With the Tampa Bay Buccaneers releasing Peyton Hillis today it highlights just how fragile the running back position is behind Doug Martin.
Hillis is a former Pro Bowler, 1000-yard rusher who also appeared on the cover of the Madden video games. He was meant to battle for the back-up running back position, something that excited Bucs’ fans.
But now he is a free agent and desperately looking for work. In three years, Hills has fallen from a potential star to a guy on the streets.
But while the Bucs are only interested in making their team stronger for the next game, the release of Hillis should worry Bucs fans.
It means that they’re using Brian Leonard and Mike James behind Martin and that is a problem.
Martin has carried the ball 53 times in the first two games. Leonard has one carry, James none.
That statistic alone tells us that the Bucs do not have a viable back-up to Martin. Your starter should not be carrying the football 99 percent of the time, no matter how elite he might be.
Leonard and James are meant to have their own roles, but through two games these ‘roles’ don’t exist. Leonard is the Bucs third down back. I haven’t even noticed him in two games. Why? He has one catch for four yards. As for James, I can count on one hand how many times he’s been in the game.
It also makes the Buccaneers on field approach more obvious. When Martin isn’t in the backfield, the opposing defense will likely drop into pass coverage knowing the Bucs are highly unlikely to run the football. That then makes the job harder for Josh Freeman and his two key receivers, Mike Williams and Vincent Jackson.
The lack of a quality back-up running back also takes it toll on Martin. He’ll likely feel less inclined to leave the game or to take a breather for a play or two even though he may desperately need it. And Bucs fan are holding their breath he doesn’t go down injured.
The Buccaneers don’t need to go and draft a running back in the first round in the 2014 draft. They don’t need to go out and sign a marquee free agent. The Bucs have their franchise running back. They just need someone who can spell him every now and then, and that’s what the Bucs sorely miss.