- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Bennett, who coached the last winning team at Atlanta, has brought in the one-back offense. If ever a team was made for it, it's Tampa Bay, because they have only one back, James Wilder. But what a back. The Bucs might have some more zip if the club's quest for quarterback Steve Young of the L.A. Express is successful. There is no guarantee Young would beat out Steve DeBerg, but the competition would be interesting.
The loss of defensive right end Lee Roy Selmon, who is on injured reserve with a bad back, is a blow, but Bennett isn't crying about it. Life goes on. Top draft pick Ron Holmes is the new Lee Roy. This means that the linebacking corps will get more pressure on that side, but it's a very fine outfit. And with Bennett's more wide open attack philosophy, Hugh Green should have a big year. The Bucs aren't a playoff team yet, but wait. Soon, soon.
With Billy Sims in the lineup last year the DETROIT LIONS went 3-5, and all but one of those games were close. Without him they were 1-6-1 and were blown out in five of those contests. Well, Billy's gone. Projections for an October return are wishful thinking. His knee simply isn't coming around, and he'll be 30 this month. No new Sims is on the horizon, either from the USFL or the draft. The Lions had their pick of the running backs but instead they chose a tackle, Lomas Brown, who became a long holdout.
This is the way the Lions helped themselves this year: They got a new coach, Darryl Rogers from Arizona State. He put in a 3-4 defense, thereby turning a very solid line into a question mark, with Doug English, a premier sacking tackle being converted, at 32, to noseguard. Their idea of trading was getting rid of quarterback Gary Danielson, who had the most productive year of his career, based on the NFL's rating points, and bringing in the Bills' Joe Ferguson, who finished 26th among the 28 quarterbacks who were ranked. Maybe Joe will perform better now that he's indoors and away from the Buffalo windchill, but he still must contend with Eric Hippie, who went from prospect to suspect in four seasons under Monte Clark.
They could have shown some imagination. They might have made a move on USFL stars like Anthony Carter and Bobby Hebert, who once played in town. At least that would have juiced up the fans. They went for one USFLer, Ernest Anderson, who carried a meager 14 times for Arizona, but USFL stars cost money, and the Lions have enough trouble paying their draft choices and veterans, one of whom, linebacker Garry Cobb, was holding out at the start of preseason and swore he would never play in Detroit again. All in all, a picture as bleak as those long Michigan winters.
The MINNESOTA VIKINGS' collapse last year was shocking but predictable. All the signs were there. It's easy to castigate departed coach Les Steckel, but the fact is the Vikings had been eroding for five years under Bud Grant, before Steckel took over. Their record in those five seasons was 36-37. The offense had been flashy and innovative, covering up a defense that was dying. Superstars grew old and retired and no new ones took their place. Since 1978, only one Minnesota defensive player had gone to the Pro Bowl, linebacker Matt Blair. In the old days the Vikings would send a squad. From 1979 through '83 the Vikings didn't finish higher than 17th in the league in defense. Steckel read the problem. His No. 1 draft choice was a defensive end, Keith Millard of Washington State. The club lost him to the USFL.
When quarterback Tommy Kramer was hurt in the eighth game, that was it. The Vikings lost eight of their last nine, and down the stretch they had nothing left. They were blown out in their last six games, giving up no fewer than 31 points in any of them, for an average of more than 40. Maybe it was Steckel's Spartan regimen that had sapped their strength, maybe it was just a sense of hopelessness, but the Vikes were terrible.
Now Grant is back to try to pump new life into the body. Millard has returned from the USFL. Grant will have to load his defense with rookies, something he always shunned in the past. There are plenty of them around: No. 1 draft choice Chris Doleman, an outsized 6'5", 250-pound linebacker; defensive backs Issiac Holt (No. 2) and Kyle Morrell (No. 4); linebackers Tim Meamber (No. 3) and Nikita Blair (No. 8); noseguard Tim Newton (No. 6). Desperate measures are called for.
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