With the Buccaneers run game averaging just 90.6 and 101 yards per game the last two seasons why haven’t the Buccaneers tried harder in the off season to improve it?
The last two seasons the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have had one of the worst running games in the NFL, in 2017 they were ranked 27th finishing with 389 carries for 1450 yards, a 3.7 yard/carry average, just eight touchdowns, and 90.6 yards/game. 2016 was not much better as they ranked 24th with 453 carries for 1616 yards, a 3.6 yard/carry average, eight touchdowns again, and 101 yards per game.
This is nothing new though, since 2011 besides a couple of seasons (2015 – 5th and 2012 – 15th) the Buccaneers have been ranked in the bottom half of the league in rushing ranking 29th in 2014, 22nd in 2013, and 30th in 2011.
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In fact, in the last ten seasons (2008 thru 2017) they averaged out as the 20th ranked rushing team averaging just 106.1 yards/game, 1,697 yards/season (4.1 yard/carry), and a terrible nine rushing touchdowns per season. Since winning the division in 2007 the Buccaneers have been out rushed by all of their fellow NFC South divisional opponents in all but four seasons (2008, 2010,2013, 2015). As their divisional opponents combined have rushed for a seasonal average of 118 yards/game, 1886 yards/season (4.3 yard/carry), and 16 touchdowns from 2008 to 2017.
So what have the Falcons, Panthers, and Saints been able to do in the last ten seasons to help their running game that the Buccaneers either can’t figure out or have been reluctant to do? Is it all in the drafting? let’s take a look.
In the last ten season every team in the NFC South has taken a running back in the first round except for the Falcons who found a couple of steals in Devonta Freeman in the fourth and Tevin Coleman in the third. The Panther in fact have taken two running backs in the first round in Jonathan Stewart and Christian McCaffrey that worked out pretty good for them I think. The Saints drafted Mark Ingram in the first round and also found a gem in last year’s draft with Alvin Kamara and that seems to be working for them.
The Buccaneers on the other hand went from 2006 (Cadillac Williams in 2005) to 2011 without drafting a running back in the first four rounds of a draft, and then selected Doug Martin in 2012 who when healthy has had two good seasons and when not healthy, four terrible seasons. Then they drafted injury prone Charles Sims in the third round of the 2014 draft, and he has played in 47 of 60 games with minimal impact averaging just 61 carries for 241 yards rushing and 32 catches for 298 yards receiving per season.
As Martin was going through his injury plagued seasons of 2013, 2014, and 2016 the Buccaneers chose not to address the run game in the draft only signing Jacquizz Rodgers in free agency in 2016 and he had never been a full work load back. Instead they chose to draft six running backs late in drafts by taking 3 in the sixth round and 3 in the seventh round of drafts, and in the last ten seasons have drafted a division high nine running backs.
In this ten-year span (2008-2017) the Saints have won the division three times (2009, 2011, 2017) including one Super Bowl in 2009, the Panthers four times (2008, 2013-2015) including a Super Bowl appearance in 2015, the Falcons three times (2010, 2012, 2016) including a Super Bowl appearance in 2016, and the Buccaneers …. well as we all know have finished in LAST every year but three (2008, 2010, 2016) and have not been to the playoffs once in that time.
So as the running game struggled in recent years instead of drafting another running back the Buccaneers passed on players like Devonta Freeman (2014), Carlos Hyde (2014), David Johnson (2015), Jay Ajayi (2015), Jordan Howard (2016), and of course last season’s running back list was insane: Alvin Kamara, Kareem Hunt, Samaje Perine, Marlon Mack, Joe Mixon, and D’onta Foreman just to name a few.
All because they thought that when Doug Martin was healthy he was still one of the best backs … then he gets popped for illegal substance abuse and gets suspended four games, and they still wait until the fifth round in the 2017 draft to take a running back and he (Jeremy McNichols) couldn’t even make the team.
So with Doug Martin most likely being released and Charles Sims a free agent the Buccaneers will finally be forced to address the run game. Then if the Steelers don’t franchise Le’Veon Bell do the Buccaneers go for the home run and throw big money at him or maybe a cheaper Isaiah Crowell, Carlos Hyde, or Jerick McKinnon?
If they can’t get any of those there’s the draft and the top running back on most “experts” boards is Saquon Barkley out of Penn St, but most expect him to be gone when the Buccaneers pick at seven (but O.J. Howard luck could be on their side again). With maybe one or two running backs graded as first rounders is pick 38 in the second round where they find their running back? A Sony Michel, Rashaad Penny, or Ronald Jones II to name a few.
Not sure but something needs to be done and the reluctance to address the run game needs to end because having a bottom ten run game with the other offensive weapons that the Buccaneers have is unacceptable, and in my opinion at least two new running backs need to be added to the team this off season.
Why do you think that the Buccaneers have been reluctant to address the run game for a better part of a decade, and have they waited too long and are now forced to make that “homerun” type move? Hope you enjoy the article and feel free to comment in the comments section or tweet me directly @ND1Bucsfan and thanks again for reading.
Remember once a Buccaneers fan always a Buccaneers fan through the Best of time … and the worst of time, and with the Super Bowl this weekend we are closer to free agency and the draft! so as always … FIRE THEM CANNONS!!!