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Mission: contain McNabb

Bucs can't let Eagles QB beat them with legs, as he did in playoffs.

By ROGER MILLS

© St. Petersburg Times,
published September 12, 2001


TAMPA -- His back spasms were so bad, Marcus Jones didn't even make the trip.

And not being there only added to the pain as he watched Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb torment his teammates in a 21-3 win over the Bucs in the first round of the playoffs last season.

Now the starting left defensive end, Jones is saddled with the responsibility of stopping McNabb, one of the most fleet-footed quarterbacks in the game, from doing something he routinely did that playoff game: run outside right tackle and turn what should have been sacks and minute gains into first downs.

"I know (that's my responsibility) going into the game," Jones said. "But I also know that when I do rush, I rush at a contained level. I rush to the level of the quarterback and when I get to his level, I try to stay there and come back in toward him. I don't go too far up field. That way, if he has to break outside, he's going to have to break deep in the backfield to do it."

As the Bucs prepare for Sunday's home opener against the Eagles, they'll focus on all McNabb's abilities. But coach Tony Dungy and defensive line coach Rod Marinelli admit McNabb's tendency to run right is something the team has to be aware of.

"Most people are right-handed and so naturally they run to their right side, and he's no different in that regard," Marinelli said. "At times in the last game, we lost containment a couple of times out there, and it's something we're aware off."

Several times in the playoffs, McNabb slipped past containment and made gains down the right side. He had first-down runs of 3, 10 and 11 yards, all to the right.

One of the most important came after the Eagles sacked Shaun King and recovered the fumble at the Bucs 15. On first down, McNabb gained 10 yards off right tackle. Three plays later, Philadelphia scored on a 5-yard quarterback draw.

"He makes things happen when plays break down," Dungy said. "The more time he has, the more time he is able to move around, the more dangerous he is."

The Bucs believe a key to controlling McNabb's improvisation is to be familiar with what he can do and force him out of his routine.

"You have to understand the type of athlete you have in front of you, the type of athlete you're playing," Marinelli said. "We're fortunate to have some very good athletes on our defense as well.

"We've been fortunate in that we have gotten a chance to see some of those types of athletic quarterbacks in the past, and I think the guys learned how important it is to remain disciplined and aggressive at the same time. You have to keep an aggressive attitude toward McNabb because you want to shorten his time back there with the ball."

Added Dungy: "You can't let him stay on the field and decide whether to run or throw, take off or not, move around and come back across the field. You have to get pressure on him."

With last year's starter Chidi Ahanotu departed to the Rams, Jones said he's as good a man for the job.

"Chidi was more of a speed, quick-hands guy and he was good at what he does," Jones said. "But me, I'm more of a mauler. I'm not going to beat you with speed, because I'm probably the slowest member of our defensive front. But, I'm going to maul you and then come back and maul you some more and make a move.

"When you say contain, it doesn't mean that you get up there and just stop and wait to see where he's going, that's not how you get a rush. But in a contained rush, you have to know where to run, who's on your side, knowing which guys you're working with, being aggressive and staying level with him."

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