I got to be honest. I don't know a lot about the Bucs (and why would I)? Ok, well, they've had a ton of injuries and they've drafted really well recently. What's that? Late round draft picks that are making major contributions??? EUPHORIA. I'm still bitter the Redskins only have one pick contributing (Trent). Compare that to what Craig Smith mentions below in his response: "This team became the first team since the '02 Cowboys to win a game while starting 7 rookies, and LeGarrette Blount came in on the 2nd play."
Wow. So here's Bucs Nation's intel on our matchup and he gives a prediction, which is inline with mine. Their decimated OLine is not a huge concern to Craig since they drafted well and the backups have played well enough to win jobs (in one case)!
1.) What can we expect with your make shift OLine (2 rookie Guards and a converted Center)? How are the tackles holding up against elite pass rushers?
Bucs Nation: LT Donald Penn has done a masterful job protecting his QB's blindside. He's been playing at a Pro Bowl level this year, in my humble opinion. Pass blocking is probably his forte, although he's been fine in run blocking this year.
On the right side, T James Lee took over for a dinged up Jeremy Trueblood, and has secured the starting gig despite Trueblood returning healthy. The team feels Lee is a step up in pass protection, as it seems Trueblood has regressed over the past couple of seasons. Ted Larsen stepped in after Keydrick Vincent was released and has manned the spot well, at least in run blocking. Jeremy Zuttah has played all 3 interior line positions and will start at C now that Jeff Faine is out for the rest of the season (a big hit to the run game, IMO). With RG Davin Joseph out the rest of the season (probably our best run blocker), Derek Hardman steps in. He's played in 5 games, but he's still quite an unknown commodity.
The Bucs will be rolling out their SEVENTH different starting o-line combo on Sunday.....so I have no freaking idea what to expect right now.
2.) Looking at Tampa's draft the last 2 years, you basically drafted all DLinemen and a stud QB with your top picks. How much do you relate that to your success?
A lot. Freeman has improved greatly since last season.....now that he had an entire offseason to bust his butt and prepare, which he has. He's just a cool, cool cat, which is evidenced by A) talking to him and B) watching him engineer 4th-quarter scoring drives in the most composed of fashions. He just seems to have those intangibles you want in a QB - composure, vocal, a hard worker who pushes others, and an unwillingness to settle for less than success.
The defensive line is finally starting to slow some opposing running attacks and generate some sacks. McCoy is starting to come around as he's gotten used to the speed of the game and the techniques of opposing linemen. Roy Miller has been pretty good. Brian Price showed plenty of potential before going on IR, so there's hope this line can be much better next season. And it's not just Freeman and the D-line. I'd generally give a lot of credit to the scouting department for the moves they've made overall. The depth at o-line is suprisingly good (as we're unfortunately finding out this year through injury).
S Cody Grimm was NAILS this season in place of Tanard Jackson before breaking his fibula. He's a rookie 7th-round pick. Now starting Corey Lynch in that spot, a 2nd-day pick from 08. Dekoda Watson started against Carolina, a rookie 7th round pick. We're starting 2 rookie wideouts, both of whom have been productive, especially Mike Williams, who should be a rookie of the year candidate. Hell, this team became the first team since the '02 Cowboys to win a game while starting 7 rookies, and LeGarrette Blount came in on the 2nd play.
3.) Blount has been able to rack up some stats despite the makeshift OLine. What's been the key there?
Both of them. It seems the offensive line has knocked a few more holes for Blount than they did for Caddy, and when they don't, he makes his own. Being 6 foot, 250 lbs let's you do that. I've watched Blount rip off some runs that not many backs in this league can do. Against Arizona, after pounding on them all day, he executed a perfect spin move on the linebacker, leapt OVER a safety who went low, and raced 50 yards before getting tackled. Speed, agility, power.....he possesses a lot of physical gifts for a guy his size.
If there's a knock on the running game, and Blount in particular, it's been in short yardage (ironically). The Bucs have come up short this season in key 3rd/4th and 1 situations, including a key 3rd and 1 last week, and a good part of the blame has been on Blount hesitating and/or missing the hole. Wouldn't surprise me to see Earnest Graham get some short yardage situations Sunday. Most of us have been clamoring for Josh Freeman to sneak the ball in those situations. Think the Jared Lorenzen tactic.
4.) If you could have any Redskin off our roster who would it be and why?
Brian Orakpo. We could use an upgrade in our pass rush (even though it's come on a bit lately), and Orakpo certainly can get after the QB. Move him to RDE and shift Stylez White over to the left side. I'd also take LaRon Landry right now.
5.) Is the fanbase coming back or did the re-building years destroy it to a point a lot of fans aren't coming back (or are they keeping their distance)? What's the pulse like and what's your prediction for the game.
Pulse on the fans? Cautiously optimistic. The perception that the Glazers were being cheap by hiring a first-time young coach and passing in free agency permeates through one part of the fan base, even still. However, most folks recognize the solid job this front office has done in the draft and the foundation that is being built. Really, if they can continue to recognize talent as well as they have, the future is bright for a long time to come.
As for the attendance, I firmly believe it has to do with the economy and ticket prices. The state of Florida and especially this area has been devastated by the economy. Many people who aren't unemployed are underemployed. Where parking costs $25, tickets are $80 in the upper corners (just imagine the rest), and folks are struggling to pay their bills, it's not that much of a surprise to see empty seats. This town has proven it will support success, so the fact that the Bucs were 7-3 and right near the top of the NFC, but failed to sell out at home against Atlanta in the biggest game of the season......that tells me that folks just can't afford it right now.
Prediction? Despite the makeshift offensive line, I expect the Bucs to dish out a heavy dose of LeGarrette Blount tomorrow. I'll take the Bucs 21-16.