|Buccaneers' defense braces for first encounter with Vince Young|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 11 October 2007 12:26|
``They're the real deal right now,'' said Gruden, whose rebuilding Bucs (3-2) face the improving Titans (3-1) on Sunday.
``Vince Young is coming on. ... You see moments where maybe he wishes he had a throw here or there back, but he's not afraid to pull the trigger. And when all hell breaks loose, and he's got to create with his legs, there's nobody like him that I know. He's a winner.''
The Titans are off to their best start since 2003 after winning six of their last seven games to finish 8-8 last season, Young's first.
The 24-year-old quarterback's playmaking ability has been part of the reason for the turnaround. But so has his willingness to become more of a game manager who sets the table for others in the offense.
``He's improved significantly. His understanding of what we're doing, his ability to anticipate what opponents are going to do,'' Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher said of Young, who's already led five game-winning drives in his brief career.
``I think last year he felt like in his first couple of starts that he had to do everything. Now he understands if he manages the game ... he's surrounded with good people and he can make the plays when he's called on, and they can also.''
Like Gruden, Tampa Bay's players are impressed with what Young has done since entering the league as the third pick in the 2006 draft.
After facing Peyton Manning in a 33-14 loss to Indianapolis last week, the Bucs' defense is bracing for a different type of challenge.
Young can become the first player in the Super Bowl era to throw for 3,000 yards and run for 700 in his first 20 career games if he has 218 passing and 25 rushing on Sunday.
Although Tampa Bay has played fairly well in recent years against mobile quarterbacks such as Michael Vick, Young is a much more effective passer than the suspended Atlanta star was early in his career.
``He's a very athletic, mobile quarterback that can throw it on a whim,'' defensive tackle Chris Hovan said. ``His throwing motion is really sneaky because all of a sudden (when) it doesn't look like he's throwing, he's throwing like 40-50 yards, and it's a rifle to the receiver.''
Young tossed three interceptions and Tennessee had five turnovers overall, yet still beat the Falcons 20-13 last Sunday.
The Titans' defense, featuring the 6-foot-6, 320-pound Haynesworth, whose blend of size and quickness fascinates Gruden, limited Atlanta to 198 yards. The unit scored the winning touchdown on Vincent Fuller's 76-yard interception return.
There's a growing confidence that whatever it takes, the Titans will find a way instead of relying on their second-year quarterback to take over games like he often did as NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.
``I wouldn't say it was all me going out and winning those games. It's a team effort on offense, defense and special teams,'' Young said. ``Whoever has the ball last, offense or defense, we plan going into the game and finishing it.''
If anyone can appreciate what Young has been able to accomplish so quickly, it's Tampa Bay quarterback Jeff Garcia, a three-time Pro Bowl selection whose arrival this season has injected life into the Bucs' offense.
The 37-year-old has not thrown an interception through five games, although the Bucs' reliance on him may increase in coming weeks because of injuries to running backs Carnell ``Cadillac' Williams and Michael Pittman.
``I think that Tennessee does a great job of working with Vince and putting him in good positions. When the game is close and on the line, obviously Vince has found a way to take it over himself. He's a great closer. The guy does not get rattled very easily. He shows great composure. He makes the throws when he needs to make the throws. He has great runs when the team is counting on them,'' Garcia said.
``There aren't many kids coming out of college that are capable of doing those things as quickly as Vince has done them. It's a rare exception to the rule. ... At the NFL level, there is so much to learn and understand. If you don't have the (physical) ability and the mental ability to back it up, you're not going to experience success as early on.''