Bucs look for a better running game

by Gary Shelton on August 17, 2018 · 2 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Jones hopes to have a solid rookie season./CARMEN MANDATO

Jones hopes to have a solid rookie season./CARMEN MANDATO

Friday, 3 a.m.

Soon enough, they have another dress rehearsal. Soon enough, we try to find meaning in the practice.

Ah, a preseason sequel.

Whee.

For the Tampa Bay Bucs, there is a list of things to improve. Again, it isn't the scores that matter. It's the way a team -- particularly the starters -- play during the game.

So if you're Dirk Koetter, you would like to see better play by your offensive line. You would like to see more of a pass rush. You would like to see better coverage in your secondary. You'd like to see crisp kicking.

And, yes, you'd like to see a better running game.

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A year ago, the running game of the Tampa Bay Bucs was one of the weakest spots of the offense. It was 27th in the league in total yardage, 27th in average gain.Then starter Doug Martin had a dreadful season, rushing for a career-low of 406 yards. For the second straight year, he averaged only 2.9 yards per carry.

This year, there are two men who the Bucs are counting on. One is Peyton Barber, a third-year back who has combined for 646 yards in his first two years. The other is second-round draft pick Ronald Jones II.

In a limited role, Barber averaged more than five yards a carry last week. But Jones struggled, rushing eight times for nine yards behind second-team blockers.

This week, you'd like to see Barber play steadily again. Ad you'd like to see Jones hit a crease or two.

The Bucs, as a franchise, have had some success with rookie running backs. A lot of that is that the Bucs, in most of their seasons, were always looking for an impact back. Maybe that's why the Bucs went all-in on Bo Jackson back in 1986.

The best season out of a rookie back? Why, that would be the 2012 season by Martin. He gained 1,454 yards with 11 touchdowns.

Cadillac Williams had the second best season by a Bucs' back in 2005. He gained 1,178 yards, but much of it came in the first four games of the season.

After that was Errict Rhett, back in 1994. Rhett gained 1,011 yards, even though much of it came with runs at the end of halves.

Then there was LeGarrette Blount in 2010. Blount gained 1007 yards. It was a season of false hope with quarterback Josh Freeman and receiver Mike Williams also having good seasons. It didn't last.

Fifth on the list would be Warrick Dunn, who had 978 yards in his first season.

For Jones, a small but fast back, those are some seasons to try to emulate. Otherwise, the Bucs once again will put too much of the load on their quarterbacks. If the Bucs cannot run, there will be too many Sundays when they cannot win

Stay tuned.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Bill MYERS August 17, 2018 at 8:39 am

You are so right there Gary! It is very important to have a ground game to keep the defense guessing ! A running back with ball catching skills is a plus! Isn’t Jones supposed to fill that spot?

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Gary Shelton August 17, 2018 at 8:51 pm

Jones wasn’t much of a receiver in college, but he was a dynamic running back. If he can be the home-run hitter in the backfield, it will help.

I think one of the shortcomings of this franchise has been that it over-relies on Jameis Winston to be the difference maker. He has his moments, but when is the last time the Bucs won when he had a bad day? It hasn’t happened often. The defense has been leaky, and the running game has been terrible, and the secondary plays chase. Defense and a good running game goes a long way.

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