Rookies Blount, Benn bright spot in Bucs’ lopsided defeat

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St. Petersburg Times (Florida)

St. Petersburg Times Staff Writer

The Bucs aren’t thrilled to have a bye week three games into the regular season.

But some players who are beginning to show wear and tear can expect reinforcements.

Coach Raheem Morris said Monday that the team will use the extra week to get running back LeGarrette Blount more involved to spell Cadillac Williams and rookie receiver Arrelious Benn more opportunities to replace Sammie Stroughter.

In three games, Williams has 55 carries for 139 yards, a 2.5 yard average that is the worst in the NFL for starting running backs.

Stroughter, more effective as a slot receiver on third down as a rookie, has six catches for 49 yards as the starting Z receiver.

“I don’t know if you have to make wholesale changes,” Morris said Monday after the Bucs’ 38-13 loss to the Steelers. “I like my team and where we are and what we’ve got going. Now, would I like to increase Benn’s role? Yes. (Sunday), he probably got 13 or so snaps … and he can certainly help us some more. He can help give us more effort and more energy because he is young, he’s powerful, he’s dynamic, he made some great catches (Sunday), and I’d like to see him get out there more.

“LeGarrette Blount – we certainly can increase his role, and I think his role would’ve been increased (Sunday) if the game would’ve played out the way I wanted to see it played out.”

Morris said Williams has played well but that the Bucs could use big backs such as Blount and Kregg Lumpkin to provide a spark. Blount carried six times for 27 yards, including a touchdown Sunday, his first in the NFL.

“It felt good to get a little playing time, just being able to tote the ball a little bit on my first possession,” Blount said. “This off week and the week after will be a big week for me to catch up on a lot of stuff.

“I’m willing to be patient. I’m not going to rush anything, especially if I’m not 100 percent comfortable with the offense. As long as I’m not 100 percent comfortable with the offense, they’re not going to take a chance. They’ve got a (multimillion-dollar) quarterback who doesn’t need to get hit.”

A groin injury has forced running back Kareem Huggins to be inactive the past two games. That has put a big workload on Williams, who carried 27 times for 51 yards at Carolina last week.

Bucs running backs have only two runs of more than 10 yards, including Blount’s 12-yard gain against the Steelers.

“I think Cadillac has played three good games,” Morris said. “By no means am I saying he’s played excellent, but I’m saying he played games that he put together and played well in them. He can play better. … We can’t give him 28 carries in a row and all those things. Somebody has got to come in and give him a spark. Somebody has got to come in and make somebody miss and break off a long run, which they were able to do on us.”

Stroughter, who caught 31 passes as a rookie playing mostly on third down, might be wearing down as a starter at the Z receiver position. Benn played well in the final preseason game at Houston when he had two touchdown receptions. But it has taken him a little longer to learn the Bucs offense.

“As a coaching staff, you sit back and you look at that,” Morris said. “You sit back and you look at Sammie, and he played so hard that he wears down a little bit. He caught a couple cramps (Sunday), and he doesn’t want to come out with a cramp; you’ve got to go pull him off the field. So now, with Regis (Benn) on the (way), you’ve got to be able to play him a little bit. (Sunday), we brought Preston Parker up, and some of those guys have got to come in and give Sammie some spells so he can be more effective on his Zebra package (on third down), which we know he thrives in and has his most production.”

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