This time, the Bucs had better grab Dalvin Cook

by Gary Shelton on September 21, 2017 · 0 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

The Bucs' defense starts with McCoy../JEFFREY S. KING

The Bucs' defense starts with McCoy../JEFFREY S. KING

Thursday, 2 a.m.

They didn't grab him in the NFL draft.

Now, they have to grab him on the field instead.

Minnesota running back Dalvin Cook, a trendy pick in the mock drafts last off-season to be the Bucs' selection, leads the Minnesota Vikings into their game against the Bucs on Sunday. Cook is third in the NFL with 191 rushing yards.

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“He’s a really good player,” Bucs' coach Dirk Koetter said. “He can run with power. He can run with speed. He can catch the ball out of the backfield and he has demonstrated all of that in the first two weeks of the season. (He’s a) really good football player.”

Cook had 127 yards in the opener against the Saints and 64 against Pittsburgh. He is averaging 5.6 yards per carry.

"He is a game-wrecker,” Bucs' defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. He destroyed New Orleans and had some big runs last week. He's not a ‘run-and-get-out-of-bounds’ guy. He's a ‘get-that-extra-couple-yards’ guy. Anybody like that, you've got to bring your big-boy pants with you. Bring an extra set of pads because it's going to be a physical day, and that's the type of style offense they have, very physical offense that gets downhill in the run. Even when they stretch the ball out, he looks for that hole and once he gets downhill he's getting downhill in a hurry. He's not getting downhill avoiding contact. Not just that, but he can catch. He can wreck your game, just like Coach said. He's a game-wrecker and we've got to be ready for him."

For the Bucs, the victory over Chicago started with run defense as the team swarmed Tarek Cohen and Jordan Howard.

“No disrespect to the Bears backs that we played last week. I think he is a different type of back. He is a little bit bigger. I don’t know that he has the quicks that we faced last week, but he is a stronger running back. He runs well behind his pads. He has already had two runs of 30 yards or more. All you’ve got to do is show that clip to the team and they’ve got respect for him right away. He has the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. They moved him out and put him out at the No. 1 position, similar to what we saw last week. We consider him a game-wrecker. It’s interesting, the first two weeks of the season we’ve had to face two good rookies that play the running back position.”

The Bucs, however, seem to have the tools to stop the Vikings, especially McCoy.

“It starts with 93 (defensive tackle Gerald McCoy),” defensive coordintor Mike Smith said. “There is no doubt about that. You win in this league by winning the line of scrimmage and he is a very disruptive player and he set the tone on the very first play of the ballgame last week. He is a pleasure to coach.

“You can’t just have one. Like you mentioned, you’ve got to have players at different levels that are going to play different roles. I didn’t do a good enough job in the first part of the season last year of making these guys understand. They have a good understanding of how we are fitting. When we fit the run and don’t get knocked out of gaps, people should think about going and doing something else in terms of how they are going to attack if we fit it right. If we don’t fit it right, there is going to be a soft spot and we are going to give up yards. But it was nice to see the way that the guys played in terms of their run fits in the game last week. It was much better than last year.”

Free agent Chris Baker also played well against Chicago.

“Chris did a nice job,” Smith said. “There were a number of times that both of our defensive tackles had four hands on them. What I mean by that is it’s a double team and they’ve got four hands in their zone-blocking schemes. When there [are] four hands on the three techniques and the one technique, that means our linebackers are going to have an opportunity to run free. I think that contributed to our number of minus yards plays. They were getting the resources from the offense where there were four hands on the defensive tackles.

“That’s the dirty work that guys have to do and people don’t realize it. You look at a stat sheet and you say, ‘Well, he didn’t make the stat sheet.’ Well, three of those tackle-for-losses were because he kept the offensive guard and center or the tackle and guard occupied so our linebacker was able to run through.”

Said McCoy: "What Bake does is he holds the fort down definitely in the run game, and he just knows where he's supposed to be in the pass game. Bake is who he is: He doesn't get moved in the run, pushes the pocket in the pass. That's what we brought him here to do and that's what he did. As long as he keeps doing that, we're going to have a lot of success."

One challenge facing the Bucs this week is that they don't know which quarterback they'll face. It could be Sam Bradford, who was superb in Week One, or backup Case Keenum, who beat the Bucs in '15 and '16 while playing for the Rams.

“We probably shouldn’t be calling him a backup because he has beat us two years in a row,” Koetter said. “They might be better off with him playing. He seems to have our number.”

Smith, however, expects Bradford to play.

“I think we have to prepare like Sam Bradford is going to play,” Smith said. “They said he is day-to-day, so when we hear that we’ve got to plan like he is going to play. He’s a very efficient quarterback, and we’ve got to plan like he’s going to play. If we don’t see him, the guy that is going to be playing, we played him last year and we didn’t perform as well as we needed to. There will be some motivation on our part in the defensive room. That was not the type of performance that we wanted to put out there and we did.”

To McCoy, it doesn't matter who plays quarterback for Minnesota.

"Look, they're going to put one football down and they're going to say, 'Hut,'” McCoy said. “They might not go on that hut, they may go on the second hut, but once they hike that ball, the ball's going to the quarterback. Whoever's holding it, it's my job to get to him. I don't really care. We're going to prepare for the scheme, and whoever's holding that ball on Sunday it's my job to go get him. That's all I'm going to do."

Game time Sunday is 1 p.m. in Minnesota.

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