While the Buccaneers have steadily improved in the passing game — evidenced by last Sunday’s 301-yard effort — the running game hasn’t enjoyed the same production, gaining just 92 yards in their most recent loss with 34 of those yards coming off of Josh McCown scrambles.
While Head Coach Lovie Smith is encouraged by the play of Mike Evans, and the emerging receiving combination along with Vincent Jackson, he also recognized the need for a strong running game to be a successful offense.
“Very pleased with what both of our receivers have done lately, and it seems like it’s weekly,” Smith said on Wednesday. “They’re feeling it, wanting the ball more of course, and we’re feeding it to them.
But not become just a one-dimensional team; we need to get our running game going along with that.”
Bobby Rainey, the team’s leading rusher agreed.
“We have to be consistent in the running game,” Rainey said. “You have to run the ball in the NFL, period… before you open up the passing game, unless you’re one-dimensional, and no team wants that. We do have to do a better job running the ball.”
Rainey may be the team’s leading rusher, but he’s hardly the ‘bell-cow’ as the Buccaneers continue to add players into the mix. This season for the team has featured a running back by committee approach. And while a few teams in recent memory have had success sharing the wealth (’07 Giants & ’08 Panthers), the Buccaneers have not to this point.
Nevertheless, the coaches are remaining true to their strategy that doesn’t involve a principle running back.
“No, I don’t think we need to say that,” said Marcus Arroyo on Wednesday. “There’s no need for that (bell-cow). You have three good ones. You have guys in third-and-1 situations who can carry the flag. You have a guy who can carry it in certain situations. That’s a great thing to have.
“I think a lot of teams wish they had that flexibility,” he continued. “Sometimes you have just that one bell-cow type guy, and he can’t do that one thing and all of the sudden it’s a wideout on this one play. We’ve all seen those. We have some options back there and all of the guys; we’re really excited about. They do a lot really good things.”
Whether or not they can do ‘a lot of really good things’ is yet to be determined. Before suffering an ankle injury, Doug Martin has been largely ineffective, while Charles Sims did little to impress in his debut, averaging just 2.8 yards per carry including a fumble. The other two running backs last Sunday combined for 30 yards, as Bobby Rainey contributed 14 on six attempts and Mike James getting 16 on four.
In fact, of all three running backs to receive carries last week, none of them ended up as the team’s leading rusher. McCown earned that title rushing for 34 yards on five attempts. That is not a recipe for success, and the players know it.
“That’s bad,” said Bobby Rainey. “That’s bad when your quarterback is the leading rusher. Offensively, for us running the ball, we have to do a better job. We can’t have our quarterback getting all the yards, especially taking hits. We need him in the pocket, delivering (passes) and handing the ball off.”
While Bobby Rainey had a rough outing on Sunday, he has been the most productive of the bunch, rushing for 388 yards on 87 carries (4.5) With that being said, the third-year back isn’t interested in personal achievements. Like the coaches, he too, believes in the committee approach.
“As long as I’m getting my little share and we’re winning, then I don’t think that matters really,” he said. “I think with the three-headed monster that we have, it’s great for the offense. Everybody is going to have their role and you just have to take advantage of every opportunity.”
Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, surfing and family time at the beach. In addition, Cook can be found in front of a television or in Doak Campbell any time the FSU Seminoles are playing. Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at [email protected]
Right now we have nothing that remotely resembles WD-40. Ahhhh, As Edith Bunker would say, “those were the days.”
James should be in the rotation more.
Bucs Lack Of (fill in the blank) Hurting The (fill in the blank). Pretty much works for everything… We are bad at this, because we are bad at that and that causes us to be really bad at the other.
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