The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have made numerous offseason moves, so much so that Elliot Harrison of NFL.com said the Bucs had the best offseason in the league.
As we continue to analyze the Bucs depth chart, next up is the running back position. In case you missed the first instalment on quarterbacks, you can find it by clicking here.
Going into the offseason, running back was arguably the Bucs strongest position depth wise as they had three reliable running backs already on the roster: starter Doug Martin as well as back ups Bobby Rainey and Mike James. Speedster Jeff Demps was the fourth option.
Yet Lovie Smith sought to add more depth to the position, something that was addressed in the draft as the Bucs selected West Virginia running back Charles Sims in the third round, a pick that caught a number of people off guard. UDFA free agent signing Brendan Bigelow is also on the roster.
If anything, the Bucs now have five reliable running backs who can all contribute in different ways and add a different dynamic to the offense.
1. Doug Martin
Although he is coming off a season ending injury, Martin is still the unquestioned starting running back. Smith himself has said this himself. In just 22 career games, he has 1,910 rushing yards and 538 receiving yards. He has 13 total touchdowns too. Despite the impressive play of Martin, a number of people have been clamouring for him to be traded, a move that literally makes zero sense. When healthy, Martin is one of the best — he proved that in his rookie season.
2. Mike James
When Martin went down injured, James was installed as the new starter. Unfortunately, he didn’t last long either as he went down with an injury against the Miami Dolphins on Monday Night Football. But in his short time as the starter, James delivered, including a 158-yard rushing effort in the overtime loss to the Seattle Seahawks. He will be the number one backup to Martin and should see a number of carries a game, especially with Smith stating this is a run first offense.
3. Charles Sims
Sims is higher on the list for one reason: he was a third round draft pick. The Bucs didn’t use a third rounder on a guy if they didn’t have big plans to use him in their offense. Sims’ biggest strength might actually be in the receiving game so look to see him as the third down back and even possibly lining up in the slot. He’s no slouch as a runner though — he ran for 1,095 yards in 2013. He’s a multi purpose back who will no doubt get a good chunk of playing time this season.
4. Bobby Rainey
The Bucs claimed Rainey off waivers when Martin went down injured and he morphed into a good player for the Bucs last season as he led the team in rushing yards with 532 while adding five touchdowns. Rainey will likely make the team but it’s not a guarantee. The selection of Sims will hinder Rainey’s playing time substantially.
5. Jeff Demps
The chance of Demps getting regular carries at running back seem unlikely due to other talent at the position but with his Olympic type speed, Demps should have a place on this team somewhere. He could definitely be used in the receiving game and the Bucs have been experimenting using him in the return game too during OTAs.
6. Brendan Bigelow
Signed as an UDFA after the draft, Bigelow gives the Bucs another option at running back but don’t anticipate him getting playing time in 2014. It’s more than likely that the former Washington standout will end up on the practice squad than the active 53-man roster.