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Tampa Bay Buccaneers
INSIDE SLANT

  Inside Slant | Notes, Quotes | Strategy and Personnel | Player Wire

  Bucs not keen on facing Keenum

This may be one of the rare times the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hope the backup quarterback doesn't start against them.

With Minnesota Vikings starter Sam Bradford nursing a knee injury that kept him out of last week's game at Pittsburgh, the Bucs aren't too thrilled to see No. 2 quarterback Case Keenum.

After leading Rams to victories against Tampa Bay in each of the last two seasons, Keenum has the Bucs number. Lately, he has been sharp.

In 2015, he was 14-for-17 for 234 yards and two scores (a 158.0 QB rating) and last year, he was 14-for-26 for 190 and two touchdowns with an interception. His specialty? Beating the Bucs with the deep ball.

Since the start of the 2015 season, Keenum has three touchdown passes of 43 yards or longer against the Bucs 43 to Tavon Austin and 44 to Brian Quick last year; 60 yards to Kenny Britt in 2015. Three such bombs in two games, and the rest of the NFL, in a combined 31 games, has matched that number.

"The guy we're talking about this week, we probably shouldn't call him a backup," Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter said. "Because he beat us two years in a row. I mean, they might be better off with him playing. He seems to have our number."

After a dominating defensive performance in a 29-7 win over the Bears last Sunday, the Bucs have a step up in weight class. Minnesota is a good football team with five Pro Bowl players on defense and one of the NFL's top rookies in running back Dalvin Cook.

Koetter spent a lot of time prior to the NFL draft evaluating Cook. At one time, the Florida State star and former teammate of quarterback Jameis Winston was considered the player the Bucs most likely would draft 19th overall.

"He's a really good back," Koetter said. "He can run with power, he can run with speed, he can catch the ball out of the backfield and he's demonstrated all that the first two weeks of the season. He's a really good football player."

Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Smith paid Cook an even higher compliment.

"We consider him a game-wrecker," Smith said Wednesday.

The Bucs wound up taking Alabama tight end O.J. Howard when he unexpectedly fell to them in the first round. Howard was one of the cleanest players in the draft in terms of his production and character. Cook lasted until the ninth pick in the second round, most likely due to some off-field concerns.

But Cook has quickly proven to be an early Rookie of the Year candidate. In his first game, Cook broke Adrian Peterson's record for the most rushing yards by a rookie in his debut when he gained 127 yards in a 29-19 win over the New Orleans Saints.

Last week, Cook disappeared from the Vikings offense in the first half but rushed for 61 of his 64 yards after intermission. The Vikings, playing without starting quarterback Sam Bradford, lost 26-9 to the Pittsburgh Steelers. In fact, 105 of Cook's 127 yards also came in the second half against the Saints.

Cook is third in the NFL in rushing with 191 yards on 34 carries (5.6-yard average) and his 95.5 yards per game average ranks fourth.

"First of all, Dalvin has been a great kid since he's come in here," Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. "Every week he does something. He shows great speed and acceleration. I think he continues to get better each week. We're extremely happy and pleased with his progress so far."

Meanwhile, the Bucs plan to continue to use the running back by committee approach with Jacquizz Rodgers (19 carries for 67 yards, 1 TD), Charles Sims (2 carries for 2 yards) and Peyton Barber (10-47 yards).

Quarterback Jameis Winston played okay in the season opener, and perhaps most importantly, didn't turn the football over. A year ago the Bucs were 1-0 with a victory at Atlanta. But they would up losing their next three games, including a 40-7 loss at Arizona. Koetter doesn't have to remind his team how quickly things can go the wrong direction.



SERIES HISTORY: 55th regular-season meeting. Vikings lead series, 32-22. Tampa Bay has won its past three trips to Minnesota, including a 36-17 victory on Thursday night football in their last trip in 2012.


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