Let's start with the injuries. These two guys will be out: Tab Perry and Richie Braham. We're probably a couple weeks away from having some clarity on either guy as far as how soon we'll have them back. But they do continue to progress and get better. With the doctor's care, they'll be weaned off the crutches now and move to other things. But we're still a couple weeks away. These guys - Greg Brooks, Sam Adams and Levi Jones - will be in that probable category. And then the guys that will be questionable would be Rashad Jeanty and Dexter Jackson. The list is down a little ways, which is good, but we'll continue to move forward.
Q: The Buccaneers are 0-4. Are they that bad?ML:
No. I don't think they're that bad whatsoever. They're still a good football team. They lost their starting quarterback. They played with a young quarterback in Bruce Gradkowski last week. I thought he was very efficient and took care of the football. He seemed to get the ball up and out of his hand quickly and was accurate when he threw it. They were not able to sack him. He didn't have a turnover.
They have very good running backs in Mike Alstott, Cadillac Williams, and Michael Pittman. So they have guys who can run the football downhill. Cadillac has the speed to hit the edge much like Willie Parker. They have good speed at wide receiver and they throw the ball into the tight end quite a bit. They're very aggressive on special teams. They all have been coached by the same guy for a long time. Defensively, they've been settled in that groove for a long time. We have to be productive and take care of the football. That will give us an opportunity to be successful in the game.
Q: How much do you miss Dexter Jackson?ML:
We've had guys step up and play. Guys get injured and that's part of the NFL. You have to have the next guy come up and play, and move forward. When Dexter's back, we'll enjoy having him back. But we don't worry about what or who we don't have. We just keep playing.
Q: You've long admired Dexter. What did you like about him?ML:
Well, I think how hard he always has played. You don't know until you have an opportunity to be around a guy and coach him. You don't know his practice habits and so forth, but yet you admire how hard he plays. With the Bucs, he was a fine tackler who made plays on the football. So he did things that you want to see a safety do. He obviously made big plays in big games, and was somewhat of a stabilizing force. But he still brings that fire and the aggressiveness that you want to have.
Q: Does a player like him get lost when he's on a great defense?ML:
Well, there are a lot of mentors, role models he had in other guys. And he took advantage of that. He played with Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, John Lynch and Simeon Rice. He played with some guys that are at the top, and have been recognized as All-Pro players for a long time. Dexter's doing his thing the best he can, but they've still got guys like that. You've got Booger McFarland up front and Brian Kelly back in the secondary. They've been able to be productive with guys for a long time.
Q: More on Bruce Gradkowski:ML:
I thought he did a good job of taking care of the football. I thought he was quick with the ball, in and out of his hand. They moved him a little bit on bootlegs and things like that. He didn't have a turnover. He had opportunities when his guy was covered, as he went through his progressions, he pulled the ball down and ran for some first downs. I thought he played well. I thought he gave them an opportunity to win the football game.
Q: Have you seen the Buccaneers Web site's spoof on Carson Palmer?ML:
I've been telling Geoff Hobson (of bengals.com) we should do that on ours (laughs). But Geoff wants his to look like a newspaper. As far as the Bucs, it's the team's Web site and they can do whatever they want. Have you ever gone on the Eagles Web site? It's great. The Bucs guy is just doing his job. I doubt that any of our players will ever see it. I don't know why they'd be on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Web site. It's a slow news day when we're talking about this.
Q: Any offensive line adjustments you'd care to share with us?ML:
Q: Chad Johnson's longest catch is 18 yards. What are you going to do to get the ball in his hands?ML:
Well, we want to make sure we push the ball vertically, and we've been unable to do that. We've got to make sure that still continues to be a part of our offense. When we have pushed the ball vertically, we've been generally successful, and we have to make sure we don't get away from that too much. Now Chad's seeing a lot of over and under coverage, which makes a big difference. In that case, in Carson's three years of playing, he now realizes where the ball's got to go. That's the way it should be.
Q: Have you taken as many shots downfield as in the past?ML:
We've had the lead in some games, and maybe some of the same opportunity has not been there. Until the last game, we were ahead at every halftime. We've had some double-digit, two-score leads going into the fourth quarter. So it makes a little bit of difference that way. But we just want to make sure we're doing the things offensively that it takes to be successful with our players, and that's what it comes back down to. That's one of the tapes I asked for. I wanted to see that because that's important to me all the time. If I were calling defense on the other side, I would worry about the other team throwing that ball over my head. I don't like that.
n the football game.
Q: Why has there been bad tackling in the league? Don't teams practice hitting?ML:
Hitting is not tackling. Tackling is tackling.
Q: How do you practice that?ML:
You've got to tackle. You've got to have guys who want to tackle. They want to get the ball carrier on the ground. They've got to get there, and get him on the ground. They have to wrap up and grab cloth. They have to get through to the backside leg, grab cloth, and get him on the ground. We keep working on it and we always work on it. It's something we do in part of our practices each Wednesday and Thursday.
Q: When you coached defense, were there teams that gave you fits?ML:
Jacksonville, with Jimmy Smith, Keenan McCardell, and Mark Brunell. And the Bengals, with Carl Pickens and Jeff Blake for a couple years. You knew what you were going to get. That ball was going to be up there. It was difficult to even simulate in practice. We had to do special things to simulate it because Jeff Blake could throw the ball for so long. Mark Brunell's long ball is kind of the opposite. It was on that fifth step where that ball was getting up and in a hurry. His receiver was so fast he was going to get to it. That's why in training camp we try to spread out so we get those vertical throws, and why we try to do it here as much as can. That guy starts looking and thinking, 'Gosh, that ball should be coming in.' That ball's coming in at - not 45 yards - but 55 yards. And that makes a big difference.