Heading into 2017, the Buccaneers had an unclear situation with their backfield. General manager Jason Licht was questioned for not adding a running back. In hindsight, that might not have been the biggest problem.
Okay, so hindsight is 20/20. There’s the required disclaimer for this article. Now, think about this past offseason for the Buccaneers. General manager Jason Licht made some great moves, upgrading the receiving corps and picking up some pieces for the defense. However, nothing was done to bolster the run game. Many expected Licht to find a running back in free agency or the draft. A smaller number of people thought the offensive line needed some re-shaping. Instead, nothing was done for either group. Things haven’t exactly panned out.
Since his return from suspension, Doug Martin has been the team’s leading running back. In seven games, he has 343 rushing yards on 112 carries, which is good for just 3.1 yards per carry. That lack of production hasn’t necessarily all been his fault. It’s
easy to look at numbers and say he isn’t doing enough. But when you actually watch Martin run, the story changes. The majority of the time, he has nowhere to run. There aren’t clear running lanes, he has no time to make a lane and then he’s stuffed. Is there a running back that would succeed under those circumstances?
More from The Pewter Plank
- Devin White posts cryptic message to Lavonte David on Twitter
- ESPN predicts surprising outcome to Devin White trade saga
- Updated Buccaneers depth chart after signing two players from rookie minicamp
- Todd Bowles sends clear message about Baker Mayfield’s role with Bucs
- The Athletic is wrong about Bucs one ‘must-watch’ game in 2023
As our James Yarcho said on this week’s Walking the Plank Podcast, Martin has become the Gerald McCoy of the offense. Fans have long criticized McCoy for not doing enough on defense. He receives blame for struggles despite the fact that he is one of the more productive players on the defense. Martin is now in that same situation with the offense. Fans are quick to blame the veteran for the Buccaneers’ poor rushing attack, ignoring some other, deeper issues. People are clamoring for Tampa Bay to pick up a younger prospect in next April’s draft. Saquon Barkley, Nick Chubb, Derrius Guice and many others would look great in a Bucs uniform. I’m not denying that.
But here’s the issue: none of those guys could do what they do best without some help up front. The best running backs in the NFL couldn’t either. Whoever is calling the shots after this season, whether it’s Licht or someone new, has to do something about the offensive line. Ali Marpet is someone to build around, but aside from him, what does the future of the o-line look like? Can the Bucs move forward with the same guys up front? That’s a real question that the general manager needs to think about.
If Martin was the problem, wouldn’t we see a change? Before he returned from his suspension, Jacquizz Rodgers wasn’t much better. He has 52 carries for 186 yards on the year (3.6 yards per carry). Peyton Barber is getting some looks, but he has just 81 yards on 25 carries (3.2 yards per carry). Martin’s yards per carry average is a tad lower, but it’s not a significant margin. The Buccaneers as a whole have the 30th-ranked rushing attack in the entire league. That won’t cut it. Granted, this isn’t the best or most star-studded backfield in the NFL. But these guys do have enough talent to be better than 30th in rushing. That ranking is a tough indictment on the play of this year’s offensive line.
Again, hindsight helps. But Licht gambled, and the gamble isn’t paying off. What do you think, Bucs fans? Do you think the offensive line needs upgrading just as much as the backfield? Let us know in the comments, on Twitter or on Facebook.
"Check out the latest episode of the Walking the Plank Podcast! The Robert McClain Episode."