We currently sit at 27th in the league for rushing yards per game with an abysmal average of 91.2. Which is not where a team should be when you are trying to develop a young QB. The other ugly side of the running game is we have only managed to get 2 rushing TD’s which is tied with the Saints, however they are still averaging more points per game. It’s never a good thing when your QB has a longer run for the season than your starting RB. However I don’t think the issue with the running game is primarily with the backs. I do agree that Cadillac Williams is just going to be an average back due to the injuries. Earnest Graham is used very ineffectively and that Kareem Huggins and LeGarrette Blount can have a bright future if they keep getting carries. They are perfect compliments for each other and could establish the RB core that we need in Tampa and let me strongly emphasize the “could” in that last statement. I am in no way saying Blount and Huggins are the future. We have only seen partial action from Blount and a great preseason from Huggins (who is now out for the season due to the knee injury). So please don’t jump on the Blount/Huggins bandwagon quite yet.
I think the issues with our running game starts with the play calling and ends with the offensive line. We have to be one of the most predictable offenses currently in the NFL. Most Bucs fans can predict when we are going to run or pass. And if we can do it, I’m sure any defensive coordinator knows as well. It also doesn’t hurt that we have not shown to have any resemblance of a down field receiving threat. Mike Williams is growing but he doesn’t stretch the field quite like a DeSean Jackson. So why not stack the box and play the run first. Until we can make the defense respect the passing game and show that we’re not going to run on 1st and 2nd and screen pass on 3rd. Then it’s going to be a long season for our backs.
This issue does not primarily sit on the offensive coordinator’s shoulders. It is shared with the offensive line and coaching. This was thought to be the strongest part of our offensive squad and it has shown that apparently during TC they just worked on pass blocking and even that is far from decent. Josh Freeman has been sacked 9 times in 5 games. If it wasn’t for Freeman’s mobility, I think that number is considerably larger. Our line has shown no push and consistently allows pressure in the backfield. That is where I think someone like Blount can excel because he has the power to go up and hit a LB. Where someone like Caddy who’s the Bionic Man 2.4 and a smaller speed back like Huggins can’t create their own push at the POA.
I think what would better serve us is getting Chris Pressley or a more dominate run blocking FB. Graham, while a decent threat if we run them both in the flats or hand it off to him,has yet to show me that he is the run blocker we had hoped for. We need someone that will create holes for the backs. I think using Graham and Blount right now gives us a better advantage as they love the contact and can handle it.
We are averaging less yards on the ground than we did last year, which everyone knows is something that shouldn’t be happening when we are trying to rebuild. Let’s get Blount some more carries and let’s see what we have in him. If he gets more than 3 yards a carry, it’s an improvement over Caddy’s 2.4 and gets him the experience and lets us know how important a feature back is in the coming drafts. I am one that doesn’t think you need to spend a 1st round pick on a back, but of course there are exceptions. I still don’t get us passing on Peterson, but that is for another story. I think with the talent that is at that position we can address bigger needs in the first and second rounds and still have a dominant running game.
So let’s not be so quick to pin the running game issues solely on the backs. If there are no holes for someone to run through or the defense expects run 80% of the time. No back is going to excel, so let’s fix those issues and see where we’re at.