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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Preseason Schedule Change

Wednesday Notes: The preseason trip to Jacksonville has been moved up a day, to Friday, Aug. 20…DeVone Claybrooks returns…Bucs get set for the league’s best rushers


DT DeVone Claybrooks (93) and the Bucs will head to Jacksonville on a Friday night in August, rather than Saturday

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers announced a change to their 2004 preseason schedule on Wednesday. The team's second preseason game, originally scheduled for Saturday, August 21 at Jacksonville, will now be played on Friday, August 20.

In addition, the kickoff time for the game has been moved from 7:00 to 7:30 p.m. ET.

Both of Tampa Bay's preseason home games remain on Saturday night, against Cincinnati on August 14 and versus Miami on August 28. The Bucs' preseason concludes in Houston on Thursday, September 2.

All of the Bucs' preseason games will be broadcast locally on NBC affiliate WFLA.


Claybrooks Returns

For the third time in his relatively brief NFL career, defensive tackle DeVone Claybrooks has signed with the Buccaneers.

The Bucs announced the addition of the 6-3, 310-pound Claybrooks on Wednesday, giving the team further depth at a position that will see some change in the rotation this season after the departure of Warren Sapp. Claybrooks, who first entered the league in 2001 as an undrafted free agent with the Green Bay Packers, has spent time on the active rosters of the Bucs, San Francisco 49ers and Cleveland Browns.

Claybrooks' initial trip to Tampa came in early 2001, when the Bucs picked the rookie up for their practice squad in September. The former East Carolina standout was eventually waived in mid-October. He spent a portion of the '01 season on Cleveland's practice squad before heading overseas to play in the NFL Europe League in the spring of 2002.

Claybrooks then rejoined the Bucs in November of 2002, first on the practice squad then on the active roster in mid-November. He eventually saw action in two regular season games, recording seven tackles. He was also active for all three of the Bucs' playoff games that year, including Super Bowl XXXVII.

Claybrooks came to camp with the Bucs in 2003 but was waived on the final roster cut-down of August 31. He then signed with San Francisco on September 30 and spent most of the regular season on the 49ers' active roster. Claybrooks appeared in three games with San Francisco, making one stop; that tackle, coincidentally, came against the Buccaneers on October 19.

San Francisco waived Claybrooks on the day before Christmas, but he was signed by the Atlanta Falcons six days later. However, Atlanta eventually released him this past March 12.


Strength Up the Middle

Given that the Bucs signed a defensive tackle on Wednesday, it is the perfect time to highlight what could be a major determinant in the team's success this coming season: Run defense.

As much as Tampa Bay targeted its offensive line during free agency, its run defense is an almost equal priority. The Bucs' efforts against the run weren't a complete disaster in 2003 – the team ranked 13th in that category and fifth on defensive overall – but they were hit hard on the ground in almost all of their losses. Compare the average rushing yardage the Bucs allowed in their seven wins (73.1 per game) with what they surrendered in their nine losses (138.2). The latter total is almost double the former.

The Bucs will emphasize this issue in 2004 for good reason: eight of the top 10 individual rushers from last year are on Tampa Bay's schedule this fall, most of them during the regular season. Here are the top 10 rushers from last year, their stats and the date they play the Bucs:

**Player****Yards****Rush Avg.****TDs****Game**
1. Jamal Lewis2,0665.314No game
2. Ahman Green1,8835.315No game
3. LaDainian Tomlinson1,6455.313at San Diego, Dec. 12
4. Deuce McAllister1,6414.78at N.O., Oct. 10; vs. N.O., Dec. 19
5. Clinton Portis1,5915.514at Washington, Sept. 12
6. Fred Taylor1,5724.66at Jacksonville, Aug. 20
7. Stephen Davis1,4444.58at Car.; Nov. 28, vs. Car., Dec. 26
8. Shaun Alexander1,4354.414vs. Seattle, Sept. 19
9. Priest Holmes1,4204.427vs. Kansas City, Nov. 7
10. Ricky Williams1,3723.59vs. Miami, Aug. 28

The Bucs' rush defense will get a preseason tune-up with Taylor and Williams in successive August games. That's a good thing, because the big-time runners start hitting Tampa Bay as soon as the regular season begins. The team's Week One visit to Washington will bring it in contact with Portis, the Redskins' new back, and the home opener against Seattle in Week Two will feature the Seahawks' Alexander.

The end of the season could also be tough in this regard. Before finishing the season at Arizona, which may rely more on its trio of young pass-catchers, the Bucs will get a rapid-fire dose of San Diego's Tomlinson, New Orleans' McAllister and Carolina's Davis.

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