the offseason.


Raheem Morris says the Bucs are still working on the zone blocking schemes installed during the offseason.

TAMPA — For a team that touted its efforts to establish a "downhill" running game in its new offensive scheme, the Bucs on Saturday night had one heck of an uphill climb.

But even with the starting offense rarely finding running lanes in a 27-20 preseason-opening loss to the Titans, coach Raheem Morris was not deterred.

Instead, Morris attributed the slow start to technicalities such as "backside cutoff blocks." Overall, Morris found little reason to sweat.

That might sound surprising given starter Earnest Graham's significant struggles to find creases despite a new zone blocking scheme designed to create them.

"We got better as the game went along, and you saw some guys execute some things; take one more step, follow through," Morris said of the offensive line, which played without injured center Jeff Faine.

"You saw us get some people on the ground. That's when you saw (Clifton Smith) hit some of those holes. And you actually saw Derrick Ward hit some of the holes early when he got in. Earnest got the bad luck of it because we were just getting used to it."

If this truly is a matter of adjusting to running the scheme at full speed against an aggressive and physical defense such as the Titans, then, perhaps, the Bucs will be fine long-term. But the numbers are still disconcerting. While the entire starting offensive line was in the game, the Bucs' eight rushing attempts went for: 2 yards, 2, minus-3, 0, 7, 1, 2 and minus-1.

As Morris pointed out, things did get progressively better. But what about that rough start?

There were a couple of missed assignments by linemen and tight ends, Morris said. And the Titans kept many members of their starting front seven in the game longer than expected, making things tougher as the Bucs tried to acclimate themselves.

Tennessee also was playing its second preseason game after defeating Buffalo on Aug. 9.

As for Graham, Morris said his sporadic four carries (for 1 yard) aren't a good measurement of his performance.

"Earnest is a win-by-attrition back," Morris said. "Unless Earnest gets the ball a good amount of times, he's probably not going to look real great."

Regarding the quarterback battle, Morris defended Luke McCown's reluctance to throw deep in favor of underneath routes.

"The couple of down-the-field shots he had, one time the receiver didn't run a (route) that he wanted," Morris said. "The other time was a misread by a receiver when we had a chance down the field. I didn't see the opportunities to get the ball down the field like (Byron Leftwich) had when he got in there."

Morris said the coaching staff will begin making a decision on a regular-season starter after Saturday's game at Jacksonville, which Leftwich will start.

Meanwhile, Morris conceded it's possible first-round pick Josh Freeman's development has been stunted by his lack of participation in full-team portions of training camp. Because coaches are spending so much time evaluating McCown and Leftwich, Freeman and Josh Johnson haven't had many opportunities.

Freeman finished 5-of-9 for 52 yards and threw an interception returned for a touchdown. But Morris complimented his composure despite his limited preparation. At one point, Morris said, a communication issue forced Freeman to call his own play. He ran a draw that went for 7 yards.

"That's the stuff you don't see," Morris said. "It was awesome."

Injury report

Morris said Faine (groin) and receiver Michael Clayton (left hamstring) are among those expected to return possibly today. Both should play at Jacksonville.

Morris said receiver Antonio Bryant is "looking great" after left knee surgery and is on schedule to return in about two weeks.

Saturday's injuries included an ankle sprain for receiver Dexter Jackson, shoulder injury for safety Will Allen and hamstring strain for linebacker Rod Wilson. Each is day to day.

Stephen F. Holder can be reached at

Camp information

Where: One Buccaneer Place, Tampa

Admission: Free and open to the public, but a ticket is required. For tickets, register for the One Buc Club at The team will e-mail information on how to select and print tickets. Tickets will be available on practice days if all have not been distributed.

Et cetera: All practices are weather permitting and subject to change; for updates go to

Practice and game schedule

Today: 2:45-4:35 p.m.

Tuesday: 10:15 a.m.-12:25 p.m.; 4:55-7 p.m.

Wednesday: 2:30-4:20 p.m.

Saturday: at Jaguars, 7:30, Ch. 8

Aug. 27: vs. Dolphins, 8, Raymond James Stadium, Ch. 13

Sept. 4: vs. Texans, 7, Raymond James Stadium, Ch. 8

Tampa Bay Buccaneers running game problems do not concern coach Raheem Morris 08/16/09 [Last modified: Monday, August 17, 2009 7:20am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Fennelly: Bucs' Roberto Aguayo has his backers, no matter how many kicks he misses


    He was perfect Friday, and not just because he didn't have to kick.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicker Roberto Aguayo (19) takes a photo with fans following the first day of training camp at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Friday, July 28, 2017.
  2. Rookie Kendell Beckwith pleased with first Bucs practice


    Bucs rookie linebacker Kendell Beckwith is eight months and a week removed from November surgery to repair a torn ACL, so there was a proud sense of accomplishment in getting himself healthy enough to be on the field for the opening practice of training camp Friday.

    Bucs inside linebacker Kendell Beckwith (51) defends tight end Cameron Brate (84) during the first day of training camp. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  3. Criticism part of the game for Bucs' Gerald McCoy, who is chasing 'ghosts'


    Who crossed the line with their criticism of Gerald McCoy?

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy jokes with teammates during the first day of training camp at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Friday, July 28, 2017.
  4. 2-year-old girl shows football team how its done


    ST. PETERSBURG — Football players may dread summer workouts, but not two-year-old Sophie Rosendale. She loves joining her father, St. Petersburg offensive line coach Mike Rosendale, three times a week for the Green Devils summer conditioning. Not only does she shout encouragement like her dad, she also straps on …

    Sophie Rosendale, 2, front, warms up with offensive lineman during practice at St. Petersburg High School, Wednesday. Rosendale is the daughter of offensive line coach Mike Rosendale. "She has been coming to practice for about one year," said Rosendale who has been a coach at the the school for 10 seasons. "She likes to show the players the proper techniques." [Photo/  Mike Rosendale]