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Tampa Bay Buccaneers seek answers for slow starts

TAMPA — Coach Raheem Morris says it might be good that today's game against the Falcons is the Bucs' first 4:15 kickoff of the season.

"Because we usually don't get started until 3:30 anyway," Morris said.

But the Bucs' slow starts are no laughing matter. Morris' team was outscored a combined 37-13 in the first half of its games against Detroit and Minnesota.

In fact, it was much the same in 2010, when the Bucs were outscored by 30 in the first quarters.

Offensive coordinator Greg Olson said last week a lack of execution on offense has been the biggest problem, indicating to him maybe the Bucs were trying to do too much.

"It's a different feeling when you feel like you're getting physically manhandled, and I didn't feel like in either game it was a physical mismatch for us," Olson said. "I felt like it was a combination of penalties, sacks, mental breakdowns and things like that. That tells me as a coach I've got them overloaded with information because we're not executing.

"It's not a matter of getting beat. Occasionally, that was the case where a guy would get beat here or there. But across the board, we felt we matched up good against both football teams. We've just got to go back and clean up the execution part of it."

Look for the Bucs to try to get RB LeGarrette Blount rolling a little sooner. Coaches say Blount was guilty of not hitting the right holes during the first halves and hope that problem was ironed out during the second half at Minnesota.

For Blount to start fast, the Bucs' veteran offensive line has to be dominant.

"We talk about it during the week. The wide receivers will bring the energy, but we need the toughness and leadership from our offensive line," Olson said. "Throughout the season, we'll go as those guys go."

KOENEN FACTOR: One player might help swing the pendulum in the Bucs' favor today.

Punter and kickoff specialist Michael Koenen has switched sidelines, going from Atlanta to Tampa Bay. A year ago, the Bucs blew a 10-point second-half lead in part because of a 102-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Eric Weems. Had Koenen been with the Bucs, that kickoff likely would have resulted in a touchback.

The Bucs signed Koenen to a six-year, $19.5 million contract. He's averaging 49.3 yards on punts and has allowed only two kickoffs (among seven) to be returned for a combined 17 yards.

Meanwhile, Falcons rookie Matt Bosher had an 18-yard punt against the Eagles on Sunday.

"It was a little bit of everything," Koenen said of his decision to sign with the Bucs. "It was such a fast free agent period, but they definitely came hard after (me and my family), and I couldn't look away from it. It's a great situation here, and I'm grateful we chose to come here because every day I'm just more and more happy to be here."

T-JACK ISSUE: There are many hurdles for suspended S Tanard Jackson to clear before he can even apply for reinstatement to the NFL. Attending counseling and passing drug tests are only a few.

But assuming he meets the criteria put forth by commissioner Roger Goodell, it's not a slam dunk the Bucs would want him back.

For starters, Jackson has been suspended twice for violating the league's substance-abuse policy. It's unlikely the Bucs would put him in a position where he'd be relied upon every Sunday.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers seek answers for slow starts 09/23/11 [Last modified: Saturday, September 24, 2011 3:40pm]
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