The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' run defense finished last in the NFL in 2011, giving up 156.1 yards per game. Just one year later the unit has cut down the yardage by more than half, and ranks third in the league.
That's what the Bucs did with nose tackle Roy Miller, who turned out of the straight-up alignment he used a year ago at the line of scrimmage and into what the Bucs call a cocked or tilted stance. It was a minor adjustment, but the results so far are akin to turning up the treble knob on a stereo system.
Gerald McCoy, who is enjoying a breakout season, said Miller getting his hands on the center and taking him out of the play frees up the rest of the defensive line to wreak havoc.
Linebacker Mason Foster agreed that Miller is the key to Tampa Bay's new success against the run.
"When he's keeping blockers off of me the way he has this year, you've just got to love that," Foster said. "That's what allows me to run free, because he's attracting a lot of attention and I just let him do it."
Sheridan said Miller is "tailor-made" to block-clogging tackle that creates opportunities for the rest of the defense.
Defensive tackle Corey Peters was practicing with the first team Wednesday, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and could return to the team as early as Sunday in Philadelphia.
Former general manager Marty Hurney took a few shots at the make up of the Panthers' locker room on Monday and when the players had a chance to respond Wednesday, two veterans didn't necessarily disagree. [Charlotte Observer]
Rookie linebacker Luke Kuechly will play in the middle of the defense now that Jon Beason has been placed on injured reserve, according to the Charlotte Observer.
Tight end Jimmy Graham was limited in practice Wednesday, according to WWL-TV, and improving. Joe Vitt said the injured Graham "looked very, very good."
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Tampa Tribune thinks pressure on the quarterback, both protecting Josh Freeman and attacking Christian Ponder, are crucial for a win Thursday night.