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1 TAMPA BAY Buccaneers
David Fleming
August 28, 2000
The defense is championship-caliber, no question; but their Super Bowl chances are riding on an overhauled offense
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August 28, 2000

1 Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The defense is championship-caliber, no question; but their Super Bowl chances are riding on an overhauled offense

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PROJECTED LINEUP
WITH 1999 STATISTICS

Coach: Tony Dungy
Fifth season with Buccaneers (35-29 in NFL)

Offensive Backs

QB

Shaun King

74*

146 att.

89 comp.

61.0%

875 yds.

7 TDs

4 int.

82.4 rtg.

RB

Warrick Dunn

92*

195 att.

616 yds.

3.2 avg.

64 rec.

589 yds.

9.2 avg.

2 TDs

RB

Rabih Abdullah

273*

5 att.

12 yds.

2.4 avg.

2 rec.

11 yds.

5.5 avg.

0 TDs

FB

Mike Alston

63*

242 att.

949 yds.

3.9 avg.

27 rec.

239 yds.

8.9 avg.

9 TDs

Receivers, Specialists, Offensive Linemen

WR

Keyshawn Johnson#

20*

89 rec.

1,170 yds.

8 TDs

WR

Jacquez Green

135*

56 rec.

791 yds.

3 TDs

WR

Andre Hastings#

213*

40 rec.

564 yds.

1 TD

TE

Dave Moore

181*

23 rec.

276 yds.

5 TDs

K

Martin Gramatica

156*

25/25 XPs

27/32 FGs

106 pts.

PR

Jacquez Green

135*

23 ret.

8.9 avg.

0 TDs

KR

Reidel Anthony

240*

21 ret.

20.7 avg.

0 TDs

LT

Jason Odom

6'5"

312 lbs.

3 games

3 starts

LG

Randall McDaniel#

6'3"

279 lbs.

16 games

16 starts

C

Jeff Christy#

6'3"

285 lbs.

16 games

16 starts

RG

Frank Middleton

6'3"

334 lbs.

16 games

16 starts

RT

Jerry Wunsch

6'6"

339 lbs.

16 games

13 starts

Defense

LE

Chidi Ahanotu

33 tackles

6� sacks

LT

Warren Sapp

41 tackles

12� sacks

RT

Brad Culpepper

54 tackles

6 sacks

RE

Steve White

16 tackles

2 sacks

OLB

Shelton Quarles

54 tackles

0 sacks

MLE

Jamie Duncan

5 tackles

0 sacks

OLB

Derrick Brooks

153 tackles

4 int.

CB

Donnie Abraham

78 tackles

7 int.

SS

John Lynch

116 tackles

2 int.

FS

Damien Robinson

73 tackles

2 int.

CB

Ronde Barber

77 tackles

2 int.

P

Mark Royals

90 punts

43.1 avg.

#New acquisition
(R) Rookie (statistics for final college year)
*: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 139)

In the locker room before the Buccaneers' first preseason game, left guard Randall McDaniel asked a teammate for help tugging his jersey over his shoulder pads. Maybe it was the style or the fit or, perhaps, the unfamiliar colors, but once he was dressed in his new uniform, McDaniel, who went to a record 11 consecutive Pro Bowls as a Viking, walked over to the mirror and did a double take. "I stood there for a second and stared because I just couldn't picture myself in pewter," says McDaniel. "It doesn't look right yet. But I suppose if we're fortunate enough to make it to the Super Bowl, by then it will look great."

That's a very reachable goal for Tampa Bay, which last season won the NFC Central and made it to the conference title game. The defense, arguably the best in the league, held the high-powered Rams to a touchdown and a field goal—St. Louis got its other points on a safety—but an anemic offense, which averaged only 16.9 points per game in 1999 and ranked 28th in the league, could muster only a pair of field goals in an 11-6 loss.

"That game made it pretty obvious that our system wasn't working and we had to make a lot of changes," says right guard Frank Middleton. "We were sick of the Power I up the middle. We were so basic and repetitive. All the guys really wanted was some chance, just a chance, to feel like we could score some points when we needed to."

The Bucs have given themselves that chance, and more. Their biggest off-season splash was trading for wideout Keyshawn Johnson, but they also made waves when coach Tony Dungy reluctantly fired offensive coordinator Mike Shula and replaced him with Les Steckel, who had held the same position with the Titans. Tampa Bay then went about upgrading its offensive line, with three major objectives: cut down on sacks, open up the running game outside the tackles and give second-year quarterback Shaun King a bit more time in the pocket as he learns Steckel's ball-control offense, which features a lot of one-back sets and underneath routes. "The team has brought in all these guys up front to make us better," says Middleton. "So now everything falls to us. If we don't play well, it's going to be on the five guys up front."

Tampa Bay signed free agent Jeff Christy, the NFC starting center in the Pro Bowl the past two seasons while playing for the Vikings. Christy, in turn, helped recruit McDaniel, who had been released by Minnesota in the off-season. Christy is undersized but smart, and McDaniel, even at 35, is still a force. The tandem gives Tampa Bay exactly what it was missing up front: athleticism and Pro Bowl talent.

Jerry Wunsch, a 1997 second-round pick, returns at right tackle, while Middleton, an aggressive and tenacious blocker, must be more consistent. The biggest question mark along the interior is Jason Odom, who was sidelined after three games in 1999 due to a back injury, then underwent surgery in the off-season to try to correct the problem. If Odom can't go—he has been a spectator during the preseason—Tampa Bay will probably turn to journeyman George Hegamin or Pete Pierson, who has made eight starts in six years with the Bucs, including two in the playoffs last season.

"We know how far running [fullback] Mike Alstott up the middle in every game will get you," says Christy. "With a more athletic line we hope to open up defenses a bit more. We know we can get to the NFC Championship Game with the old attack. But our goal is the Super Bowl."

Those hopes may hinge on Christy, who will be making the line calls and occasionally pulling, along with McDaniel and Middleton, to lead the attack outside the tackles. Last year Alstott gained 949 yards and scored seven touchdowns to earn his third Pro Bowl trip, but that came at the expense of tailback Warrick Dunn, who scored no rushing touchdowns and averaged a career-low 3-2 yards per carry. If Dunn becomes a weapon again on the ground and King gets the time he needs to connect with the dangerous Johnson, the Bucs will score enough points to make them the first team to play at home in the Super Bowl.

With the rock-solid defense that Tampa Bay has, Dungy won't be needing too much from the offense. "I'm pretty sure this new line can get us what we need to take the team to the next level," says Middleton. "Which, if you think about it, should only be about 14 points."

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

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