Maybe Try Earnest Graham?
By Patrik Nohe
If there is one player on the entire Buccaneers roster who embodies the virtues of this young team, it’s Earnest Graham. Despite never receiving the billing or the opportunities, Graham has worked his tail off and done everything asked of him in order to help the Bucs win. There is no quit in Graham, only fight and a healthy dose of desire. Seriously, if you had 52 other guys with the kind of heart Graham has, you’d almost never lose.
As an alumnus of Florida State I never liked Graham that much. There was a regrettable incident, back when he was playing at UF where he accused then-FSU Defensive Tackle Darnell Dockett of twisting his knee in the pile. It was rivalry stuff, but I’d be remiss to stay that Earnest Graham didn’t start off in a bit of a proverbial hole with me when he arrived in Tampa as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2003.
Making it for a year in the NFL when you go undrafted is enough of a feat, but a seven year career is really something. By the end of his first preseason Graham had won me over with his hard running and tenacity, even in garbage time. There aren’t many flowery adjectives one can use to describe Earnest’ running style, he’s not graceful nor is he incredibly speedy or overly powerful, he just runs like he wants it. He runs like that on every play. He has since day one.
Unfortunately, it took three years and a dearth of injuries before Graham ever got the shot to carry the ball regularly. He responded by posting 898 yards and 10 touchdowns in 13 games in 2007. The next year he split carries, then through necessity he transitioned to fullback. He’s been there ever since, which doesn’t seem to be a problem for the unselfish running back.
Earnest Graham has always done whatever it takes to help the Bucs win, he’s played special teams his entire career, he moved to fullback despite not really being an ideal candidate to fill that position (and the fact it would mean fewer carries). Whatever it takes, whatever you ask of him, Graham will do without question. Now it may actually be best for the Bucs if Graham starts to feature more, maybe takes a few more carries to try and help the ailing rushing attack. Raheem Morris seems to have searched high and low for solutions to the Bucs running woes. Here’s one, rather than scour the waiver wire for rookie cuts or platoon your backs, run Earnest Graham.
Yesterday, Graham had three rushing attempts. He scored a touchdown on one, he picked up three yards on another and he busted a 61 yarder from the Bucs own goal-line on the third. On the season Graham is averaging 6.4 yards per carry. Compare that with Cadillac Williams’ 2.6 yard average. Cadillac has four times the carries of Graham and yet has less than twice as many yards.
Graham currently functions as the team’s fullback but there are other options for that. Chris Pressley is a second year fullback. Erik Lorig is transitioning to offense and is working at fullback. He serves as a better blocking option than Graham from his sheer size alone and his transition should allow Graham more looks at tailback. And for that matter, what’s wrong with using the 6’0, 247 LeGarrette Blount as the up-back? He’s better suited for that duty than Graham.
The point is Graham has only ever gotten one shot to carry the load and he was a good option. He’s a gritty, hard-working back with a ‘never-say-die’ attitude and a huge chip on his shoulder. He’s literally the embodiment of this Bucs team and at this point in the season I think it’s worth seeing if he’s better suited to carry the load than Cadillac Williams. So how about it, Raheem? Maybe try Earnest Graham?