Jacquizz Rodgers’s 30 carries were the most attempts in a single game by a Bucs player since Dirk Koetter took over as offensive coordinator last season.
Doug Martin hit at least 20 handoffs six times in 2015, but Monday night was was the heaviest workload on the ground, and it paid off for Tampa Bay in the 17-14 win. Rodgers, starting just his fifth game since being drafted in the fifth-round in 2011, ran tough for 101 yards, looking sharp in his cuts and seeming to always find the hole.
Koetter knew the 5-foot-6 back from their time together in Atlanta (2012-2014), but recalled a time even further back in Rodgers’ career as evidence he could shoulder the load in the backfield.
“I think I mentioned to you guys that I saw Jacquizz (Rodgers) carry it about 50 times in one game in Oregon State against USC a few years back,” Koetter said after the game. “So I knew he could do it.”
Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter – Photo by: Getty Images
That game against USC Koetter’s referencing could’ve been any of the three Rodgers’ played against his former college rival. He raced for 186 in ’08, 113 in ’09 and finished his career against the Trojans with a 128-yard effort. All three games saw him carry at least 20 times.
On Monday, starting in place of an injured Martin (hamstring) and Charles Sims (IR), Rodgers ran early and often. His 10 carries on the opening drive summed up the Bucs offensive strategy, which Koetter said was the game plan all along.
After struggling to get any kind of run game going the past few weeks without Martin – failed to eclipse 70 yards since opener – Tampa Bay was efficient while taking care of the ball.
“I think we had a good run game plan. George Warhop, our run game coordinator, did a nice job and Jacquizz was making yards,” Koetter said. “When you are on the road – and the way we’ve been turning the ball over – we just felt like [since] they’re playing their backup quarterback, [the plan] was take the crowd out of it and slow the game down a little bit. That was the best strategy tonight.”
Staying with that strategy may be easier for the Bucs the next time they take the field. Martin’s injury, sustained early in Week 2, was first reported to keep him sidelined for at least three games. That time has passed, and as Tampa Bay has an extra week heading into its bye, there’s hope that Martin and lead-blocker Luke Stocker (ankle) will be fully healed by October 23, in time for San Francisco – a team that’s allowing an average of 146 rushing yards a game (31st in the NFL).