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Gruden seeking rushing solutions
By RICK STROUD
Published July 31, 2005
LAKE BUENA VISTA - Rush hour in Central Florida occurs twice a day, just like Bucs training camp practice.
Sometimes, it's hard to tell the difference.
Bent on rushing the football more often and more effectively, coach Jon Gruden has scripted significantly more running plays. It makes sense, given the Bucs' 29th-ranked rushing offense and the drafting of tailback Carnell "Cadillac" Williams fifth overall.
"If we're going to run the ball more, we've got to get better results," Gruden said. "I only go to the beach on a sunny day. I only go shopping when my wife gives me some money. We don't want to be window shoppers. We want to be able to run the ball and run it with authority and success and with that will come more opportunities."
In the 13 days before the first preseason game at Tennessee, Gruden plans to determine whether the Bucs can add more balance to their offense.
He also should have a better idea which players - particularly on the offensive line - will help him accomplish it.
"Every day is an opportunity to decide who's making this team and what plays we're going to call," Gruden said. "You want to be 29th in the league in rushing, well, you're probably 29th in the league in attempts. And if we want to run the ball more, have more success, we've got to earn that right out here. If we want to blitz more, we've got to blitz better out here on the practice field.
"Our rushing stats, we get zero stats and zero yards from the quarterback position. That's just the style of quarterback we have. The No. 1 rushing team in the league (the Falcons) gets 1,000 (yards). You keep all these things in consideration. We're 28th in the league in rushing attempts. The teams that run the ball at the top of the league run the ball a lot more than we do."
There's a perception that Gruden has always wanted to emphasize the passing game. As he did at times with the Raiders, he prefers to pound a defense into submission with the running game then use play-action to produce big gains.
Williams leapfrogged Michael Pittman when the first depth chart was released Saturday. If veteran Charlie Garner can make a full recovery from knee surgery, the Bucs would be among the deeper teams at running back.
"That's something we're really excited about," Gruden said. "With Charlie Garner standing over here running the way he is, those are three halfbacks that we think a lot of. I think Earnest Graham's a lot better player than people know about because he hasn't had the opportunities. But he's paid his dues here and he's a playmaker. Ian Smart's as quick as hell; he's a guy who can play a little bit, too. And this Derek Watson, he's one good-looking stallion. He's a big, physical load. And ( Mike) Alstott can still run and catch and Jameel Cook's an all-purpose back."
CRASH COURSE: Here's why the Bucs are glad all of their draft picks signed by the start of training camp. The first week, Gruden forces players to immerse themselves in the playbook and turns up the tempo in practice to test them.
"It's about putting mental pressure on people, you know," Gruden said. "The less time they have to collaborate with their coaches and teammates, the more pressure on them there is to line up and it's much more gamelike. If you're running 10 or 12 plays a day and you're talking about the play for 15 minutes before you run it, a lot of us could get out there and do the right thing. It's a matter of reacting in split-second notice and functioning at top speed instinctly together when the heat is on."