TAMPA - Buccaneers coach Raheem Morris admits to being somewhat in awe when watching St. Louis RB Steven Jackson on film.
Jackson has rushed 127 times for 507 yards and two touchdowns this season and is close to a career milestone. He needs 32 yards against Tampa Bay to become St. Louis' all-time leading rusher. Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson (7,245 yards) holds the title, and Jackson can break the record this weekend.
"Mr. Jackson there, he's just of those guys," Morris said. "He's an NFL running back. He's big, he's powerful, he's fast, he can catch the ball out of the backfield, he can do it all.
"He can run routes, he plays on third down, he's able to block. He's one of those rare commodities in the league right now where people can go with one back even though they don't because it's just not the style."
Morris will have to figure out a way to end the run of recent success against his defense.
Tampa Bay's rushing defense is ranked 31st in the NFL. In the past three weeks, Pittsburgh's Rashard Mendenhall rushed for 143 yards against Tampa Bay, Cincinnati's Cedric Benson had 144 and New Orleans' Chris Ivory finished with 158.
Meanwhile, Jackson has rushed for more than 100 yards each of the past two weeks, making Tampa Bay's defensive task extremely difficult.
"This Steven Jackson guy, he's a problem," Morris said. "He is a playmaker, but he's a dynamic pain in the neck to watch when you watch him on tape from a defensive coordinator's perspective. He has all the tools you want."
Respect for Ronde
Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo held a team meeting this week, and his primary subject was Bucs CB Ronde Barber.
Spagnuolo was a member of Philadelphia's defensive coaching staff from 1999 to 2006 and witnessed Barber's big plays against the Eagles. Barber's most notable achievement was returning an interception 92 yards for a touchdown to seal Tampa Bay's NFC Championship Game victory against Philadelphia that put the Bucs in the Super Bowl.
"Unfortunately for me, I've been a victim of some of his really, really good plays when I was in Philadelphia," Spagnuolo said. "I got a tremendous amount of respect for him and what he's done in the league."
Barber has played in 198 career games and needs two more to join Derrick Brooks as the only Bucs players to reach 200. He is one interception from 40 in his career and would become the only player in NFL history with 25 sacks and 40 interceptions.
The pressure is gone
There was a time when it was virtually impossible to keep Tampa Bay's defensive line away from opposing quarterbacks.
Now it is rare for Tampa Bay to sack a quarterback.
The Bucs had a 69-game streak with at least one sack that was snapped by Green Bay on Nov. 16, 2003.
Tampa Bay has only four sacks this season, the fewest in the NFL. Only three of those have come from defensive lineman (Tim Crowder has two and Stylez G. White has one), while the other was from LB Quincy Black. All of the sacks occurred against Carolina, while Tampa Bay has failed to record a sack in four other games.
The game against St. Louis will be blacked out locally, according to NFL rules, because it did not sell out. … Bucs C Jeff Faine (quadriceps), DT Brian Price (pelvis), CB Elbert Mack (foot) and G Davin Joseph (knee) did not participate in practice. LB Barrett Ruud (toe), G Keydrick Vincent (back) and DE Kyle Moore (shoulder) were limited, but TE Kellen Winslow (knee) and FB Earnest Graham (hamstring) fully participated.