Buccaneers: The Situation at Running Back

Dec 11, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin (22) runs past New Orleans Saints defensive tackle Nick Fairley (90) during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the New Orleans Saints 16-11. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 11, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin (22) runs past New Orleans Saints defensive tackle Nick Fairley (90) during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the New Orleans Saints 16-11. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

When week four of the preseason rolls around, the Buccaneers will have quite the decision coming up. Which of the five running backs will be the odd man out come final cuts?

After a lackluster 2016 year of running the rock, the Tampa bay Buccaneers look once again for a solution to their run-first offense. As it stands now Tampa has every running back returning from the previous season, add in rookie Jeremy McNichols… and now we have a true competition.

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Assuming that the top five backs on the roster are Doug Martin, Charles Sims III, Jacquizz Rodgers, Peyton barber, and Jeremy McNichols (sorry Russell Hansbrough and Blake Sims), who will be the odd man out come final cuts? Is it unheard of to carry five running backs? Lets take a look.

First of all we have the most scrutinized back on the team, the returning Pro Bowler and All-Pro Doug Martin. Martin has been plagued with injuries throughout his career, but none more significant than last season’s. After being one of the NFL’s top two leading backs in 2015 and signing a lucrative five-year, $35 million dollar contract, Martin was once again subject to an injury prone season. Throughout the eight games that Martin was active, he managed only a measly 2.9 yards per carry putting his total on the season at 421 yards. Whether you chalk these stats due to the injury or not, even when he was “healthy,” Martin was unable to find holes and was benched in favor of Rodgers.

Now before we jump into Rodgers, it is worth noting that for the first three games of the season the Bucs will be without Martin due to a suspension enforced for violating the league’s drug abuse policies.

As for Rodgers, how can you ask of anything more? The true knight in shining armor took the reigns of the running back position for the Bucs from off the streets. Immediately when Rodgers stepped in, his presence was known. Throughout the year, Rodgers was able to average  4.3 yards per carry, and even logged two 100-yard games on his way to solidify that he truly deserves to be in the NFL. His work paid off in the long run, and come free agency Rodgers was resigned by Tampa on a two-year deal. This deal gives the Bucs insurance in the long run with a guy who knows the system and also when Martin is serving his suspension.

Rodgers and Martin are currently seen as the two main backs in Tampa, which is something Buc fans should not be ashamed of.

When it comes to fifth round draft pick, Jeremy McNichols, Tampa landed themselves a player that they can groom into the perfect back for head coach Dirk Koetter’s offense. Not only has McNichols proved himself in college of being a dual threat back (his hands are incredible), but he also has been noticed for his blocking ability. To add a back to an offense such as McNichols, who can come in on third downs and block is essential for a team. Jameis Winston has had his fair share of hurries/hits over the past few seasons, and to have a reliable back in the backfield such as the rookie will be something Tampa looks forward to.

As it stands now, McNichols will return from his injury for training camp and the pre-season. This gives the Bucs an ample amount of time to do their tests on the rookie… but one would already suspect that his roster spot come opening day will be there for him.

So what about Barber and Sims? Well this is where it begins to get a little blurry.

Both Sims and Barber have been in this offense for over a full season, and it seems as of now they have both received plenty of game time experience to determine whether or not they deserve to stick to this roster. As for Barber, the undrafted free agent rookie from Auburn last season has made waves in the Bay area. After declaring early from school, Barber looked for an opportunity in the NFL to raise money for his homeless mother. Luckily, the Bucs came calling.

Barber is a back that both Koetter and running backs coach Tim Spencer have praised in the media. His big body ability along with his overall potential has raised eyebrows, and after averaging 4.1 yards per carry throughout the 2017 campaign, has made it known that he is here to compete.

Last, we have former third rounder of the 2014 draft, Charles Sims. Since being drafted into the Bucs’ organization, there has been high hopes for Sims. Some viewed him as the eventual heir to the injury prone starter Martin, others viewed him as a third down back. After three full years in the Bay, it is clear that sims is the latter. Throughout his career Sims has averaged around 3.9 yards per carry, which is a very average number. The only problem is the fact that most of his yardage was in one season.

if you take a look at his stats, Sims’s most productive year was 2015. Sims was able to rush for more than 520 yards and even catch for more than 560. Impressive numbers… but what about the other two seasons?

If you combine the stats from both seasons 2014 and 2016, Sims averaged around 2.85 yards per carry. Not only that, he also had under 200 yards receiving. Credit this to his injury past as well, but after given a significant amount of time in the Bay, Sims has not shown the ability to carry the rock when Martin goes down. “Twinkle Toes” looks to be the odd man out of this season’s running back situation.

Whether it will be come the end of preseason or once Martin returns from his suspension, as it stands Charles Sims needs to have a big pre-season to save his job with the Bucs.

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Go Bucs!