Buccaneer RBs (from left) Earnest Graham, Derrick Ward and Cadillac Williams hope to work together to build a powerful rushing attack
Cadillac Williams will get the start in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' backfield on Sunday afternoon against the Dallas Cowboys, and he may end up with the most carries among the Bucs' deep stable of running backs.
Still, unless Williams is almost ridiculously hot or the Bucs' running attack controls the game to an unexpected degree, he probably won't get more than 20 carries. Tampa Bay's offensive coaches will also be looking for ways to get Derrick Ward, Earnest Graham and Clifton Smith involved in the rushing attack, and there are only so many carries to go around.
So what about the idea that it takes 10-20 carries for a starting running back to really get into the flow of a game?
"I just don't know if that holds true in today's NFL," said Buccaneers Head Coach Raheem Morris. "Everybody has two backs, some have three, and they find ways to get them all the ball. We've got to follow up on that trend and remain fresh to try and wear on people. I think that's going to be a strength for us, to get them all the football. They're all different, they're all different dynamic runners. Some of them have similar styles, but for the most part all their personalities are different. They're all different in different ways. They create different problems for people and we want to use them to the best of our ability."
Most of the NFL's top rushing attacks in 2008 featured multiple star runners, from the New York Giants (Ward, Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw) to the Carolina Panthers (DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart) to the Atlanta Falcons (Michael Turner and Jerious Norwood). The Buccaneers are committed to using all of their available rushing talent, and all of the Bucs' backs are on board with the concept. Still, one never knows how the game will break down, and Williams hopes he can be the hot hand that the Bucs want to lean on.
"Sometimes it all depends on the looks that the defense gives you," said Williams. "But I feel like if I get touches here and there I definitely can do some special things with the ball. So I'm looking forward to Sunday and I'm sure it will be good."
Whether Williams ends up as the team's lead horse on Sunday, or that role falls to Ward or Graham, the Bucs' fifth-year back will give the running attack a boost simply by running out of the tunnel before the game.
"I think he inspires our team," said Morris. "I think Cadillac going into that first backfield fires up our team. I think it fires up the running back room, too. I think the running back room cheers for Cadillac. Derrick Ward might be the most unselfish player I've been around in years. Earnest Graham might be the most unselfish player I've been around in years. I always coach these guys about being your best self, and I think that room gets it. That room looks to Cadillac to go out there and get them going."
Game Notes: Cowboys at Buccaneers, Sunday, September 13, 2009
- Kickoff: 1:00 p.m. ET * Site: Raymond James Stadium (65,890), Tampa, Florida * 2008 Records: Tampa Bay 9-7; Dallas 9-7 * Network Television: Fox (Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnson, Tony Siragusa) * National Radio: Compass Media Networks (Chris Carrino, Brian Baldinger) * Bucs Radio: US 103.5, flagship station (103.5 FM, 620 AM; Gene Deckerhoff, Dave Moore, T.J. Rives) * Up Next for Tampa Bay: at Buffalo (9/20) * Up Next for Dallas: vs. New York Giants (9/20)
All-Time Buccaneers-Cowboys Series Results
The Buccaneers have won three of the last five meetings against the Dallas Cowboys in a series that dates back to 1977. Overall the Cowboys have won eight of 11 games during the regular season and both of the postseason meetings, which occurred in back-to-back years following the 1981 and 1982 seasons.
Eight of the 10 regular-season meetings between the two teams have been played in Dallas with the Cowboys holding a 7-1 edge on their home turf. Last season when the two teams met in Dallas, the Buccaneers lost 13-9. In 2006, the Bucs lost 38-10 in a Thanksgiving Day matchup.
In 2003, the Buccaneers shut out the Cowboys at home, 16-0. The 2001 season saw Tampa Bay defeat the Cowboys in Texas Stadium 10-6. One year before, the Buccaneers defeated the Cowboys 27-7 at Raymond James Stadium for their first win ever in the series.
The two teams first met in 1977 with the Cowboys prevailing over the Buccaneers 23-7 at Dallas. It was the first of six consecutive regular-season wins in the series for the Cowboys. Six of the last nine regular-season meetings between the two clubs have been decided by five points or less.
Tampa Bay held the Cowboys offense to 172 total yards and drove deep into Dallas territory in the waning moments, but QB Jeff Garcia's fourth-down pass attempt fell incomplete, ending the Buccaneers comeback attempt in a 13-9 loss at Texas Stadium on October 26, 2008.
The Buccaneers entered Dallas territory six times on the afternoon, but could only manage nine points on three K Matt Bryant field goals. DE Gaines Adams led the Buccaneers' defensive effort, posting two sacks on the day, his second multi-sack performance of the season. For the fifth time in eight games WR Antonio Bryant led the Buccaneers in receiving, hauling in six receptions for 45 yards.
Before Dallas could gain a first down, Tampa Bay held a 6-0 lead late in the first quarter on two Bryant field goals. Dallas got on the board with a 38-yard field goal by K Nick Folk with 9:29 remaining in the first half. Tampa Bay responded, driving to the Dallas 33-yard line on its next possession but, following an eight-yard sack, Bryant's 51-yard field goal attempt sailed wide right. Aided by the short field and four defensive penalties that gave Dallas four first downs, the Cowboys drove to the Buccaneers' two-yard line and QB Brad Johnson hit WR Roy Williams for a two-yard touchdown pass and a 10-6 Cowboys lead at halftime.
The teams traded field goals in the third quarter, giving Dallas a 13-9 advantage heading into the fourth quarter. Neither team could muster much offense in the final quarter until the Buccaneers' final drive. Taking possession with 4:15 left in the game at their own 26-yard line, the Buccaneers drove to the Dallas 18-yard line with 19 seconds remaining before Garcia's fourth-down pass attempt was incomplete.
On Friday, the Buccaneers ruled out one player, rookie cornerback E.J. Biggers (shoulder), and put doubtful designations on two others, linebacker Adam Hayward (ankle) and tight end John Gilmore (ankle).
Rookie defensive end Kyle Moore was considered questionable at week's end due to a groin injury. He will get a game-day evaluation when the Buccaneers get to Raymond James Stadium on Sunday morning.
The Bucs will also take one last look at the health of starting receivers Antonio Bryant (knee) and Michael Clayton (hamstring) on Sunday morning but, barring any additional setback, it appears as if both wideouts will play.
There were no starters on Dallas' injury report.
Some of the players and coaches in Sunday's game have ties to the other team.
- Bucs Defensive Coordinator Jim Bates was the Cowboys' linebackers coach from 1996-1997 and was the Cowboys' assistant head coach/defensive line coach from 1998-1999. * Tampa Bay WR Antonio Bryant caught 99 passes for 1,549 yards and eight touchdowns for Dallas from 2002-04 before being traded to Cleveland in 2004. * Dallas Assistant Head Coach and Offensive Coordinator Jason Garrett played for Tampa Bay for part of the 2004 season, his last as a NFL Player. * Bucs Tight Ends Coach Alfredo Roberts played for the Cowboys from 1991-93 and was a member of two Super Bowl Championship teams (XXVII and XXVIII) under the guidance of Jimmy Johnson.