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Bucs still struggling against the run

Posted Aug 22, 2011 by Ira Kaufman

Updated Aug 22, 2011 at 01:44 PM

By IRA KAUFMAN

TAMPA—Despite a 36-game legacy of soft rush defense, Bucs coach Raheem Morris says he isn’t concerned about stopping the run.

Tampa Bay’s defensive woes against the run began late in the 2008 season, when the 9-3 Bucs dropped their final four games and failed to make the playoffs, leading to the dismissal of Coach Jon Gruden and GM Bruce Allen. Opponents averaged 189 yards per game on the ground during that December collapse.

The Bucs ranked 32nd against the run in 2009 and 28th last year. Eight different runners posted 100-yard games against Tampa Bay in 2010 and in their last 36 games, the Bucs have yielded 19 individual 100-yard games by opposing rushers.

In Thursday night’s 31-14 preseason loss to New England, Tampa Bay was gashed for 117 yards on the ground while the Patriots built a 28-0 halftime advantage, including a 29-yard dash by Danny Woodhead.

“It’s just a matter of fitting things up,’’ Morris said, “and letting (rookie middle linebacker) Mason Foster get better. Our first team actually did a decent job in the run game. They had the one breakout run where the ball cut back on a blitz. We misfit some fits on the second unit, but for the most part, I’m pretty comfortable with what’s going on.’‘

Injuries at defensive tackle have hurt Tampa Bay’s interior run defense, but Gerald McCoy (shoulder) returned against the Pats and Roy Miller (knee) is expected back later this week. Morris believes the addition of first-round pick Adrian Clayborn at right defensive end will bolster the run defense.

“We missed a couple of tackles on Woodhead—he’s slippery and he’s quick,’’ Morris said. “I think he (Clayborn) will be a phenomenal help.’‘

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