Nothing Going Well For Caddy This Time Around
Ira Kaufman, The Tampa Tribune, published 18 September 2006

The fickle nature of the National Football League is sporting a new poster child. Cadillac Williams has been transformed from Offensive Rookie of the Year to bystander in the span of two games as the punchless Bucs fell to 0-2 with Sunday's 14-3 loss to the Falcons.

"Last year at this time I was kind of on top of the world," said Williams, who followed last week's 22-yard effort against Baltimore with 37 yards in 15 carries at the Georgia Dome. "Now things are not going so well for me or the team."

The fifth pick in the 2005 draft ran for 276 yards in his first two pro games, averaging 5.4 yards per carry as the Bucs beat Minnesota and Buffalo. A 158-yard game at Green Bay gave Williams the NFL rookie record for most rushing yards after Week 3, prompting the Pro Football Hall of Fame to ask for his cleats and gloves.

Maybe Williams should ask for them back. Falling behind early has taken Tampa Bay out of its game plan in the early weeks, minimizing touches for Williams, whose six 100-yard games last year were each accompanied by a Tampa Bay victory.

"Points are big in this league and strategies change when you get behind," said Bucs coach Jon Gruden, who may lean heavily on Williams on Sunday against the winless Panthers. "Yes, it's frustrating, but 15 carries for [37] yards is frustrating, also."

With their ground game stymied, the Bucs threw on 54 of their 70 snaps. That's a formula for disaster because Tampa Bay is 2-13 under Gruden when attempting more than 40 passes. "I'm just frustrated because with this offense, I see so much potential," said Williams, who missed practice Thursday because of back spasms but said he felt fine against Atlanta. "We need to figure out something, come together and get going. I look forward to seeing how we react and how I react."

But until the Bucs develop a consistent passing game, opponents will continue to crowd the box against Williams and dare Chris Simms to beat them through the air. "We are trying to get them into a one-dimensional game," Atlanta strong safety Lawyer Milloy said. "We wanted to stop the run and we were able to force them to throw the ball. We knew after last week the quarterback was going to be a little frustrated."

The Falcons have made significant upgrades to their rushing defense with the additions of 345-pound tackle Grady Jackson, Milloy and free safety Chris Crocker. Williams posted two of his 100-yard games against Atlanta in 2005 and stopping him was the top priority for a swarming defense Sunday.

"Three points in two games looks horrible," Williams said, "but we're actually close as an offense. We're getting down early and it's making us get away a little from our tendencies. Their defense came out and played a heck of a game [Sunday]."

Perhaps the Bucs will find Carolina's rushing defense more accommodating as two desperate clubs meet at Raymond James Stadium. The Panthers, also 0-2 in the NFC South, yielded 252 yards on the ground to the Falcons in Week 1 and 140 to Minnesota in Sunday's overtime loss as Chester Taylor ran for 113 yards. "We've got to get it done - there's nothing left to say," Bucs center John Wade said. "I'm at a loss for words. At least score, man."