If there is one area of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that could prevent them from making the postseason it is the running back position.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Running Backs Could Hold Back Team
Last year the Bucs had every reason to keep believing in Doug Martin. He was coming off the second 1,000 season of his four-year career with 1,402 rushing yards, which was second in the NFL. Martin had 288 carries and six rushing touchdowns.
But in 2016, Martin started in eight games and with 144 carries produced 421 rushing yards and three touchdowns on an anemic 2.9 rushing yards per carry. In addition, Martin’s longest running play was just 17 yards.
It was the third time in five seasons in which Martin failed to total not only 1,000 rushing yards in a season, but 500 rushing yards in a season. The rushing yards and yards per carry were both career lows. Martin has had fewer touchdowns in a season, but his three touchdowns led the team.
Martin’s performance in 2015 caused the Buccaneers to sign him to a five-year contract the following spring. Martin has shown flashes, but he’s had more sub 500-yard seasons than 1,000-yard seasons and he’s already 28. He is the biggest question mark for the Buccaneers. However, Martin may have a clause in his contract that could allow the Buccaneers to void it according to Bucs Nation.
The best running back on the Buccaneers roster overall was Jacquizz Rodgers. Rodgers appeared in 10 games, started in five and despite 129 rushing attempts and two touchdowns, led the Buccaneers with just 560 rushing yards. Rodgers averaged 4.3 yards per carry. According to Pro Football Focus, Rodgers received a score of 77.2 in 339 snaps. The Buccaneers had no choice but to give Rodgers a two-year contract in March.
However, just like Martin, Rodgers wasn’t immune to injuries either and he missed time with a foot injury. Rodgers has been in the NFL for six years. He spent four seasons with the Atlanta Falcons and one season with the Chicago Bears. Rodgers deserves to get the starting job in 2017.
It might be difficult to believe that somebody could be underused on a team had 10 different players record a rushing attempt, but that was the case for Peyton Barber. Furthermore, Barber was the most durable running back. He had just one start but appeared in 15 games. Barber had 55 rushing attempts and one touchdown, but produced 223 yards on an average of 4.1 yards per carry. The best attribute about Barber is that he was a rookie who was undrafted out of Auburn, and that gives him a major advantage over Rodgers who is 27.
Injuries hit Charles Sims the hardest. A knee injury put him on injured reserve for most of the season. However, prior to the knee injury, he was having just as disappointing of a season as Martin. In seven games, Sims had 51 rushing attempts for 149 yards and one touchdown for an average of 2.9 yards per attempt. It was major drop from his average of 4.9 yards per carry the prior season. Sims’ specialty is catching passes, but his production was down in that area too as he had 24 catches for 190 yards for an average of just less than eight yards per catch.
He had 51 catches for 561 yards, four touchdown catches and an average of 11 yards per catch two seasons ago. But hopefully Sims will be motivated as he enters the final year of a four-year contract.
Smith, 31, remains an unrestricted free agent after just one year with the Buccaneers. He experienced five seasons with the Falcons and one with the Bears. The Buccaneers waived James during the season and he was picked up by the Detroit Lions.
Jeremy McNichols was drafted out of Boise State to replace them and possibly Martin.
The Buccaneers may have to resort to a committee of running backs if they can’t find an answer, but for now, they just need somebody to last. If not, the backfield could be the unit that keeps the Bucs out of the playoffs this season.