Walker: left, right, bench?
Offensive tackle Kenyatta Walker has "to limit the penalties, he's got to limit the error in his play. He knows that, we know that and it's got to be corrected,'' Bucs coach says.
By RICK STROUD, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 1, 2002
TAMPA -- They allowed him to change positions, switching from left to right tackle.
But unless Kenyatta Walker eliminates penalties and mistakes, his next move may be to the bench.
After reviewing film of Friday's 17-13 Bucs win at Houston, in which Walker accounted for two of the team's four holding penalties, coach Jon Gruden sounded uncertain whether the former Florida Gators star would start Sept. 8 against New Orleans.
"I don't know that yet. I think he's a bright prospect, we've said for some time," Gruden said. "He's a good guy, he's working hard, he's an athlete. You can't have a lot of penalties and certainly he's been victimized frequently here in the last couple ballgames. Cornell Green played well in there last night at right tackle. But again, I don't want to speculate. We'll make that decision sometime within the next 24 hours.
"I'm very disappointed and somewhat surprised by a couple things that I saw on offense. Penalties are inexcusable, two weeks in a row now. Critical penalties in key situations have hurt us. We've got to take a good look at that and perhaps make some lineup changes if need be."
Gruden's frustration might stem from the fact that the No. 1 offense produced one touchdown and one field goal in 10 possessions. The lack of production was caused largely by penalties and turnovers.
Walker wasn't the only offender. Left tackles Roman Oben and Lomas Brown each had a holding penalty against the Texans. But one of Walker's erased a 17-yard completion for a first down to Keenan McCardell near midfield.
After releasing right tackle Jerry Wunsch last weekend, the Bucs don't have many options at that position. Green, for whom the Bucs traded a seventh-round pick to Miami, has been with Tampa Bay about a week. And switching Oben to right tackle isn't likely until 18-year veteran Brown plays his way into shape.
The Bucs must release 19 players by 4 p.m. today to reach the NFL-mandated 53-man roster limit, and Gruden said he will watch the waiver wire for offensive linemen.
"I don't want to say this is anything but performance-based," Gruden said. "And if someone is struggling, if someone is not getting the job done, we're a professional football team, we've got men on this team that are paid to play and we're going to go as deep in the roster as we have to to find a way to win and get it going on offense.
"It's been exciting these last four or five weeks. It's been a challenge. But at the same time, there's certain things we're counting on happening, and that's consistency, that's detail and that's discipline. That goes for no penalties and protecting the football, and we've been shy in those areas the last two ballgames."
The Bucs may get a lift this week when starting right guard Cosey Coleman returns to practice for the first time since surgery three weeks ago to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee. Gruden said he's uncertain whether Coleman will be ready to play against the Saints.
"I think we're going to have to see him on the field here in the next couple of days," Gruden said. "We're hoping that he'll be available to us.
"We'll see if we have a healthy Cosey Coleman. That will have something to do with the potential of any moves. And we'll meet as a staff late tonight to decide what gives us the best opportunity to beat the New Orleans Saints.
"We've got to be honest and realistic with what we see on film and go from there."
What Gruden sees on film is a team that averaged 15.25 points and 243.8 yards, including 97.3 rushing, in preseason. But Gruden sees the glass as half-full.
"I'm very confident we're going to be able to move the ball," Gruden said. "We've got to prove that, and we've got to eliminate the penalties and error from our play. ... If we don't get that done, it's going to be tough to do anything we want to do on offense."
On Saturday, Gruden made it clear any improvement must start with the offensive line. Specifically, it must start with Walker.
"We expect to keep Kenyatta going," Gruden said. "At the same time, he's got to limit the penalties, he's got to limit the error in his play. He knows that, we know that and it's got to be corrected.
"I'm not going to drag him over the coals here today and scrutinize his play. He's a guy that we're counting on to step up and play better than he played last night. He has that capability. He was drafted with that in mind."
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