A recent report from Rick Stroud indicates that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will run the ball more in 2022 and beyond under new head coach Todd Bowles. While this has been met with a fair amount of skepticism from a lot of fans, this is a wise move for the Buccaneers.
The NFL has become more and more of a passing league with each passing season. Passing numbers have exploded to the point where we saw Jameis Winston become a 5,000-yard passer in Tampa Bay. Never before has the quarterback position been more important to a team’s success, and it was already the most important position on the field. The thing is, one can trace the genesis of the explosion of aerial assaults to when Dan Marino entered the league in 1983. Obviously the concept of throwing the football was around WAY before this, with many other forefathers of the forward pass, but this was when the passing game in the NFL reached astronomical heights. The point is , it isn’t a recent development.
It also doesn’t mean that the running game is completely dead or irrelevant. Being able to run the football effectively, especially late in the season, has always been crucial to a team’s success.
While it is true that the most recent Super Bowl champions, and runner-ups for that matter, haven’t had dominant run games during the regular season, it’s also true that they were able to turn on the ground attack late in the season and in the playoffs, where games matter the most. Just because a team wasn’t statistically ranked amongst the best running teams in the regular season doesn’t mean running the ball was completely devoid of credit for their success. Bucs fans don’t even need to look very far for proof, why do you think “Late Season” and “Playoff Lenny” became things? Exactly.
The fact that during the Brady-era, the Bucs’ season always turns a corner and picks up steam when Leonard Fournette really gets going is no coincidence. His emergence was massive in the Buccaneers’ Super Bowl championship run during the 2020 season, and his late-season surge in 2021 helped the Bucs stay as competitive as possible whilst ransacked by injury. It looks like the Bowles and the Bucs took notes because in 2022, it looks like it’ll be more of the same and then some.
Bowles wanting to commit to the run game more under his regime is absolutely a positive. A defensive-minded coach wanting his offense to run the ball in an effort to control the clock and rest his defense isn’t exactly a shock. You need to be able to run the ball late in games to close out teams, and late in the year to close out seasons. Regular season and/or playoffs.
Tom Brady will also be 45 once the season kicks off. FORTY FIVE. While he is the greatest of all time and has arguably never looked better, that doesn’t mean he should want to throw the ball 50-70 times per game for an extended 17-game regular season plus playoffs. He may seem inhuman, but he’s also not a spring chicken, quantitatively speaking of course. However, if the Bucs want Brady to stick around for as long as possible, then they need to make sure he’s as fresh as possible.
With Bruce Arians now upstairs, Brady should have more control over the offense and should check to various runs and passes at the line to his liking. Stroud mentioned that Bowles and the Buccaneers will implement changes to the offense that Brady would embrace, with the commitment to the run-game being one of them, so one can surmise that a lot of checks may be runs. It’ll also help set up the play-action game, which Brady is a big proponent of.
It makes sense, considering that Brady’s New England Patriots teams always were at their best when they had strong run games to rely on as the calendar got smaller and the weather got colder, when the importance of the already crucial trenches are enhanced. This was also despite the Patriots being absent of a true “bell cow back”. Also, the last team to defeat Brady in the Super Bowl, the Philadelphia Eagles, had a top three rushing attack. The last team Brady defeated in the Super Bowl, the Kansas City Chiefs, had Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, and Travis Kelce, yet it was running back Damien Williams who took over the second half of the Super Bowl that they won the year before. Heck, even last year’s Los Angeles Rams were bolstered by the return of running back Cam Akers.
As for the 2022 Bucs, with Ronald Jones now in Kansas City, Fournette, Ke’Shawn Vaughn, and Giovanni Bernard seem to be the trio moving forward as of now. Considering Fournette’s health, coupled with the team’s dependence on him late in the season and in the playoffs, plus Vaughn’s relative inexperience and Bernard’s age, don’t be surprised if a draft pick is used on another running back to replace RoJo and add some depth.
At the end of the day, singling the rock all over the yard will always move the needle on the excitement meter, and the league is still trending into a more pass-happy culture. Like we said though, it’s been that way for decades now, and the running game still has a part in the success of a football team as much as it ever has. The more things change the more they stay the same, and this slight adjustment to the game plan, one that Tom Brady favors, should be seen as a positive.