Each week Bucsblitz.com’s Matthew Postins will analyze the top five issues facing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that week. In this opening edition, Postins analyzes the decision to start Brian Griese at quarterback, the status of linebacker Derrick Brooks and the rehab of offensive guard Davin Joseph. Get the scoop right here.
Each Week Bucsblitz.com will break down a key drive from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ most recent game. The Drive breaks down every play of a drive, analyzes its importance in the game and why that drive mattered to a Bucs victory or defeat. In this week’s debut, Matthew Postins breaks down the drive that sealed Tampa Bay’s loss to New Orleans. Get the scoop right here.
Warrick Dunn is no longer the one that got away.
Dunn, drafted in the first round by Tampa Bay in 1997, was one of the Bucs’ most popular players, part of the team’s “Thunder and Lightning” backfield until the end of the 2001 season. He’s still listed as the No. 3 back in Buccaneers history with 4,200 yards. Dunn left for Atlanta as a free agent in 2002, mainly because some Bucs coaches were worried the running back wasn’t reliable as the star of the backfield. So Dunn followed former Bucs GM Rich McKay to Atlanta.
Then the Florida State grad ran for nearly 6,000 yards with Atlanta over the past six seasons.
So when the Falcons chose to allow Dunn to leave via free agency, and replace him with Michael Turner, the Bucs swooped in and re-signed Dunn as insurance in case Carnell “Cadillac Williams was unable to rehab his injured knee by the start of the regular season.
Last week Dunn rushed for 54 yards on just nine carries, and added one catch for 11 yards.
It almost seems like Dunn never left, and he said recently that he never felt unloved by the Bucs organization.
“I have heard that ever since I left Tampa, and coach (Jon) Gruden always greeted me and told me how he thought I was a great player,” Dunn said.
Now Dunn will get a chance to prove it.
Entering the season, all Dunn said was that he would “touch the football.” And that’s pretty much all he asks.
“One of the things I wanted when Atlanta released me is that I wanted to be involved,” he said. “This is a fresh start and coach Gruden wants me to get involved in both facets, the running game and the passing game.”
Dunn figures to see more touches against his former team this Sunday, especially as he continues to grasp a Bucs offense that can charitably be called intricate.
“Warrick is picking it up,” Gruden said. “He understands the offense, he’s more comfortable, he’s moving very quick and instinctively, and I’m really impressed with Warrick Dunn.”
And Dunn figures that if not for Williams’ injury, he might not be back in Florida. Williams is currently on the Physically Unable to Perform List and is not available to play until at least Week 7.
“Things happen for a reason,” he said. “The reason I left six years ago is not because I wanted to leave. It was the circumstances. Now that I have an opportunity to come back, I am going to enjoy the moment.”
For Dunn, the Bucs depth at running back is a big plus. He has more experience than Bennett and Graham, he said, but Graham did a great job last year expanding his role while Bennett has the ability to make plays with his speed.
Bennett was inactive last week, but Graham rushed for nearly 100 yards on just 10 carries.
“Hopefully I can complement those guys and make them better, not only on the field but off as well,” Dunn said.
It all leads to a level of comfort with the Bucs that Dunn wasn’t expecting this soon into his second stint with the team.
“I knew the community and the direction this team was going based on their success from last year,” he said. “We are a team on the verge, and I want to be a part of that. I want to be champion, I missed my opportunity to win a Super Bowl, but now I want to be a part of some big games.”