After the Bucs have struggled to run the ball, head coach Raheem Morris said the team will look to expand the role of their backup running backs and reduce the work load on starter Cadillac Williams.
A day after the Buccaneers lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers 38-13, Bucs head coach Raheem Morris talked about the team’s struggles to run the football. Against the Steelers, Tampa Bay ran for 75 yards rushing with starter Carnell ‘Cadillac’ Williams running for only 13 yards on six carries (2.2 avg.). While Williams has gotten a lot of carries through the first three games, Tampa Bay has struggled to get the running game going. The Bucs went to backup LeGarrette Blount during the game with quality results, and Morris was asked if the team will re-evaluate the running back position and the amount of carries going to Williams.
“I think we are. I think that’s the thought of getting LeGarrette in to get some carries. I think [Kregg] Lumpkin will start to get some carries,” said Morris. “We got to clean up those holds that are being called. … We aren’t going to sit here and complain about those calls being called. What we are going to do is coach this thing up better. … I think that Cadillac has played three well games. By no means I’m saying he played excellent, but I’m saying he played games that he put together and played well in. He can play better. We got to get him some blow. We can’t get him 28 straight carries in a row and all those things. Somebody has to come in and give a spark. Somebody has to come in and make somebody miss and break off a long run.”
Outside of Blount and Lumpkin, another backup that Morris said Tampa Bay would like to get involved is Kareem Huggins. The second-year pro Huggins led the Bucs in rushing in the preseason with 134 yards on 25 carries for an average of 5.4 yards per carry. The 5-foot-9, 198-pound Huggins missed the second game of the year with a groin injury, and Morris said that was the reason for him being inactive on Sunday.
“No question, hopefully we can get him back this bye week and getting him out there running around in practice and he can be ready to go health-wise,” said Morris. “That’s been a health issue only right now, and hopefully we can get him back with the bye. We’re fortunate to have one this early, and fortunate to be able have him provide some of those spark type runs that we need to change that average.”
Apparently Morris and his player weren’t on the same page as Huggins said that he was fine, and that it was a coaching decision as to him being inactive against the Steelers. Huggins, 24, practiced all of the week leading up to the contest with Pittsburgh.
“No I’m fine. I prepared like I’m supposed to prepare,” said Huggins. “I’m just ready to play. It is up to the coaches.”
During the bye week and afterwards, Morris said that Huggins and Blount would be competing with each other for carries and being active on game days.
“You got to say yes,” said Morris. “You have to evaluate that this week. That’s a good problem.”
Morris highlighted the fact that it is a team effort to get the running game going. Tampa Bay was down by 22 points at halftime, and the deficit hurt the Bucs ability to stay with the ground game, as they were able to do in the first two weeks of the season when the score was close or Tampa Bay had the lead. Morris was hoping to get Blount more carries yesterday but the game didn’t lend itself to running the ball.
“LeGarrette Blount we certainly can increase his role,” said Morris. “I think his role would have been increased yesterday if the game had played out the way I would have liked to have seen it played out. With a three-point lead and pounding them, not giving up the two big plays and not allow them to pound us and make us one-dimensional. His role could have been increased yesterday as well, all those things going into it and having that type of role and having that type of feel. We are 2-1. That is the message to the team, to you guys, and our fans. We got time this week to go back and get better and bring those young guys along.”
Blount finished with six carries for 27 yards (4.5 avg.) and a touchdown to lead Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers claimed Blount off waivers from the Tennessee Titans at the end of the preseason. Blount went undrafted last April because of a post-game fight during his senior collegiate season even though many teams felt that Blount was one of the better running backs in the draft. With the Buccaneers heading into the bye week Tampa Bay plans on getting Blount more up to speed on the offense’s playbook.
“I think the young guys will have more of a chance to catch up,” said Morris. “We’ll get more of [Arrelious] Benn. We’ll get a chance to get more of LeGarrette Blount because we’ll be able to sit down and slow things down for those guys a little bit more. LeGarrette has been on the team for two weeks. I’m proud of him that he is even able to get in the game in the third week of the season. Now having a bye week you can give him some bases, and some more fundamental core beliefs, and things that you were talking about all offseason that he wasn’t able to get.”
Blount said that he knows it is a long season and he is not rushing to become the Bucs starting running back or receive a significant amount of carries. Blount and Morris believe that over the bye week Tampa Bay can get Blount up to speed on blitz pickup.
“Oh yeah I’m definitely willing to be patient,” said Blount. “I’m not going to rush anything. Especially when I’m not 100 percent comfortable with the offense. If was 100 percent comfortable with the offense then it’d be a different story because I’m pretty sure they’d get me out there, but since I’m not 100 percent comfortable with the offense they’re not going to take that chance. They got a multi-million dollar quarterback that doesn’t need to be getting hit.”
Williams is averaging 2.5 yards per carry and has a total of 139 yards on 55 carries and no touchdowns in 2010. Williams, 28, has not had run longer than 38 yards since rookie season in 2005, and that was the only year in his career where he was able to average four yards per carry or eclipse the 1,000 yard mark.
The 5-foot-11, 217-pound Williams was second in the NFL’s voting for Comeback Player of the Year in 2009. He ran for 823 yards and four touchdowns while catching 28 passes for 217 yards and three touchdowns last season. Williams renaissance came after he suffered massive knee injuries in 2007 and 2008. He is in the final year of his contract with Tampa Bay.
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