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 TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -The Tampa Bay Buccaneers don't have any illusions about what the St. Louis Rams will try to do to jump-start their season.
Marc Bulger still directs a potent passing attack featuring big-play receivers Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce. However, the Bucs feel that the player who really makes the Rams go on offense is running back Steven Jackson.
``He's a beast,'' Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden said.
``In my opinion, one of the great backs - not good backs, but great backs - in the league,'' 10-time Pro Bowl linebacker Derrick Brooks agreed. ``He does a lot for them.''
Not the past two weeks.
Jackson has averaged 3 yards per carry during St. Louis' 0-2 start, and the Rams also have struggled to get the fourth-year pro involved in the passing game. He has four receptions for 39 yards after leading all NFL running backs with 90, while also rushing for 1,528 yards and 13 touchdowns, in 2006.
The Bucs (1-1) expect the Rams to try to get him back on track when the teams meet Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.
``He's a great receiver - no one talks about that enough. He can take a 2-yard check-down 70 yards. I've seen him do it. He's a tremendous football player. He's a power runner, he's an elusive back, he's a complete package,'' Gruden said.
``He's not off to the start, I think, that he's accustomed to being off to, but he's one or two plays away from exploding right back onto the scene.''
Jackson carried 18 times for 58 yards during St. Louis' season-opening loss to Carolina, then gained 60 yards on 21 attempts last week when the Rams had nearly 400 yards total offense to San Francisco's 186 - and still lost 17-16.
Turnovers hurt St. Louis in both games, but so did the lack of production from Jackson, who's been running behind an offensive line missing injured Pro Bowl tackle Orlando Pace.
``You don't want this to be the week that he gets out of the gate,'' Bucs defensive tackle Chris Hovan said.
``A couple weeks now he has been frustrated with some of the runs that he has had. Hopefully, we are going to be up to the task to stop him. ... First and foremost our focus is to stop (Jackson), and then get after Bulger.''
The Bucs rebounded from a season-opening loss at Seattle to beat New Orleans 31-14, with Jeff Garcia showing what kind of difference he can make at quarterback and a revamped defense containing Brees, Reggie Bush and Deuce McAllister.
Garcia threw for 243 yards, Joey Galloway had four receptions for 135 yards and two touchdowns, and Carnell ``Cadillac'' Williams scored on a pair of 1-yard runs for his first TDs in nearly a year.
``He is a much better quarterback, no disrespect to anyone else we have had here, than we have played with. He just is a better player,'' said Gruden, who has used eight different quarterbacks since arriving in Tampa Bay in 2002.
``He's a barbed wire kind of guy. He's not the biggest, most menacing guy, but he has a bite to him. He's not afraid to say what he thinks. He's a great competitor. He's a charismatic guy. He's demanding of himself and demanding of the players around him. He wants to win and I think it's a genuine, sincere, competitive edge he brings to our football team that we need here.''
Holt, who has averaged nine receptions and 142 yards per game in four regular-season meetings with the Bucs, said the Rams also are trying to establish a new identity on offense under second-year coach Scott Linehan.
``The Greatest Show On Turf stuff, to me, is gone, it's past,'' said Holt, referring to the moniker attached to St. Louis' high-scoring offense in recent years.
``We've moved on to a new era of offense, a new era of guys. We're still fine-tuning and kind of finding ourselves and what we're all about.''
Meanwhile, Linehan is not dwelling on the Rams wasting a solid defensive effort last week.
``It's very disappointing. But you can't be devastated or crushed by it or you'll never recover,'' Linehan said. ``It's still early in the year. You've got to look at the positives, the fact we did feel we were in control and were much improved defensively from Week 1.''

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