Super Bowl hype generally centers on star players but it’s the unsung players that often bear watching.
The intriguing question: how do you find out who that individual might be? Virtually every Super Bowl has featured less familiar players that have been a significant factor in swaying the outcome of a game. Remember Mike Jones? Here are a few possibilities for Super Bowl XXXVII between the Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
Running back Zack Crockett: Since he’s a short yardage specialist, don’t count on him busting loose with a 100-yard game. Sometimes he’ll get an uglier yard this side of Fred Sanford but he is a prime example of maximized efficiency. He carried just 40 times in the regular season but 31 resulted in either a first down or a touchdown.
Offensive left tackle Barry Sims: He’s not a household name but has a big task going against Bucs’ defensive end Simeon Rice. Sims and the rest of the Oakland offensive line have protected quarterback Rich Gannon tremendously. They will need to execute that task this week, especially with Sims protecting Gannon’s blindside.
Cornerback Terrence Shaw: The Bucs’ main wideouts, Keyshawn Johnson and Keenan McCardell are not likely to get deep against Charles Woodson and Tory James but Brad Johnson is certain to attack Shaw.
Safety Anthony Dorsett: He does not always take the best angle but his speed can also create big plays. Dorsett lost his starting free safety job to Rod Woodson. Since starting strong safety Derrick Gibson got hurt, Dorsett has played so well that he has started even with Gibson healthy. Credit Woodson’s influence for making Dorsett a better player.
Wide receiver Joe Jurevicius: Likely to be matched up against Oakland nickleback Terrence Shaw. Jurevicius’ 71-yard catch and run changed the course of the NFC Title Game against Philadelphia, which the Bucs won 27-10.
Cornerback Dwight Smith: He can change the complexion in two areas – defense and special teams. On defense, Smith is likely to draw No. 3 wideout Jerry Porter, who has been a pivotal man in the Raiders offense. If Smith can neutralize Porter, he can limit the Raiders options.
Center Jeff Christy: He tends to have problems against powerful players and the Raiders have two defensive tackles (John Parrella and San Adams) that fit that category. The Bucs, however, need Christy to neutralize the middle in order for the Bucs to move the ball successfully.
Vince D’Adamo can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org