When Doug Martin went down injured in week six of last season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers needed someone to step up and continue the workload at running back.
That man was rookie back Mike James, who played exceptionally well, until he fractured his ankle on Monday Night Football against the Miami Dolphins in November.
However, the former Miami Hurricane is making great strides in his recovery and is close to returning, Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times reports.
James played in eight games last season, three of which he started after Martin’s injury. His breakout game was in Seattle when he rushed for 158 yards on 28 carries and also threw a touchdown pass.
In the next game, James had 41 yards on five carries before the injury occurred. He ended the season with 295 rushing yards on 60 carries.
Running back is one position the Bucs are very deep at as they also have Bobby Rainey on the roster, who became the Bucs starting running back after James went down, and played very well himself.
James is likely going to Martin’s backup in 2014, with Rainey as the third string back. James told reporters he hasn’t been cleared yet for the team’s first minicamp, but he is “playing it by ear” and taking it “day by day.”
The health of James is important for the Bucs. Lovie Smith has already said the Bucs are going to be a run first offense, so the need to have James at full health is critical to that game plan.