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Rookie Rusher James Will Have Panthers Raising The White Flag

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Buccaneers rookie RB Mike James has a tough task ahead of him as he will look to fill the shoes of Doug Martin for the remainder of the season. Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images.
Buccaneers rookie RB Mike James has a tough task ahead of him as he will look to fill the shoes of Doug Martin for the remainder of the season. Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images.

Thursday is a big night for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tampa will be facing its third NFC South opponent of the season and is desperate for that elusive first win. This has always been my favorite rivalry in the NFC South as the Buccaneers and Carolina Panthers always seem to fight down right down to the final whistle. In each of the last four seasons, the two-game series between the Buccaneers and Panthers has ended in a sweep, with the Bucs taking both matchups in 2010 and 2012 and Carolina clawing Tampa Bay in 2009 and 2011. Both teams are starving for a win in the NFC South and to pull away from the disappointing Atlanta Falcons. No one wants to fall to the basement in the division - that is simply an embarrassment.

Unfortunately for the Buccaneers, the team hit a big sandbar with the loss of star RB Doug Martin, who suffered a severe shoulder injury in last week's loss to the Falcons. As a result, the pressure is now on for rookie RB Mike James from the University of Miami. James will get his first NFL start under the lights down in the misty bay. The spotlight is on James and he must do his best to ignore the pressure and have stellar game against this nasty Panthers defense. James is extremely powerful and can make defenders hit the turf with his agility and speed.

James should do a fine job giving Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott a major headache tomorrow night and if Carolina lets James get in the open field, it could be game over. The Bucs have liked what they have seen from the rookie rusher, who has quickly progressed into a versatile, all-around back. When Martin got injured, James really stepped up in the remainder of that game, picking up 45 yards on 14 carries. He also showed the ability to pick up blitzes very quickly. 

James really has to step up during this game to give the Buccaneers a chance to come away victorious. Carolina's defense ranks third in the league overall and fourth in rush defense, allowing just 84.5 yards per game. Bucs offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan has to dial up complex plays to fool this strong Panthers defense, as they are hungry and can devour this young Tampa squad in a hurry. My fingers are crossed for James, and I really hope he does not have any rusted anchors chained to his feet.

Fans will bear witness to two rookies on the Buccaneers offense taking the stage and looking to bail out this sinking ship. QB Mike Glennon along with James will both be the keys to victory in this Thursday night matchup of division foes. The Bucs have all the weapons necessary to take down the quick and stealthy Panthers. Tampa Bay absolutely can not fall to 0-3 in the NFC South, especially on primetime television on its home turf.

Prepare those cannons for battle because the Buccaneers have a few nasty Panthers to catch.