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Jacquez Green is the key to finally making the Bucs' deep passing game go


The Bears may have been surprised how quickly Jacquez Green turned the corner after catching a pass over the middle

Early in the second quarter of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' season-opening win at New England, wide receiver Jacquez Green took a handoff on an end-around and picked up six yards. Which prompts us to say…

What happened?

Six yards? Lay Green's plays out on a chart this season and connect the dots. You'll end up with peaks worthy of an electrocardiogram, rather fitting considering Green's heart-racing efforts. Six yards? That's close to flat-lining on that chart.

To be fair, Green makes his living catching balls, not running them. That being said, let's also note that many of Green's long-gainers this season have included long bursts of what NFL stat-hounds call yards-after-catch, or YAC.

An obvious example of Green's YAC attack occurred just this past Sunday against the Jets, when, near midfield in a driving rain, Green leapt high for a pass that QB Shaun King threw from the six yard line. Green came down with the catch and would have delighted the crowd even if he had fallen to the ground with the ball at that yard line. Instead, he came down on his feet, kept his balance and sped away from the defender who had gone up with him, S Kevin Williams. Green allegedly stepped out of bounds at the 11, thus completing a 75-yard gain that nearly went the distance.

After the game, Green had a stunning average of 27.5 yards per catch so far in 2000. He has a team-high 302 receiving yards, good for fifth in the conference and ninth in the league. Green chews up yards quickly when he accelerates on the field; at the rate he is doing so this season, he'll finish with 1,208 yards and be the Bucs' first 1,000-yard receiver in 11 years.

The last was Mark Carrier, who set Buccaneer records in 1989 with 86 receptions and 1,422 yards. Green, conversely, could get to the 1,000-yard mark with only 36 receptions if he continues to average 27.5 yards per catch.

Is that realistic? Maybe, maybe not. The highest average-gain-per reception for a season in the NFL's record book is 32.6, by Don Currivan of the Boston Yanks in 1947 (24-782). Since the AFL-NFL merger, the best single-season mark belongs to San Diego's Bobby Duckworth, who put up a 28.6-yard average on 25 catches in 1984. The Buccaneers' single-season record is 22.1, set by Kevin House in 1980.

"I doubt if I can keep up that average," said Green, "but, hopefully, I'll continue to get a lot of yards. I'm not real big on (number of) catches…I just try to get yards. If I'm getting yards, that means we're moving the ball on offense."

There's no doubt that the Buccaneers are moving the ball better in 2000 than they did in 1999, or that the presence of Keyshawn Johnson on the other side of the field has helped Green. Green has had at least one catch for more than 30 yards in each of the Bucs' four games, a rare feat in the Bucs' passing attack. Green himself accomplished a streak that long last year between games seven and 10, but no other Buccaneer had done it since Lawrence Dawsey in 1994.

"A lot of that has been because of Keyshawn and some of the other things that we're doing," said Head Coach Tony Dungy. "We know Jacquez can get open deep and we know that he can make big plays. We hope that continues. Now, if people start focusing on him, that's going to open up some other things, whether it's Keyshawn or other guys in the offense."

Dawsey was a great player for the Buccaneers in the early '90s, but not a legitimate deep threat. Green, on the other hand, is the fastest player on the Bucs' roster, a commodity that keeps cornerbacks wary and can lead to openings underneath. That's why not all of Green's big-gainers are what one would classify as 'bombs'.

Against the Chicago Bears in week three, Green took a crossing route across the middle of the field between two layers of the Bears' zone coverage. When King hit him in stride, Green continued across to the left sideline and then turned upfield. Three Bears took an angle of pursuit on him, but all came up short at the point Green turned the corner. Result: 58-yard touchdown.

The Bucs may not get as many opportunities to attack a zone that way against Washington. The Redskins' high-profile cornerback trio of Deion Sanders, Darrell Green and Champ Bailey prefers to use their talent in a more man-to-man variety. However, if the Bucs' offense is moving well, that style will still allow Green to get deep.

"The style of defense that Ray Rhodes has brought there, they're playing much more aggressively," said Dungy. "Adding Deion Sanders, they feel like they can play bump-and-run across the board and keep guys in the box and make it tough to run. They force you to go after big plays and we're going to have to hit some passes on them."

Or who knows, maybe even an end-around. Green needs another shot at that play…he's got to get his average way up.

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