Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Running at the Mouth

Warrick Dunn’s thoughts on the eve of one of the Buccaneers’ biggest games in years

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RB Warrick Dunn isn't sure the cutback run will work well against the Dolphins

Warrick Dunn has a few words for the Miami defense.

"Ball hawks. Play-makers. Aggressive," said Dunn, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back who has carved up Buffalo and Dallas defenses on the last two Sundays.

Most observers feel that Dunn, like Miami RB Lamar Smith, is going to be a key factor in the outcome of Sunday's Tampa Bay-Miami game, since both defenses are very difficult to pass against. Dunn needs 111 yards to reach 1,000 for the season, and has averaged 158 over the past two games.

Dunn arrived in Ft. Lauderdale with the rest of his team on Saturday afternoon, landing in a city he remembers well from his college playing days in the state. It was in the 80s in Ft. Lauderdale, which suited Dunn just fine.

"This is college weather, fantasy land," said Dunn. "It's been a little cool in Tampa the last few weeks, but it's perfect here. Warm weather, grass…that's how I like it."

Not all of the Saturday conversation centered on the weather. Dunn had a few thoughts on some other matters, such as:

Will the cutback run work against Miami?

"Only if the linebackers are flowing," said Dunn. "I think we're going to have to be patient in the running game tomorrow, because Zach Thomas is probably not going to flow as much as usual."

Does your diminutive size actually work in your favor on the field?

"Some people have made comments that they can't see me sometimes," Dunn admitted. "Think about when I'm running behind Frank Middleton, he's like two guys. Because I'm short, I can hide a little bit longer."

How has becoming the primary ballcarrier affected your game?

"Well, I don't worry about it now if I don't get 10 or 15 yards on a carry," he said. "If I lose a yard on my first carry, I know I'm not coming out. They have to run me again.

"And I think the line is getting comfortable with one guy running the football. They know how I run, what reads I make.

"I love it. I'm more patient, letting the guys set up blocks longer. I know, eventually, one's going to pop, and it has the last two weeks. I'm comfortable that I'm going to get into the flow of the game and let things happen."

What do you expect out of the Bucs' passing game against the Dolphins?

"To win this game, we're going to need a passing game," said Dunn. "We're not going to be able to run it up and down the field on these guys all day. Shaun's going to need to have a big game...he needs to hit number 81, number 19, number 85. He needs to hit the tight end. I've tried to stress that to Shaun this week.

"I think he took that and tried to build on it. He had a good practice on Wednesday, a good practice on Thursday, a great practice on Friday.

"Shaun has to be confident in Shaun. He has to come out early and establish himself, follow through on his throws and make the right reads. We have guys that will catch it if he does. I always tell Shaun to let the game come to him. Don't force it. Eventually, they'll give you a 50-yarder."

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