Buccaneers: Key offensive injury opens the door for new face to step up

Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Giovani Bernard, (Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Giovani Bernard, (Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports) /

Ke’Shawn Vaughn has a chance to step up for the Buccaneers this weekend with Giovani Bernard out.

The injury bug is staying put in Tampa. The Buccaneers have dealt with injuries consistently since the start of the season, and missing out on Giovani Bernard in Week 4 against the Patriots will hurt.

In a game where keeping Tom Brady as comfortably as possible is the main offensive priority, missing out on Bernard complicates matters. The Buccaneer running backs have done little to inspire confidence in the run game this season, and Bernard was the lone bright spot, even as the third guy on the depth chart.

Now, the Bucs are going into a matchup against one of the best secondaries in the NFL, and the rushing attack is not up to billing for a game of this magnitude. The Buccaneers don’t have any other great running backs to rely on, but Ke’Shawn Vaughn should get a chance at some playing time this weekend.

While the odds of Vaughn carving out a larger role this week are unlikely, this prospect is not entirely out of the question. The coaching staff continues to sing Vaughn’s praises despite the insistence of some within the fanbase for the franchise to look in other areas. Vaughn is the only back on the roster for 2022 as it stands, so letting him get some touches now makes sense.

There are plenty of glaring weaknesses between Jones and Fournette. Jones, who is the better runner between the tackles when he can actually hold onto the ball, can’t block in pass protection and drops passes/turns the ball over far too often. Fournette is better with turnovers and in the passing game, but his vision and running ability leave plenty to be desired outside of the playoffs.

Fournette looks like the back to take the majority of the third-down reps tomorrow, but there is a chance that Vaughn will also get some opportunities if Jones and Fournette are struggling. Vaughn has good vision running the ball and can catch better than Jones, so he does still have enough upside to succeed in this league with the proper play-calling.

A few good reps is all it takes to move up the ranks with a running back room like this one.

Ke’Shawn Vaughn played decently in the preseason behind a terrible line and with an awful game plan, so the Buccaneers would be wise to at least see what they have in their third-round running back in year two. Everyone knows that’s when Ronald Jones made a massive jump, so Vaughn could be in the same boat.

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