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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Containing RG3 is Bucs' top priority vs. Redskins

Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 02:43 PM

Once again, the defense of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers approaches a game with the policy of containment.

This week's target is particularly elusive, as Washington rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III directs the NFL's most prolific scoring attack.

"He's a legitimate world-class sprinter and he has a big arm,'' Bucs cornerback Eric Wright said. "We've got a big challenge ahead of us on Sunday.''

The second overall pick in the draft has had little trouble adjusting to a pro offense, even as the Redskins have stumbled to a 1-2 start. His 103.5 passer rating ranks sixth in the league, and Griffin has been equally effective on the ground, running 32 times for 209 yards and three touchdowns.

The 22-year-old blur under center is a big reason why the Redskins boast the NFC's No. 1 ground game, averaging 5.1 yards per carry. Tampa Bay leads the league in rushing defense, so forcing Griffin to the middle of the field is Job 1.

"Another week of having to keep somebody in the pocket,'' said Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, coming off a two-sack effort in last week's 16-10 loss at Dallas. "The dynamic in the league is changing. It's still a pass-happy league, but now you have pass-happy quarterbacks that can run 4.5.''

After winning the Heisman Trophy at Baylor, Griffin has transformed the Redskins into an offensive force, averaging 33 points per game compared to last year's 18-point average.

"Griffin will be one of the five fastest players on the field, without a doubt, so when he does decide to tuck it and go, there's not many people who can run him down,'' Bucs coach Greg Schiano said. "They stretch you from sideline to sideline and stretch you vertically as well.''

With fellow rookie Alfred Morris, a sixth-round pick out of Florida Atlantic, ranking as the NFC's No. 3 rusher, Washington features a balanced attack that will test a Tampa Bay defense vulnerable to the big play.

If left tackle Trent Williams (knee) is sidelined Sunday, the Redskins could struggle to protect Griffin, who was sacked six times in a 38-31 loss to Cincinnati.

Tampa Bay's defense has played well against quarterbacks who can move.

In Week 1, the Bucs held Carolina's Cam Newton, the 2011 offensive rookie of the year, to 4 rushing yards. Romo struggled to venture outside the pocket and extend plays last week.

When Eli Manning of the Giants carved up the Bucs for 510 passing yards in Week 2, he did almost all his damage from the confines of the pocket.

"Teams are going to try and come after me as a quarterback who can move around a little,'' said Griffin, who ran for 2,254 yards and 33 touchdowns at Baylor. "They're making an emphasis to get me on the ground.''

That task became more daunting with the season-ending knee injury suffered by Bucs right defensive end Adrian Clayborn, who will be replaced by Daniel Te'o-Nesheim.

"It's definitely a challenge to replace one of the top young defensive ends in the league,'' fellow defensive end Michael Bennett said. "Griffin has everything you want in a quarterback — speed, poise, confidence. He's going to be one of the great players in this league.''

Dating to Week 2 of the preseason, the Redskins have scored at least 28 points in six consecutive games.

Griffin has decent weapons in veteran wide receiver Santana Moss and tight end Fred Davis, but it is his unique skill set as a dual run/pass threat that has Bucs defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan reaching for the Maalox.

"They're using him in every way you can imagine,'' Sheridan said. "They've got a fantastic running game when he just hands the ball off, and they take shots over your head when you ask guys to come in for run support. He's so mobile in the pocket, he's hard to corral.''

Redskins coach Mike Shanahan, who tutored mobile quarterbacks John Elway and Jake Plummer in Denver, is having fun with his new weapon.

"Robert's got a great feel for the position and he works extremely hard,'' Shanahan said. "He's got the things you look for, outside the obvious things. He's got the work ethic, the leadership skills and the intangibles.''

And for one harrowing week of preparation, he has the full attention of the Buccaneers.


Sunday: 4:25 p.m.

TV: Blacked out locally

ikaufman@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7833 Twitter: IKaufmanTrib