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Colts-like offense intrigues Gruden
The No.5 pick could yield a third top-flight receiver and a change in game plans. Or it could yield a running back or QB.
By RICK STROUD
Published March 24, 2005
KAPALUA, Hawaii - Jon Gruden was slurping his third cup of Kona coffee at the NFC coaches breakfast Wednesday morning when a question seemed to wake him up quicker than the hot java.
Most mock drafts have the Bucs taking a running back or receiver with the No.5 overall pick. And the prognosticators are split between Auburn running back Carnell Williams and Southern Cal's Mike Williams.
So Gruden was asked to settle the debate: receiver or running back?
"Well, that's a good question. If you get the receiver, (we'd) obviously have three very, very good players," Gruden said of Michael Clayton, Joey Galloway and Mike Williams.
"It would strategically change things a little bit. You become a one-back team a little more. You go back in time a little bit to the '97 and '98 playbooks where you air the (receivers) out a little bit and play a little bit more one back, possibly. That would be exciting for me. I think our players would like that to a degree.
"The running back, whether you think one of those guys are top five material ... it's something you've got to wrestle with."
Gruden is not grappling about his choices at receiver. With Michigan's Braylon Edwards expected to be the first taken and gone before Tampa Bay picks, Gruden believes Mike Williams could combine with Clayton and Galloway to alter the Bucs' offensive game plan.
"I love him as a prospect," Gruden said of Mike Williams. "If you like Shaquille O'Neal, if you like power forwards that can run the floor and shoot and dunk it and make big plays, you like this guy. He's got a flair about play-making.
"The guy dominates the Pac-10 as a true freshman and sophomore on a national championship team. This guy is a freak physically. He's 6 feet 5 and 230 pounds with a 38-inch vertical jump. You cover him."
Gruden long has been an admirer of the Colts offense, which spreads the field with three receivers and features one running back, Edgerrin James.
"You've got Marvin Harrison over there, and he's going to rip you," Gruden said. "You've got Reggie Wayne over here, and he's going to rip you, too. And Brandon Stokley down the middle is a problem. If you've got those three guys, as Minnesota has had the last few years with Randy (Moss) and all those guys out there, they spread you out and you'd better play a little double zone. You'd better rotate to both of these guys.
"Now there's six in the box. And you hand the ball off, and there's a big hole there. If you've got a great runner with the ball, it's a double-edged sword. A lot of teams attack that way." Of course, Gruden also likes Carnell Williams, whom he coached at the Senior Bowl. His teammate, Auburn running back Ronnie Brown, is expected to be the first running back selected, possibly second by Miami. That could leave the Bucs with their choice of running backs, Williams or Texas' Cedric Benson.
"If you look at who has been picked at (No.4 to 5) in the last 20 years ... LaDainian Tomlinson (No.5 in 2001) falls right in there," Gruden said. "If you think those are the kinds of backs they are, you bet you take them."
If there is a concern about Mike Williams, it's his ability to remain under 230 pounds. Many NFL coaches believe the former Plant High star could eat his way into playing tight end.
"As long as he maintains that weight, he's going to be a hell of a player for a long time," Gruden said. "Some people say he could go down to Shoney's, have a nice day, take a couple days off and he'd be a hell of a tight end.
"And he's got the frame. He's got the lower (body) to be a 240-, 255-pound guy in a hurry. I think he has to work at it as most guys do at that size."
Another scenario the Bucs are preparing for is taking a quarterback. That's why Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen will visit with Cal's Aaron Rodgers and Utah's Alex Smith this weekend.
"We're not going to have an extensive workout," Gruden said. "But we'd like to do something with them and spend some time on the chalkboard; watching some film and maybe introduce them to some of the things we want to do and see if they like it; see if they're stimulated by it. We're going to have a day with each of those guys, and hopefully, one of them emerges as a guy we'd rather have.
"We've got a feeling that one may fall to us, and obviously, we want to be ready to make the pick or not if that's the thing to do."