Can the Bucs build a decent running attack?

by Gary Shelton on August 15, 2017 · 0 comments

in general

Martin will miss the Bucs' first three games.CARMEN MANDATO

Martin will miss the Bucs' first three games.CARMEN MANDATO

Tuesday, 5 a.m.

Do the Tampa Bay Bucs have too many running backs?

Or do they have enough?

Throughout the off-season, the Bucs seemed happy with their stable of runners. They were firm in their backing of Doug Martin, even though Martin will start the season with a three-game suspension. They like Charles Sims, although he's been more successful as a receiver.  They like Jacquizz Rodgers. They like Peyton Barber. They drafted Jeremy McNichols. Yeah, there are plenty of bodies at the position.

But are there enough players?

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Peyton Barber gets a carry for Bucs./CARMEN MANDATO

Peyton Barber gets a carry for Bucs./CARMEN MANDATO

After the opening week of the preseason, it still is to be determined. The Bucs rushed for only 108 yards in their loss to the Bengals. Martin and Jacquizz Rodgers each averaged 2.75 yards per carry. Peyton Barber averaged 2.6.

In all, it was part of an offense that sputtered — especially after Jameis Winston and Mike Evans left the field. The Bucs weren't good enough in their red-zone offense (two missed passes from Winston to Evans), and they didn't kick the ball well enough (two career-killing misses by Roberto Aguayo) and too few points were not good omens for the season ahead.

Sims had the Bucs longest carry, but he's been more of a receiver./CARMEN MANDATO

Sims had the Bucs longest carry, but he's been more of a receiver./CARMEN MANDATO

The inability to run the ball probably shouldn't surprise anyone. The Bucs were 24th in the league in rushing last year, and their 3.6 average was 28th. Rodgers had 560 yards, and Martin had 421, but no one else has as many as 250 yards.

The Bucs traveled to Jacksonville Monday, and once again, coach Dirk Koetter was displeased with his offense.

"I'm only on one field, so I don't get to see the rest of it until we get back to the hotel,” Koetter said. “Offensively today, it wasn't what we were looking for. But it's one day in practice and you learn from it and you get better next time."

Koetter wouldn't elaborate on the reasons why.

"It just wasn't very good,” he said. “Draw your own conclusions.

McNichols hopes to break in as a rookie./CARMEN MANDATO

McNichols hopes to break into the rotation as a rookie./CARMEN MANDATO


Quarterback Jameis Winston said that's one of Koetter's strengths.

"Room for improvement everywhere,” Winston said. "That's why I love our coach, man. He's a perfectionist, and that's the standard that we have to play to every day. We can do it, and he knows that. That's what coaches do – they push you to the edge. They push you because they want the best for you."

The coaches were pleased with Winston, but he was frustrated by not being able to complete either passes he made to Mike Evans at the goal line.

“The coaches gave me a B-minus,” Winston said. “Obviously, preseason or not I just want to win. That's the main thing. Definitely got to (have some) improvements. Scoring in that red zone – me and Mike Evans can't get inside the two-yard line and not connect on two straight attempts. That's the only negative I take away from that game. We looked good. We started out fast. Especially when your first drive is from the six-yard line and the next one is from the one, and you flip fields and you start off the game with a 92-yard drive, you've got to love it."

One thing that should help the running back was the return of center Ali Marpet.

“Ali definitely firms up the middle for us. We had some identification errors in the run period but it wasn't the centers' fault,” Koetter said. “Getting Ali back – if it was a (regular-season) game, he would have been good to go in Cincinnati but it's good to get him back. It's good to get all those guys back."

Winston said the Bucs should show improvement in the days to come.

"I think we've just got to get better every single day. From my understanding, the first two weeks are the roughest. But one thing we know, we've got to stay in love with the grind. We've got to get better every single day. There's no reason that we should be lagging right now, man. The season's getting closer, it's not getting further away from us. That's the same part, so we've got to get pumped up."

That's true of Winston, who is expected to carry this team. But it's true of the running game, too, which needs to give him a little help.

Rodgers needs to hold up for the long haul./CARMEN MANDATO

Rodgers needs to hold up for the long haul./CARMEN MANDATO


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