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Tampa Bay Preview: Offense

Tampa Bay is currently the 30th ranked offense in the league and very near bottom of the barrel in both passing (28th) and rushing (31st). This is actually a good matchup with our defense, which is comparably bad at 30th overall, 31st against the pass.

At Quarterback, Bruce Gradkowski is defying conventional wisdom. Until last week's game against Carolina (and Julius Peppers is a terrifying pass rusher for any rookie QB), Gradkowski had thrown 6 TDs on 1 interception. Those are not rookie QB numbers, and even with his 2 pick game against Carolina he's still 7 TDs on 3 interceptions. His league worst 4.73 YPA is a huge downside and might be one reason his INT % (5th in the league) is so low; he's playing too safe. All-in-all he's playing smart but largely ineffectual football. Not unlike our own Mark Brunell, for instance.

Joey Galloway and Michael Clayton are respectable receivers, with the former having the better year. Neither is terribly productive thus far (though more productive than our receivers!). They also have Ike Hilliard. None of these guys are uncoverable, though our secondary hasn't proven good at stopping anyone. I view Michael Clayton as a bigger threat due to his size (6'3), and because he will be lining up against Carlos Rogers more often.

Tight Ends are Anthony Becht and Stanford's own Alex Smith. Maybe they will suprise me but neither of these guys is a serious threat, in my opinion. Smith is the bigger threat with a respectable 22 receptions (and two touchdowns) but his YPC (7.3) are low enough for me to wonder what role he has in the offense. Without having seen many Bucs games I can only speculate, so maybe a reader can shed light on him.

Mike Alstott is still one of the best fullbacks in the league. He's having a pretty quiet year (Mike Sellers has more rushing yards with 27) but should not be ignored around the goal line. Cadillac Williams is having a questionable year, perhaps due to the entire offense struggling. He's well under 4 YPC and has only found the endzone once. Their other running back is Michael Pittman and he is not doing much in 2006. He's a non factor even if you don't consider his injury; questionable with a shoulder injury for Sunday. Our defense should be able to stop this rushing attack.

Measuring an offensive line is difficult because there aren't concrete statistics to evaluate them by and the few available can't distinguish between who is at fault. That said, Tampa Bay has the 25th lowest YPC at 3.7. The pass rush has been reliable as they've allowed only 20 sacks on 324 attempts (about 6% of the time). Football Outsiders rank them 9th in pass rush but 31st in Adjusted Line Yards (rushing). Left Tackle Anthony Davis is questionable with an ankle injury though they've been much less effective running to the left anyways. Hopefully this will force them to run against the right side where they will meet up with Marcus Washington; no need to involve Warrick Holdman in this game.

My overview is that we will beat this team if we beat them in the air. I don't think they are going to rush against us effectively as they don't have the firepower at RB or line and their weaknesses in the latter play into our strengths. Bruce Gradkowski has been playing mistake free football but hasn't exactly lit up the league either. The Tampa Bay offense is averaging 12 points a game. By default I think Bruce Gradkowski is forced to win this game for Tampa (because of an ineffectual rushing attack) and that could be good for us. Then again, we've been so vulnerable in the secondary it could be disastrous. Who knows.

The matchup that will determine the outcome of this game is Washington's offense vs. Tampa Bay's defense, which I will post in a bit.