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Offense conservative on purpose
By STEPHEN F. HOLDER
Published October 24, 2006
TAMPA - The Bucs offense was outgained 506-196 in Sunday's victory against the Eagles, but coach Jon Gruden defended the conservative offensive approach and the play of quarterback Bruce Gradkowski.
In Gruden's opinion, the Eagles gave them little choice.
"Maybe it was a conservative gameplan or playcalling," Gruden said.
"Philadelphia is all over the place and you have to account for them. They have 11 guys at the line of scrimmage and you have to account for them and you have to be somewhat conservative at times with your pass protection. You can't get all the (receivers) out that you want."
The Bucs opted for several draw plays and dumpoff passes to running back Michael Pittman and others in third-and-long situations and rarely passed on first or second down.
The Bucs made very few downfield pass attempts, with rookie Gradkowski completing just one pass for more than 15 yards.
Much of the reason for Gruden's playcalling was Gradkowski's inexperience and struggles throwing the deep ball. Gradkowski finished 13 for 26 with 104 yards and had several errant throws for the second consecutive week.
"We just have to keep working at it," Gruden said.
"We have a young quarterback, a lot of plays we are calling, it's the first time he has ever ran them. A lot of the blitzes, and a lot of the things he is seeing, is the first time he has ever seen them. We will get better. Bruce is doing a great job. I just think as time moves on we need to get a couple of more big plays from our passing game and I am confident that we will."
But it won't get considerably better unless the Bucs get receiver Joey Galloway involved. Gradkowski missed Galloway on two downfield attempts, including one in the end zone, as the team's leading receiver went without a catch for the second time this season. Gruden pointed out the tandem's lack of time together.
"Bruce hasn't been working with Galloway for more than three weeks," Gruden said. "He hasn't really done a lot of the things that we're asking him to do and hopefully he'll improve at that the longer we practice and get to know one another. But our goal (Sunday) was to not have any turnovers. And I thought he was a little cautious at times, which was part of our game plan going in. He didn't take a lot of chances with the ball."
LINE UNSETTLED: The situation at left guard doesn't seem any closer to resolving itself, with 20-game starter Dan Buenning giving way to Sean Mahan to start against the Eagles. But Buenning played in the second half.
Buenning "is battling some injuries, I do believe," Gruden said.
"I don't think he's 100 percent right now. And we think Mahan's pretty good, too. So, we have a little depth there. We have a little competition going on and we're doing the best we can to be fair and give our team the best chance to win."
WHERE'S RICE?: While new starting defensive tackle Ellis Wyms had a nice debut with three tackles and a sack, it was another pedestrian day for end Simeon Rice who finished with one tackle. Gruden indicated Rice's shoulder injury might be an issue.
"When you are not healthy you have a tendency to not be at your best," Gruden said. "But see, a lot of guys choose not to play when they are hurt, or can't play when they are hurt. This guy plays all the time, every Sunday. This guy is a great player. People aren't happy with him, his critics, with the lack of sacks he has, but he is playing his butt off. And he'll make his share of plays before it is all said and done."
UPHILL CLIMB: If the defense is to extend its nine-year run of top-10 finishes, it has a long way to go. After being scorched by the Eagles and Donovan McNabb, Tampa Bay ranks 27th in total defense (354.7 yards a game) and 30th in rushing defense (152.3).