The Tampa Bay Buccaneers head to Colorado to take on the Denver Broncos today, who like Tampa Bay, are 3-1 on the season. The Broncos have a potent offense – 2nd in the league in points scored – but a dismal defense – 2nd in the league in points allowed. Here are some of the key players in today’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ game.
Brian Griese, QB, Tampa Bay
Despite not playing the Bucs’ first game, Griese is 6th in the NFL in pass attempts. Obviously the 67 attempts against the Chicago Bears make a huge difference in that statistic, but if he had played in the season opener, he would most likely be leading the league in attempts. Who realistically would’ve thought the Bucs would be passing the ball this much?
Here’s the problem, he also is tied with Derek Anderson with a league-worst 6 interceptions. Many will point to Griese’s 3-0 record as a starter this year and say the rest doesn’t matter. It’s very true that wins are the most important thing there is. You play to win. Plain and simple. But there’s no way the Bucs will keep winning if the starting quarterback is throwing 3 picks a game. Griese has led the Bucs to their 3-1 record, but he needs to tighten up his game if he hopes to lead them further.
Warrick Dunn, RB, Tampa Bay
You all know Earnest Graham is having a great year so far and the starter is on pace for 1,300+ yards. But did you also know that Dunn is tied for 26th in the league in rushing, has only one game with less than 49 yards, and is on pace for nearly 800 yards on the season?
When Dunn came back to the Bucs in the offseason, fans were excited. There were mixed expectations of his play on the field, but fans were glad he was back in a Tampa Bay uniform. So far, Dunn has proved he has a lot left in the tank. He still has some of the speed and agility that has made him so good during his career. Initially thought of as a complimentary player, Dunn has proved vital to the offense. He is the perfect lightning to Graham’s thunder and creates a number of mismatches when subbing in for the starter.
Michael Pittman, RB, Denver
I’ll just give a quick mention of the former Buccaneer, but he’s worthy of bringing up. Pittman has only 23 carries this season, but has scored 4 times. The only game he didn’t get into the end zone, the Broncos lost.
Eddie Royal, WR, Denver
In 3 games this season, Brandon Marshall has 31 catches for 398 yards and 3 touchdowns. I’ll let you do the math, but those equate to some pretty impressive per game averages. So if Marshall is the superstar receiver, why am I listing Royal as one of the key players? Because the Bucs can’t forget about him. Opposing teams are quick to identify Marshall as the key the Broncos’ offense. But the rookie out of Virginia Tech – Royal – has been very good himself. In the Broncos first game of the season, Royal caught 9 passes for 146 yards with Marshall out. Many thought it was a fluke since Marshall wasn’t in the game, but last week against Kansas City, with Marshall in the lineup, Royal had 2 more catches and 27 more yards than Marshall.
At times, the Bucs’ pass defense has been very shaky this year. Ronde Barber has even seemed to lose a step from time to time. Tampa Bay needs to be ready for the Broncos because they are a pass happy team and one of the receivers will have a big day.
D.J. Williams, LB, Denver
The Broncos defense is nothing to write home about this year, but they still have one of the best young linebackers in the game. Williams is a quick, sure tackler linebacker who can set the tone early for the Denver defense. The Bucs running game has looked great at times this year and has been able to eat up a good chunk of yardage despite who’s on the other side of the field, but they still have to keep certain personnel in mind. Williams is one of those individuals. He has a great combination of speed and size and is the type of tackler that rarely gets run over. In one-on-one situations, he will make the tackle. A key for the Bucs will be to tire out the Broncos’ defense early by pounding away and getting Graham and Dunn into a good rhythm.