The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have had the identity of a strong defense for the last ten years under former head coach Tony Dungy and defensive coordinator Monte Kiffen. That reputation was built by some of the stars on the defense such as the great Derrick Brooks, Ronde Barber, and former Bucs Warren Sapp and John Lynch. Tampa Bay has a new star on it's defense ...
He isn't a household name, but watch for middle linebacker Barrett Ruud.
Barrett Ruud was drafted by Tampa Bay in the second round after a fine
career at the University of Nebraska. After playing sparingly as a rookie
in 2005, Ruud was a bigger part of the struggling Buccaneers defense in
2006, when he finished with 57 tackles while starting just five games. The
hard hitting Ruud put himself in position to take over the starting middle
linebacker job full-time in 2007 with a very solid training camp.
So far this year, Ruud has already exceeded his 2006 totals in tackles,
passes defensed, and interceptions. Ruud is currently leading the Bucs with
66 tackles, not to mention one pass defended and an interception. Ruud is
quickly becoming one of the very best linebackers in the NFC, even if not
many outside of the Gulf Coast area know his name.
One of the biggest matchups in this Sunday's game for the Jaguars will be
fullback Greg Jones against Barrett Ruud, as the Jaguars will likely lean
very heavily on their running game, considering they will be starting the
inexperienced Quinn Gray at quarterback. The Jaguars will have to put a
body on Ruud Sunday, or else their running game isn't going to get very far,
and their opportunity for notching a road victory will become an even more
Charlie Bernstein is the Editor-in-Chief of Jagnation.com, and a regular
syndicated contributor to FoxSports.com, Sirius NFL Radio, and
Sportsillustated.com. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers
Association, and is a columnist for the New Smyrna Observer.