Work in Sports
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Holes few, far between on both sides of the ball
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers open their training camp at the University of Tampa in Tampa, Fla., on July 22. Here are a few questions from Sports Illustrated's Dr. Z, followed by CNNSI.com's perspective on some of the issues facing the Buccaneers this season. SI's season preview will post Aug. 23.
Dr. Z wants to know:
1.) Carolina's defense, a highly functional outfit, collapsed when the brains of the outfit, Sam Mills, left a couple of years ago. Could the departure of MLB Hardy Nickerson be more significant than we think or is this Bucs' unit so strong that it can ride right over it?
2.) Everybody's expecting new offensive coach Les Steckel to work wonders and revive a moribund attack, but would you have called Steckel's Tennessee offense dynamic last year?
3.) Do you agree with me that the addition of Keyshawn Johnson not only will give Shaun King a nice target to throw to, but also will supply some terrific perimeter blocking for Warrick Dunn?
4.) And isn't it about time they start running Dunn outside instead of wearing out his 175-pound body between the tackles?
5.) Has the NFC Championship Game loss put them in an even nastier frame of mind for 2000?
The Buccaneers can make the playoffs if ... the wheels don't fall off the Pewter Power bandwagon. Acquiring Keyshawn Johnson was a deft move for a franchise in need of a bona fide playmaker on offense. With Warrick Dunn and Mike Alstott chewing up the clock, the Bucs can assume -- and keep -- control of any game. Second-year QB Shaun King will not be put into situation where he has to win the game; he's there not to lose the game.
Pivotal games: Would it be premature to suggest Jan. 28, 2001? After all, Super Bowl XXXV is at Raymond James Stadium. OK, we'll settle for Oct. 1 at Washington, a matchup of teams expected to vie for NFC supremacy. Looking for the obscure: Two of the Bucs' final six games will be played in cold-weather venues (at Chicago, at Green Bay), where Tampa Bay traditionally has struggled when the temperature dips below 40 degrees.
On the hot seat: Running the football, Warrick Dunn was a non-issue last season: 195 carries, 616 yards and zero touchdowns. However, he did haul in a team-leading 64 passes for 589 yards and two TDs. The addition of Johnson should stretch opponents' defenses, allowing rushing lanes to open up for Warrick.
Up-and-comers: Middle linebacker Jamie Duncan steps into the starting lineup after playing in just five games last season. Duncan, who is agile and athletic, replaces the departed Hardy Nickerson. Two seasons ago, Duncan recorded 30 tackles and six assists as a rookie.