RB Warrick Dunn got into the second level of defense on this carry against Pittsburgh, but too many times the line of scrimmage was 'shut down'
Warrick Dunn wants Mike Alstott to get the football.
You might find that difficult to believe, given what Dunn has overcome to emerge as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' primary ballcarrier. We might be skeptical, too, if the two-time Pro Bowl tailback hadn't said so himself Monday night on Buccaneers.com, with thousands of Buc fans tuned in.
Before you worry that Dunn has suddenly grown soft, rest assured that he wants, and expects to have, the primary ballcarrier role as much as always. He didn't fight for years to overcome the 'too-small-to-be-an-everyday-back' label only to lose confidence when the job was finally him.
Dunn wants Mike Alstott to carry the football for the Buccaneers, but he also wants Warrick Dunn to get his 25 carries a game. While you're at it, toss in a few passes in Reidel Anthony's direction and don't forget about Jacquez Green.
Fact is, Dunn wants it all, because a Buccaneer offense with variety and balance is one that is going to put points on the board.
"The type of football that we're playing right now, we're not giving him or anyone else an opportunity to do anything," said Dunn of Alstott, who carried three times for 15 yards against Pittsburgh. "We're having to come from behind, and that makes it rough. I'm not a selfish guy – I want him to get his carries, but I also want to get my carries to get into a rhythm and make some big plays. I think everyone is on the same page with what we want to do, we're just not doing it."
These were some of the candid thoughts Dunn shared with Buccaneer fans across the country Monday night on the Pewter Power Hour. By appearing on Buccaneers.com's unique call-in show, Dunn was able to field questions directly from fans and chat with them in a one-on-one setting.
The caller that prompted this particular line of conversation was concerned that Alstott had put up his 15 yards on three consecutive carries in the first quarter then never touched the ball the rest of the way.
"As for Mike Alstott having three rushes…I don't know," said Dunn. "It's hard to spread the ball around, in a sense. Mike's a competitor, we all know that, and he's done a lot for this football team, but it's hard to spread the ball around. Yesterday, it didn't matter if he ran 20 or 25 times, or if I ran 20 or 25 times. The line of scrimmage was shut down. Those guys contained us well, it was hard to run, I had to break a lot of tackles and we had to resort to the passing game."
The Bucs' 17-10 loss to the Steelers was still fresh on the minds of frustrated Tampa Bay fans, and still emotionally and physically painful for Dunn, who suffered a hamstring injury late in the contest. Each week, the Pewter Power Hour airs just a day after the big game, and each week a prominent figure from the Bucs' locker room joins the show to help fans dissect the outcome, win or lose.
This week, it was Dunn's turn, and the toll-free phone lines were jammed with callers wishing to share their opinions with the prolific back and hear Dunn's take on the hot issues. If you would like to listen to a replay of the entire show, please click here. You can also listen to previous shows with guests such as Warren Sapp, John Lynch, Ronde Barber, Kenyatta Walker, Tony Dungy and Alstott in the Pewter Power Hour archive.
Dunn touched on a variety of subjects raised by callers. A few excerpts follow.
Was there any thought given to removing Brad Johnson, the Bucs' big quarterback investment, given the punishment he was taking through 10 sacks?
Dunn: "Well, we've also invested a lot in the offensive line. You figure you'll have one bad half of football then come out (in the second half) and start playing better. But that didn't happen. Brad's a professional, and yes he's had problems with injuries, but he hasn't lost confidence in anyone. He just knows those guys have to pick it up and play better football. I think Brad's going to be fine once the line gels.
"When they start playing the way they should be, the game is going to become a lot easier for him, when we're able to run the ball and throw it. When we're a balanced offense, he's going to get better."
What is the take of the team's offensive players on the Bucs' uncharacteristic struggles on defense?
Dunn: "It is frustrating, not just for us but for those guys on defense. They work their butts off. In the past, when you think about the Buccaneers, you think about defense. You don't think about the offense or special teams – it's the defense. I think with the coaches that we lost, when you lose a Lovie Smith and a Herm Edwards, that's a big blow. That's not to say that the coaches they brought in haven't done a great job, but now it's a new chemistry that has to be developed.
"I think team's now have found a formula and a way to take advantage of what we've been doing. Don't get me wrong, these guys are going to continue to work hard and get better. I just think it's taking us a little bit longer to where we want to get to.
"But, you know what, if I was a betting man, I would bet on our defense right now. Those guys are going to come out and they're going to play hard. As an offense, we have to back those guys up. You put points on the board, score touchdowns and put teams in a passing situation, you give the defense an opportunity to tee off. This year, we just haven't done that.
When that day happens, I think as a team we're going to gel and move in the right direction.
Do you believe you are being given enough carries?
Dunn: "That's a tough question for me because one thing I've tried to tell them is that we have to be patient. Sometimes, it's not going to happen. Take, for instance, last year when Mike missed his first game, the Buffalo game. I had 19 carries for something like 40 yards, then all of a sudden I broke the long run and that was it. After that, I got into a rhythm and guys started believing.
"My thing right now is that I just have to get healthy, get back to where I was and be patient. They realize that. They realize that we can't keep rotating Mike and I into a game, because no one is going to get into a rhythm, no one is going to start doing things naturally. That's what we're talking about when we say 'rhythm' – you get your carries, you get a feel for what they're doing, you're able to react, you get into the game a little more to where things happen naturally."