After a HUGE Week one win against the New Orleans Saints, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ passing attack took center stage. The running backs played second-fiddle yet again.
Last season the Buccaneers had one of the worst running games in the NFL as they ranked 27th in the league in rushing. Averaging just over 90.6 yards/game and a pitiful 3.7 yards/carry with just eight touchdowns. Not one of their rushers totaled over 500 yards. The team’s lead back Peyton Barber, gained 423 yards with a 3.9 yard/carry and a team-leading three rushing touchdowns in the last four weeks.
Moves needed to be made in the offseason to bolster the Tampa Bay rushing attack. The first move was cutting the ineffective Doug Martin. Tampa kept quiet in free agency and turned to the Draft to add talent. In the second-round Tampa selected Ronald Jones from USC.
Last season’s leading receiver at running back, Charles Sims, was given the “turnstile treatment.” He tested free agency but eventually came back with Tampa, but was waived after suffering an injury in camp.
The other names still in the fold heading into Week two are Jacquizz Rodgers and Shaun Wilson, who suited up as the second and third string backs, respectively.
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During preseason action, (yes, it was just preseason) the Buccaneers run game looked very mediocre, and in the three games that Barber played, they totaled 74 carries for 216 yards or just 72 yards a game and three touchdowns.
Jones totaled 28 carries for just 22 yards (.8 yards/carry) in the four games. The only player that looked good running the ball was Barber who rushed 15 times for 87 yards (5.8 yards/carry) and two touchdowns.
Fast forward to week one against divisional opponent New Orleans Saints and as expected Barber was the starter. He was on the field for 73% of the offensive snaps while promising young rookie Jones was a healthy scratch.
Wilson and Rodgers shuffled in occasionally, but Barber, the former undrafted free agent proved to be Tampa Bay’s lead back.
During Barber’s action, he rushed 19 times for 69 yards (3.6 yards/carry), and the Buccaneers as a whole rushed 34 times for 112 yards and one touchdown (3.3 yards/carry). Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick accounted for 32% of the rushing yards as the old-timer rushed twelve times for 36 yards and one touchdown in the Buccaneers big win.
As a team, the Bucs rushing attack wasn’t very impressive. The 3.3 yards per carry average is subpar and it bears asking the question, did Tampa Bay do enough to address their rushing attack?
Jones doesn’t have the coaching staff’s trust and if Barber goes down with an injury, which runner will the Bucs rely on?
With too high priced options in free agency and several running backs in the Draft but only one real stud in Saquon Barkley, should the Buccaneers have taken two backs in the Draft, or maybe even drafted a running back higher in the 2017 Draft?
Will another season of potentially rushing for under 4 yards/carry be enough to make this team a more balanced offense? Personally, I do not think so but until Jones figures this out and the other backs on the team prove they can rush for more than 4 yards/carry this might be what the Buccaneers are stuck with. We will just have to wait and see if maybe the Buccaneers should have taken a running back earlier in the 2017 draft, or if Jones and the rest of the backs can surprise us and make this a more balanced and potent Bucs attack.
Give me your thoughts in the comments section, on Twitter, or directly to me on Twitter on if the Buccaneers did enough to address the run game, and if not will it bite them, or if there was anything else they could have done (within reason) to upgrade it. As always … GO BUCS! Wreak Havoc!