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2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Sept. 04, 2006
Sept. 04, 2006

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Sept. 4, 2006

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2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Chris Simms--led offense needs a fast start to work out the kinks and gear up for a brutal second-half schedule

THE BELIEF
Coach Jon Gruden says Chris Simms has the perfect disposition (locker roomfriend to all) and the arm (as strong as any Gruden has worked with) to get histeam into the playoffs consistently. Tampa Bay will survive a brutal schedulein part because the Bucs will control the clock with a strong running game andan excellent run defense. "Tiger Woods plays his best in the biggesttournaments," says Gruden, "and I think our guys can do the same thingthis year."

This is an article from the Sept. 4, 2006 issue Original Layout

THE REALITY
Other than the fact that the veteran defense has aged another year, there's nota lot to dislike about this team. Behind Simms, Tampa Bay won six of its lasteight to snatch the NFC South title from Carolina. The fourth-year passershowed signs of quickly developing into one of the top 10 quarterbacks in theleague. "Great personality, gym rat, works his a-- off to get better, andhe's got the arm to make every throw," Gruden says. The knock on Simmscoming out of Texas was that he was off target too often, but in 12 games lastyear, including a wild-card playoff loss, he completed 61.5% of hispasses--plenty good enough in an offense with a lot of deep balls.

Simms creditsquarterbacks coach Paul Hackett ("The best thing to happen to me in my procareer," he says) for tightening his mechanics and making his pass dropsprecise. Says primary receiver Joey Galloway, "It's Chris's show now. He'sa young kid dying to be really good." For most of the off-season Simmsthrew five days a week, even when there were no receivers at the team'straining facility. When pass catchers were scarce in June, he enlisteddefensive tackle Ellis Wyms to play tight end and threw to him for an hour."My best attribute is I can throw all day, every day, and not get a sorearm," Simms says. "I need to be doing that now, so I can get used to myreceivers."

One wideout heworked with was newcomer David Boston, who looked sculpted in camp at 228pounds and who seems to realize his career's on the line. This is his fourthteam in five years, and he caught only four passes total over the last twoseasons. (Knee injuries ruined his time in Miami.) Now he's running pain-free."He could be a monster for us," Simms says.

The youngquarterback and his receivers need to get it together early, to the tune of,say, a 7--1 start. That's because five of the last eight games are on the road,and in November the Bucs face a brutal stretch of three games in 11 days: atCarolina on Monday, home to Washington the following Sunday and at Dallas onThanksgiving. Oh, and both Super Bowl teams, Pittsburgh and Seattle, are on theDecember calendar. "All the NFL people worried about player safetyevidently weren't consulted on our schedule," Gruden says. "Three gamesin 11 days, two on the road? Come on."

Then there's age.Six of the 11 defensive starters are 30 and older: corners Ronde Barber (31)and Brian Kelly (30), linebackers Derrick Brooks (33) and Shelton Quarles (34)and ends Simeon Rice (32) and Greg Spires (32). All avoided injury in 2005, butthe chance of that happening in '06 is slim. Tampa Bay can't count on thedefense, which was tops in the league, to be as good. That's why Simms'sdevelopment is vital.

2006 SCHEDULE

SEPTEMBER
10 BALTIMORE
17 at Atlanta
24 CAROLINA

OCTOBER
1 Bye
8 at New Orleans
15 CINCINNATI
22 PHILADELPHIA
29 at N.Y. Giants

NOVEMBER
5 NEW ORLEANS
13 at Carolina (M)
19 WASHINGTON
23 at Dallas (T)

DECEMBER
3 at Pittsburgh
10 ATLANTA
17 at Chicago
24 at Cleveland
31 SEATTLE

(M) Monday (T)Thursday

SCHEDULESTRENGTH

NFL rank
T3
Opponents' 2005 winning percentage
.539
Games against playoff teams
8

ENEMY LINES
AN OPPOSING TEAM'S SCOUT SIZES UP THE BUCCANEERS

> I'll betJon Gruden, who has never loved Kenyatta Walker at right tackle, replaces himby midseason with second-round pick Jeremy Trueblood. He's a monster.

> One otherthing about that line: I don't trust the interior of it to keep Chris Simmsclean. He'd better have his running shoes on.

> I like thereceiving corps as a group but don't love a single one of them. Will JoeyGalloway stay healthy and give them 83 catches again? I doubt it. You knowwho's got the best hands of anyone on that team? Michael Pittman, the backuprunning back.

> If SimeonRice can't rush the passer or gets hurt, God help Tampa Bay. You don't wantDewayne White or Greg Spires being your big sack guy.

The best player in the secondary, Ronde Barber, covers well, tackles well andblitzes like Rod Woodson did.

BREAKOUTPLAYER
Alex Smith
TIGHT END

As a precociousrookie from Stanford last season, Smith quickly became the Buccaneers'pass-catching tight end and finished second on the team with 41 receptions.Because he'll face constant pressure this season (seven of Tampa Bay's gamesare against teams that were ranked in the top 10 in defense in 2005),quarterback Chris Simms, like it or not, will be forced to find the lithe6'4", 258-pound Smith on underneath routes. Look for Smith to boost hisreception total to at least 60.

PROJECTEDSTARTING LINEUP
WITH 2005 STATISTICS

COACH
JON GRUDEN (73--55 in NFL), fifth season with Tampa Bay

OFFENSE

JOEY GALLOWAY
POS WR
REC 83
YARDS 1,287
TD 10

CADILLACWILLIAMS
POS RB
RUSH 290
YARDS 1,178
TD 6

CHRIS SIMMS
POS QB
ATT 313
COMP 191
PCT 61.0
YARDS 2,035
TD 10
INT 7
RATING 81.4

MIKE ALSTOTT
POS RB
RUSH 34
YARDS 80
TD 6

MICHAEL CLAYTON
POS WR
REC 32
YARDS 372
TD 0

KENYATTAWALKER
POS RT
HT 6'5"
WT 302
G 16

DAVIN JOSEPH(R)--NEW ACQUISITION
POS RG
HT 6'2"
WT 304
G 12

SEAN MAHAN
POS C
HT 6'3"
WT 301
G 16

DAN BUENNING
POS LG
HT 6'4"
WT 320
G 16

ANTHONY DAVIS
POS LT
HT 6'4"
WT 322
G 16

ALEX SMITH
POS TE
REC 41
YARDS 367
TD 2

MATT BRYANT
POS K
FG 21-25
POINTS 94

DEFENSE

DERRICK BROOKS
POS WLB
TACKLES 125
SACKS 3
INT 1

GREG SPIRES
POS LE
TACKLES 47
SACKS 4

CHRIS HOVAN
POS LT
TACKLES 45
SACKS 0

ANTHONYMCFARLAND
POS RT
TACKLES 27
SACKS 2

SIMEON RICE
POS RE
TACKLES 40
SACKS 14

RYAN NECE
POS SLB
TACKLES 76
SACKS 2
INT 0

RONDEBARBER
POS CB
TACKLES 99
INT 5

WILL ALLEN
POS FS
TACKLES 48
SACKS 0
INT 3

SHELTONQUARLES
POS MLB
TACKLES 129
SACKS 1
INT 0

JERMAINEPHILLIPS
POS SS
TACKLES 61
SACKS 0
INT 0

BRIAN KELLY
POS CB
TACKLES 50
INT 4

JOSHBIDWELL
POS P
PUNTS 90
AVG 45.6

(R) Rookie(college statistics)

2005 RECORD11--5

NFL RANK (RUSH/PASS/TOTAL)
OFFENSE 14/25/23
DEFENSE 6/6/1

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PHOTOREINHOLD MATAY/WIREIMAGE.COM (RICE) OLDRELIABLE
While the offense matures, the Bucs will expect Rice and the veteran defense tohold foes in check.
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