Running Back Mike James Out for the Season With Ankle Injury, What are the Buccaneers Options to Replace Him?


Nov 11, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back

Mike James

(25) gets carted off the field during the first quarter against the Miami Dolphins at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

For the second time this season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are faced with the reality of a running back being out for the year, and the need to find players to fill in at the position.

This time, it’s promising rookie Mike James who will be out for the remainder of the season with a fractured ankle.

James joins Doug Martin and Jeff Demps on injured reserve, leaving Brian Leonard as the only tailback on the opening day roster to remain healthy and on the team.

So what will the Buccaneers do to replace yet another fallen running back? Let’s consider their options.

Replacing from Within

Bobby Rainey and Brian Leonard were both very good in their own ways on Monday night. Leonard is a consistent runner who lacks in athleticism, and is best between the tackles or in the flats as a receiver. He’s tough to tackle and is an ideal “change of pace” runner.  He’ll likely carry the offense from a rushing perspective for the rest of the season, as he’s an experienced player who is reliable and trusted by the coaching staff.

But according to Greg Schiano, Rainey will also get his chances to carry the ball.

Rainey offers a bit more quickness and elusiveness at running back, but is smaller and not quite as tough of a runner as Leonard. This presents a perfect combination to rotate runners in and keep defenses on their heels.

That’s it for the Buccaneers, however, as they have no other healthy tailbacks on the roster. Erik Lorig and Spencer Larsen are not suited for carrying the football on a regular basis.

Bringing in a New Player

As the Buccaneers did by adding Rainey, they could look elsewhere for a third running back to provide depth and for emergency situations like the one seen on Monday night.

So who is still available? Cedric Benson and Michael Turner remain the “big names,” but are unlikely additions at this point in the season. So let’s consider a few smaller names that may be able to step in and have a similar impact as Rainey.

One is Armond Smith, who was released by the Panthers this month when Jonathan Stewart was added back to the roster. He had an impressive preseason, according to Rotoworld, and also brings knowledge from the Panthers.

Another option is former Browns running back Montario Hardesty, who got plenty of opportunities in 2012 when he averaged over 4 yards per carry while filling in for Trent Richardson. He has a long list of injuries in his career, but he also has proven to be a capable runner at the NFL level.

Delone Carter and Brandon Jackson are two more options, as these running backs both tried out with the Buccaneers last week when Doug Martin was placed on injured reserve, according to Adam Caplan. Jackson was passable during his time with the Packers, but he hasn’t played a major role for an NFL team since 2010. Carter has experience as a backup in Indianapolis, and never posted impressive numbers.