The modern trend in the NFL is to have a twin-headed or multi-head running game. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are looking to catch up to this trend.
The 2018-2019 season was poor on all fronts for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The passing game was one of the few positive points and even that shifted on a constant basis (see the jump from week 1 vs. the Saints to week 4 vs. the Bears). The running game was abysmal for Ronald Jones, and Peyton Barber was unable to crack 1,000 yards rushing. Going into the 2019 season, though, it appears that the Buccaneers have two capable running backs that make compelling arguments for receiving top reps.
Rojo was unfortunately a non-factor in the 2018 season much to the chagrin of Bucs fans and fantasy football players who rolled the dice on the rookie in the eighth round of their draft like this writer. Regardless of the poor start, Jones is looking for second chance to prove himself but he is still sitting behind Peyton Barber at the moment.
Peyton Barber is the definition of a workhorse. Barber lined up each week behind an offensive line that did him no favors and an offensive coordinator who was less than creative with his play calling. The Bucs also spent a large part of their season playing from behind and had very few opportunities to run the ball as they were trying to crawl back from a deficit.
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Despite all of this Barber still had 871 yards rushing, 92 receiving yards, and 6 touchdowns. With the new offense in place and a revamped defense Barber could be in place to crack the 1,000 yard mark on the ground and could get into double digit touchdowns. Barber proved himself last season and rightly deserved the extension for this season that he received,
In the short amount of time that training camp has gone on for it has become clear that both running backs are looking to fight for as many carries as they can get in a game. Both have bulked up with Rojo adding an impressive 15 pounds of muscle. In addition, both backs have looked light on their feet and display good vision in finding the running lanes at the line that were absent last season due to an often injured offensive line.
Barber and Rojo will both have to spend the remainder of their offseason working on pass catching. As of now, neither are as serviceable as a third down back as Andre Ellington, who has had a spectacular camp. Ellington looks comfortable in the offense due to his reunion with Bruce Arians and will look to play a role similar to Jacquizz Rodgers from the last few seasons with perhaps a slight increase in usage.
The best hope for the Buccaneers is that these three backs can find a way to share the field. Bruce Arians’ high-risk, high-reward, style of play will require a lot of these backs and having capable depth will be very important. If Rojo and Barber can improve their pass catching they will receive the lion’s share of the touches but developing Jones becomes more important ever season and that may lead to him getting more “trial touches” to see if he has a future in Tampa Bay that matches with his draft stock.
Regardless of who is starting the Buccaneers are expecting to have a much better run game this season. That will hopefully help with the game management, and could relieve Jameis Winston and prevent a few less interceptions. The Bucs are looking to get ahead and stay ahead through the air, but in the NFL a good run game never hurts.