Tampa Bay's Jon Gruden is in his seventh season as Buccaneers head coach.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers went 9-7 in 2007, earning the NFC South division crown and the fourth seed in the NFC playoffs. They lost in the wild card round to the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants. The Bucs probably will rest most of their starters when they play the Texans in order to get a look at some of the younger players on the team.
Jon Gruden enters his seventh season as head coach of the Buccaneers and 10th overall as an NFL head coach. Since arriving in Tampa Bay, Gruden has led the team to their only Super Bowl title in franchise history, along with two division championships. Gruden and the Bucs fell to the Texans 28-14 at Reliant Stadium in Week 14 of the regular season last year.
Quarterback: Jeff Garcialeads the offense after a year in which he threw for 2,440 yards and 13 touchdowns against only four interceptions on 209 attempts. Garcia was selected to his fourth Pro Bowl in 2007. Backing up Garcia is Luke McCown, who threw for 1,009 yards and three touchdowns a year ago. Brian Griese should also get a chance to lead the offense against the Texans.
Running back: After starting running back Cadillac Williams suffered a season-ending knee injury early last season, Earnest Graham stepped up and took over the starting role in the sixth game for the Buccaneers. Graham led the team and established career highs in rushing attempts (222), rushing yards (898) and rushing touchdowns (10) last year. The team brought back running back Warrick Dunn to back up Graham this season after Dunn spent the last few years with the Atlanta Falcons. Speedy running back Michael Bennett also should carry the ball a few times.
Wide receiver/tight end: Wide receivers Joey Galloway and Ike Hilliard sit atop a talented group of receivers. Galloway was named as a Pro Bowl alternate last season after notching 57 receptions for 1,014 yards (17.8 avg.) with six touchdowns. Hilliard led Tampa Bay with 62 receptions and ranked second on the team with 722 receiving yards. Third on the depth chart is Tampa's 2004 first-round draft choice, Michael Clayton. Backups Maurice Stovalland Antonio Bryant should see the field often as well as diminutive but dangerous rookie receiver Dexter Jackson out of Appalachian State. At tight end, fourth-year pro Alex Smith had 32 receptions for 385 yards and was third on the team with three receiving touchdowns last season. Expect second- and third-string tight ends John Gilmore and Ben Troupe also to see plenty of playing time.
Offensive line: Starting left tackle Donald Pennmade a seamless transition from backup to starter during the 2007 season. Left guard Arron Sears earned Pro Football Weekly All-Rookie Team honors in 2007. Center Jeff Faine was a Pro Bowl alternate selection while playing for New Orleans. Right guard Davin Joseph originally entered the league as a first-round selection (23rd overall) of the Buccaneers in the 2006 NFL Draft. Right tackle Jeremy Trueblood possesses good balance and plays with a mean streak. Backups Anthony Davis, Brian Johnson, Dan Buenning, Chris Denman and Dennis Roland will fill in for the starters when called upon.
Defensive line: Tampa Bay's 2007 first-round draft choice Gaines Adams starts at right defensive end. Adams led all defensive rookies last season with six sacks. On the left side of the defensive line is defensive end Kevin Carter, a two-time Pro Bowl selection (1999, 2002) who has not missed a game in his NFL career. Chris Hovan and Jovan Haye start at defensive tackle for the Bucs. Haye led the team with four fumble recoveries in 2007, while Hovan is a powerful defensive anchor who possesses tremendous work ethic and a non-stop motor. Reserves along the defensive line include defensive tackle Ryan Sims and defensive ends Greg White and Jimmy Wilkerson.
Linebacker: Derrick Brookshas long been considered one of the NFL's best linebackers and earned a club-record 10th consecutive Pro Bowl appearance in 2006. Brooks collected 109 tackles and forced three fumbles in 2007, ranking second on the team in both categories. At strong side linebacker is Cato June. June finished fourth on the team with 74 tackles last season. Barrett Ruud led the team with 114 total tackles year and was named NFL Defensive Player of the Month in September 2007. Backup middle linebacker Matt McCoy also will get a chance to lead the defense during the matchup versus the Texans.
Secondary: The Buccaneers' secondary includes Ronde Barber and Phillip Buchanon at the starting cornerback spots. Barber has made the Pro Bowl four times in his career, with his last selection coming after the 2006 season. Buchanon, a former Texan, set a career high with 61 tackles and ranked second on the team with three interceptions in 2007. The Bucs' first-round draft choice in 2008, Aqib Talib, provides depth at the cornerback position. At free safety, Tanard Jackson ranked second on the team with 13 passes defensed in 2007. Strong safety Jermaine Phillipsled the team with four interceptions.
Kicking: All extra point and field goal duties are assigned to Matt Bryant. The seven-year veteran is from Bridge City, Texas, and attended Baylor University. Bryant holds the NFL record for the second-longest game-winning field goal at 62 yards against Philadelphia in 2006. Bryant also handles kickoffs for the Buccaneers. Josh Bidwell, a nine-year veteran, has been the Buccaneers' starting punter for five consecutive seasons. He holds several team records in gross punting, net punting and total punting yards and was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2005.
Receiving:Second-year wide receiver Micheal Spurlockreturns both kickoffs and punt returns for the Buccaneers. After being promoted from the Buccaneers' practice squad last November, Spurlock went on to return the first kickoff for a touchdown in franchise history when he broke free against Atlanta.