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June 26, 2014 @ 2:13 pm
Current rating: 5.00 Stars/2 Votes

5 Questions Heading Into Training Camp: Running Back Rotation

Written by Eric
Eric Dellaratta


Beat Writer E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
The Buccaneers organization and fans are excited for the 2014 training camp and upcoming season, but a number of positions are far from settled. PewterReport.com brings you a five-day series looking at the most intriguing battles and unanswered questions heading into training camp.
The Buccaneers players are off until they have to report back to Tampa on July 23 to begin what many are hoping and expecting to be a rebound season from the 4-12 disaster of 2013. Excitement abounds with Lovie Smith now in place as the team’s head coach and an influx of new players that the organization hopes fills holes in the roster have fans excited about the possibilities in 2014. While the mood surrounding the franchise is as positive as it has been in a number of years, there are still some areas of concern on the roster.

This week PewterReport.com counts down the five biggest questions heading into training camp. While there are certainly more than five, these are the ones that we have the most questions about and will intently be watching once camp opens.

Players In The Mix: Doug Martin, Charles Sims, Jeff Demps, Mike James, Bobby Rainey, Brendan Bigelow, Lonnie Pryor, Jorvorskie Lane
Smith has said multiple times that Martin is their starting running back and that should not change as the Buccaneers head into the start of the regular season. The former Boise State Bronco had an outstanding rookie season in 2012, running for 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns, but the 5-foot-9, 215 pound rusher suffered a torn labrum and ended up on injured reserve last season. The 25-year old running back has fully recovered and is ready for training camp and the 2014 season. Martin’s ability to run, catch, and block will be relied on heavily in 2014, but he won’t be overworked by the new Buccaneers coaching staff.

Most Buccaneers fans were shocked when general manager Jason Licht decided to use the team's third-round pick on West Virginia's Sims, despite having Martin, Rainey and Mike James already on the roster. Sims is a fantastic receiving running back, showcasing great hands, suddenness and route-running ability on a consistent basis. The 6-foot, 214 pound rusher piled up 1,095 on 208 carries as a senior for the Mountaineers.

At just 5-foot-7, 191 pounds, Demps looks more like a track athlete than a football player, but the former Florida Gator is electric with the ball in his hands. Demps makes unbelievably quick cuts and is extremely fast to the edge. Head coach Lovie smith said that Demps is the fastest guy in the league and the 24-year old back also offers a ton of upside on special teams as a kick and punt returner. He’s been a standout player throughout OTAs and mini-camp, but the challenge for Demps will come in training camp when the pads are on, where the world will find out if he can hold up physically.

James and Rainey are also in the mix for playing time at the running back position. Both backs stepped in when Martin went down with a shoulder injury and played extremely well. James ran for 158 yards against a very stout Seattle Seahawks defense last season and Rainey had two 100-yard games coming against Buffalo and Atlanta. With the ability to run, block and catch, both running backs are well-rounded and have legitimate NFL talent.

Also on the roster are fullbacks Pryor and Lane, and Bigelow, an undrafted free agent halfback, but it’s unlikely that any of those players factor into the running back rotation in 2014. 

PewterReport.com’s Early Running Back Rotation: Martin, Sims, Demps and Rainey
Martin and Sims are the only locks to make the final 53-man roster out of the five running backs in contention. Martin should handle most of the early down work with Sims spelling him and contributing on passing downs.

Here is where things start to get interesting. James and Rainey, who are in their second year, are competing with Demps, a speed demon, for spots on the team’s final roster. While the Bucs could keep all five of their backs, it seems more likely that they roll with four when they head into the regular season.

The speedy Demps’ ability to make an impact in space and on special teams likely gives him the inside track to a spot on the final 53-man roster. Offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford’s offense is based around speed in open areas, and the former Florida Gator is one of the fastest players in the NFL.

That leaves Rainey and James as the last two contending backs with just one spot left. James is a very solid running back with legitimate NFL talent, but in Tedford’s new-look offense Rainey has the slight edge heading into training camp. Rainey can contribute on special teams, passing downs and as a reserve runner.

Training Camp Question No. 5 - Nickel Cornerbacks (Monday)
Training Camp Question No. 4 - Left Defensive End (Tuesday)
Training Camp Question No. 3 - Guards (Wednesday)

Training Camp Question No. 2 - Running Backs (Thursday)
Training Camp Question No. 1 -
Third Wide Receiver (Friday)
Last modified on Friday, 27 June 2014 09:08

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  • avatar

    does anyone know whatever happened to running back michael smith out of utah hes still listed as a buccaneer on wikipedia but no one talks about him anymore i thought he was a solid pickup in the 7th round a couple of years ago but kept getting injured like my dude cadillac
  • avatar

    I believe that Smith was cut LD54.
  • avatar

    Eric, good article. I went and assumed it was Mark.
  • avatar

    Demps was stashed on IR by the Patriots after being a late arrival to their Training Camp. He had a minor injury with us and again was stashed on IR. I guess people forget how successful he was in college. He just happened to have a goal to run in the Olympics that postponed his chance at a NFL career. Much as I appreciated the limited success of Rainey and James last season, those types are a dime a dozen. Guys like Demps are rare. He's similar in size to Warrick Dunn, who was injury free with us as I recall.
  • avatar

    Scubog, I hope you are right. I would love to see that speed mean something.
  • avatar

    I think if James could play some FB, I would keep them all. I would not want to see one of them cut and see either the Saints or Panthers pick him up for nothing. We are going to have speed in space for sure!
  • avatar

    Mark, I pick James over Rainey and Rainey over Demps. Okay here come the value test again. Martin, Sims, James, Rainey. Three of the four are 100 yard rushers and Sims because he is a 2nd round pick. Demps I don't see going anywhere because the guy can't take an NFL hit. See past two seasons.
  • avatar

    Good point 76 Buc, but converting speed from college level to NFL is also different and my point is he hasn't done it yet. The other two RB's have had 100 yard games and proven they can average good yards in the NFL. He also has focused mainly on track and not football since those days or I think the Pats would have kept him? I actually haven't read stories where others are questioning him making it in NfL just going by my own gut. He seems more suited to return kicks or punts? Good position for Bucs to be too deep in RB's though it's a tough position to stay healthy.
  • avatar

    I see every where on Bucs related internet stories where Demps' ability to convert his world class track speed to football is being questioned. It is assumed by the uninformed that he is a track star trying to play football. The reality is that he has always been a football player who runs track. He had no problem converting his track speed when he played in the SEC for the Gators.
  • avatar

    If was my call and had to dump one guy I'd dump Demps. No guarantee his speed ever translates into an nfl player. He has yet to show he can play, not fumble, not get hurt, and make football his priority over track. Bill Belechick (spelling correct?) isn't stupid and he let him go for a reason.
  • avatar

    The legend of bobby Rainey continues - I love that guy. It's all about health though and Rainey has been able to stay on the field so I think he gets the edge on James. I'd try to keep them both even if I like raineys style more they're both good
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