The Buccaneers’ running game in 2017 was nothing to write home about. However, Peyton Barber was good enough to get increased time in 2018.
The Doug Martin experiment failed yet again. No, the offensive line wasn’t great, but when all was said and done and the curtain closed on the 2017 season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers found themselves with a surprising rushing leader – Peyton Barber. Although he didn’t have as many opportunities as Martin – 108 carries to Martin’s 138 – Barber finished the season with seventeen more rushing yards and a full yard per carry average better than the starter.
All off-season last year, the talk was “weapons for Winston” and that included a running back. Many didn’t feel Martin could get the job done or they couldn’t trust him after the drug violation that resulted in a four game suspension. Would it be Dalvin Cook? Marlon Mack? Kareem Hunt? Nope. They would draft Jeremy McNichols in the fifth round only to see him cut in training camp and a failed attempt to add him to the practice squad.
Martin was the guy, yet again.
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As the season progressed, we saw flashes of “good Martin”, but the offensive line was of no help the majority of the time. It seemed as though Martin would dance around in the backfield just trying to find a big enough crease to get back to the line of scrimmage. Once Peyton Barber took the reigns, the running game began to pick up steam.
Barber seemed to provide a burst. Not so much speed, but a burst of freshness, of energy. He became a reliable threat out of the backfield that created a legitimate threat for the play action game, helping Jameis Winston finish the season the way he did. Plain and simple, Barber is the only running back currently on the roster that deserves to return in 2018.
He’s not a “feature back” in my opinion, but he’s good enough to be in a time share with another player. As I’ve said before, he could be the Bucs’ Mark Ingram but they need to draft their Alvin Kamara. Out of every player on the team that ran the ball this season, Martin had second worst yards per carry average at 2.9. Only Bobo Wilson was worse at 2.7, but he also had a carry in the finale where he slipped and fell seven yards behind the line of scrimmage, so take that for what it’s worth.
Barber earned this job. He earned this roster spot. When Jason Licht, Dirk Koetter, and the coaching staff break down where the running game went wrong last season, one of the only players that they can point to as not being a problem is Peyton Barber.
The rest of the backfield? Well, they can go and the Buccaneers wouldn’t miss a beat.