Buccaneers: Predicting what’s in their future
The Running Game Will be Relevant Again
The Buccaneers had one of the worst running back rushing attacks last season finishing 28th in the NFL with 1416 yards rushing and only seven touchdowns and 89 yards/game fifth worst in the NFL. If you add in Winston’s and a couple wide receiver runs the Bucs still had the 22nd worst rushing attack averaging 101 yards/game.
The top rusher on the team last season was Jacquizz Rodgers who wasn’t signed until September thirteenth and only started five games, but amassed 560 yards on 129 carries for a 4.3 yard average.
Doug Martin the teams “Number One” running back played a total of eight games in another injury plagued season that ended with him getting busted for substance abuse. Resulting in a four game suspension that will cause him to miss the first three games of the season. Only rushing 144 times for 421 yards with a horrible 2.9 yard average but he lead the team in rushing touchdowns with … three.
With Peyton Barber and Charles Sims combining for another 106 carries 372 yards and two touchdowns with a 3.5 yard average weren’t really much of a factor, and on October seventeenth they brought in Antone Smith off the street but he only lasted 3 games before being put on IR on November seventh.
There have been tons of reports of how great Doug Martin looks during OTAs (granted in shorts and tee shirts) including from Bonnie Mott of Bucswire with some interesting quotes from running back coach Tim Spencer:
"“Doug has been working his butt off,” Spencer said at One Buc Place this week. “He’s been hustling, he’s been doing all the things that he normally does. He’s working hard, studying, training well, finishing plays. He sets the tone. He really does set the tone for the rest of the backs and they sort of come up to his level.”"
The two seasons that Martin was healthy he averaged 303 carries 1428 yards and 8 touchdowns with a 4.75 yard average including finishing second in rushing in 2015. So if he can stay healthy after his three game suspension he could step right in and be a dominate force in the running game.
But if he has another injury plagued season like three out of his five seasons barely rushing for 400 yards in a season. Then in comes running back Jeremy McNichols who was drafted in the fifth round and put up amazing college stats with-20 rushing touchdowns last two seasons-can step in and be an effective running back by committee addition.
If Martin can stay healthy the Bucs will have a great running back unit consisting of Martin, Rodgers, and Sims/McNichols, but if he can not the addition of McNichols still gives them a good unit with Rodgers, McNichols, Sims, and probably Barber making the running game a strength for the offense again.