Let’s take you back to April, 2004. I’m watching the NFL draft. Already taken, stud college QB’s Eli Manning, Phillip Rivers, and Ben Roethlisberger… and now the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are on the clock.
The experts, like Mel Kiper, are predicting the Bucs will take a Oregon State running back named Steven Jackson. I’m giddy. The Bucs had lost Thomas Jones to free agency, and Michael Pittman wasn’t a long-term answer. And let’s face it, the Bucs haven’t had a franchise back since James Wilder (I loved Warrick Dunn, but he wasn’t a franchise back).
Then Commissioner Paul Tagliabue comes out and says, “with the 15th pick in the 2004 NFL draft, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected Michael Clayton, wide receiver, LSU.” WHAT?!?!?
(Side tangent: To be fair… while I was disappointed at first, Clayton had an amazing rookie year. Probably would have been rookie of the year had Big Ben not won 12 games as a starter. Unfortunately, Clayton’s rookie year was by FAR his best year.)
Steve Jackson wasn’t taken until the 24th pick by the St. Louis Rams.
And now for the second time since that draft Jackson will come to Tampa…
THE DARK CLOUD
…and I’m scared. No… I’m petrified, terrified, horrified, panic-stricken even (I got out the thesaurus again).
Why? Let me throw some names and numbers out at you…
Peyton Hillis/James Harrison- 93 yards
DeAngelo Williams/Jonathan Stewart- 97 yards
Rashard Mendenhall- 143 yards
Cedric Benson- 144 yards
Chris Ivory- 158 yards
What do all those guys have in common? None is as good as Steven Jackson… and all destroyed the Bucs terrible rush defense. Sunday could be a very long day.
THE SILVER LINING
I’ve been really hard on the secondary, but you know what? They’ve been on their own island so far this season. They’ve gotten no help from the pass rush, meaning they’re doing all the work themselves.
So how’s this the silver lining?
Well Aqib Talib, Ronde Barber and crew still have 10 picks this year, that’s two a game. Sam Bradford has thrown 8 picks so far this season, 1 in every game except for the win over San Diego. I’m optimistically saying “do the math”. Helping the Bucs equation, the Rams are devastated in the WR position. That has to help right?
(Another side tangent: You have to imagine that DT Gerald McCoy will be playing with a little extra fire. Don’t you think he wants to get the better of this match-up against his former Oklahoma Sooner teammate Bradford? I know I would. Besides he’s been getting a lot of heat this week about not producing more.)
On the flipside, Josh Freeman continues to show improvement and most importantly isn’t turning over the ball. The Rams secondary has just 5 picks this season and was lit up by Shaun Hill and Phillip Rivers (Freeman’s better than Hill at least). And you know since the Bucs can’t run, the ball will be flying. Again “do the math.”
THE VIEW FROM MY COUCH
The Bucs have shown this season they’re not ready to hang with the big boys, but have done well against the average teams. Fortunately the Rams, while much improved, aren’t the big boys just yet. Steven Jackson will get his yards (and I’ll cry over every one), but if the Bucs can make a few stops here and there this should be a win.
If only Steven Jackson was wearing the pewter and red.
Let me know what you think?
Follow me on twitter @buc_wild
About the Author
Written by Justin Chechourka
Born and raised in California, I inexplicably became a Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan. Now I bleed red and pewter. The best part of being a Bucs fan in California... I never have to worry about blackouts.