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August 2, 2012 @ 1:38 pm
Current rating: 4.60 Stars/5 Votes

Race For Bucs' RB Spots Off To Fast Start

Written by Dory
Dory LeBlanc


Beat Writer E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
After six days of training camp, two Buccaneer running backs are clearly tied for the starting position. What's not as clear is who will be behind Blount and Martin, then who will be the the other backups.
Six practices into the Buccaneers’ training camp, there’s no clear-cut winner between LeGarrette Blount and Doug Martin for the starting running back position. The two have been battling for reps with the first team since the inception of camp.

However, Tampa Bay will carry more than two running backs on their 53-man roster. How many – and who they will be – is yet to be determined. One thing is for certain, the other four running backs are all hungry to make the final cut.

After Wednesday and Thursday’s practices wrapped, several of the running backs have stayed behind on the south end of the field with running backs coach Earnest Byner and assistants.

Following Thursday’s practice Coach Byner told PewterReport.com those post-practice sessions have been requested by the players.

“As a matter of fact, they asked me to stay out here with them to continue to try to teach them some of the techniques, some of the fundamentals of playing fullback," Byner said.

While all of the running backs have looked overall like a solid unit the first week, pass protection and blocking is something that each has done exceptionally well. Thursday, Blount had a nice block on Josh Freeman’s blindside, saving a sack and buying the quarterback enough time to find an open Dallas Clark in the middle of the field. A short time later, Michael Smith blocked Adam Hayward from getting to Dan Orlovsky.

The development of the running backs has progressed noticeably over the past week, from Blount’s patience at the point of attack to Robert Hughes running as the lead blocker/fullback with the third team offense.

There have been a few hiccups – namely Martin and Mossis Madu’s fumbles – but overall Coach Byner has been pleased so far with their development, especially among the rookies.

"We've had a really good opportunity with our rookies with the additional meeting times and some of the one-on-one time that we got even out on the field when the veterans have not been here,” Byner said. “These guys have really started to understand some of the things that we’ve been asking them. I think it’s provided a level of growth where they can slow down the game some.  Because the thing that’s the problem for most rookies is the speed of the game is different. So that extra time we’ve been able to spend with them has really been good and I think they’ve progressed nicely.”

Aside from the fumble in Wednesday's practice, which he recovered, Martin has been nothing short of spectacular the first week of training camp, with or without pads. One of the most noticeable differences between Martin and the other backs is his vision and anticipation. For a 23-year old rookie, Martin practices with a maturity far beyond his years.

“Well, I think some of the things we ask him to do…first of all, [he’s] very talented," Byner said. "He was drafted in the first round, you got to be talented to be [drafted] there. So what we saw in him at Boise [State] and the things that he’s been doing here, the things we saw on tape on the college level, the collegiate level, so it’s just transferring it up here. Again, I think that time, the additional time we’ve had to spend with him has really helped him with all that too.”

The more reps Michael Smith takes, the more he looks like a complete back. Thursday, Smith caught a screen pass from Orlovsky and turned on his blazing speed to get outside and down the sideline quickly. Smith’s speed is well-documented, but his power is becoming evident as well, something Byner was never surprised by.

“When you look at Michael with those traps, you can tell there’s something there,” Byner said. “When we’re hitting the sleds in our individual period, you can see the explosion that he has and the speed and the acceleration is there, too. So that power that you see is part of that speed that he has as well.”

Byner, a former running back himself who played for 14 seasons and has a ring for Super Bowl XXVI victory, talked about the longevity of running backs in the NFL and how he believes playing past the four-five year average is still attainable in football today, especially among the Bucs’ running back corps, which Byner believes is special.

“The life of any player is that [four to five years] so it’s not really any different for a running back,” Byner said. “Some of the ways that guys are able to continue or grow past that, some of it is just God-given. For me to play 14 years it was somewhat freakish to tell you the truth. So guys that come in and have the expertise and the explosion and stuff that these guys have, and be special like they are, four or five years is probably nothing to sneeze at and when they’re able to go out there and produce the way they can.”

The coaches are in a special place as well. Most teams struggle for a quality back-up running back, but Tampa Bay has more than enough to start the season deep at the position on the depth chart.

Whether the Bucs pencil in Martin or Blount as the starter is too close to call right now; just as close is the race for the stallions that will complete the stable, and that race may be a marathon, not a sprint, to a decision. 

Last modified on Thursday, 02 August 2012 14:40

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  • avatar

    Great article Dory.
  • avatar

    Schiano did say we'd be a run first team.
  • avatar

    First-World problems at RB. I love it.
  • avatar

    Scubog is right; as long as we have two good RB's who cares which one starts first. Blount reminds me a lot of Earnest Byner; I hope that Martin will remind me of a guy named Emmitt Smith. Go Bucs!
  • avatar

    Luxury problems. Love it!!
  • avatar

    Good job DL w/the great coverage, it's fun to read your stuff.
  • avatar

    Gotta come up with a nickname for our RB tandem. I'm thinking.................
  • avatar

    Scubog; how about CAN'T STOP IT!!
  • avatar

    Lets just call em both Touchdown :D
  • avatar

    can't wait for preseason
  • avatar

    Really starting to think our offense can be explosive this year with weapons all over the field. What a difference a year makes, oh and great coaching & scheming helps too!
  • avatar

    Considering this year was the first actual offseason Blount had, it's no surprise to me that he's picking up the skills that the naysayers said he couldn't. We're gonna have a two-headed monster of a rushing attack - I dare say 1,000 yards each for Blount and Martin are possible.
  • avatar

    Thanks for sharing Dory. It's really encouraging to hear/read that Blount is doing well in picking up the blitz. Excited to see how this competition will shake out in the preseason.
  • avatar

    I say keep all four RB's and keep one less TE. Our backup TE's aren't as good as these guys so let's just keep the best 53 guys.
  • avatar

    8 more days to the first preseason game...my mouth is watering!
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