Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
With coach Dirk Koetter’s announcements in the beginning of camp that Adam Humphries and Cameron Brate had earned the Bucs slot receiver and starting tight end job, respectively, the developments at both positions have dominated the conversation in terms of offensive battles at training camp.
But there still appears to be a wide-open competition for the role of No. 3 running back.
Mike James, the veteran of the depth crew, seems to be the front-runner to claim now-Giants running back Bobby Rainey’s old job in Tampa – but not without fights from Russell Hansbrough, Storm Jonson and Peyton Barber.
“We’ll take that into the third preseason game,” Koetter said Tuesday of the RB competition. “Running back is one of those positions – because those guys aren’t tackled (in practice) – where preseason is huge for them, (to show how they play without no-tackling rules). And then the other thing is pass protection.”
Neither of the four had all that many carries against the Eagles last Thursday –15 attempts combined for 14 yards – but each had at least one impressive reception for 14 or more yards. And catching out of the backfield seems to be a big component of the Bucs offense.
In speaking with Hansbrough prior to the Week 1 game, the undrafted rookie from Missouri thinks his skill-set fits that style.
“I feel like I bring more to the passing side of the offense and more of a change of direction,” Hansbrough said last week. “I can change the speed of the offense on third down and things like that.”
Hansbrough added that he thinks his shiftiness makes him “stand out more than the other running backs,” and he may have a point. Unlike Mike James, Storm Johnson and Peyton Barber, who all stand at least 5-foot-10, 215-pounds, Hansbrough is 5-foot-9, 195-pounds. He’s known more for speed and agility than downfield running, which makes him different than 6-foot Charles Sims, the No. 2 running back. If the Bucs are looking for versatility in the backfield, Hansbrough’s stature and running style might give him a slight edge.
As far as upside goes, he’s younger than James and Johnson (though none are over 25) and, like Auburn product Barber, rushed for over 1,000 yards one season at an SEC school. For Hansbrough, it was during his junior year, which he said reflects the player his is more than his injury-riddled senior year and inexperienced sophomore season.
In the end, the battle for Doug Martin’s and Sims’s backup will come down to Week 3 of the preseason, Koetter said. Until then, it’ll be a friendly competition and Hansbrough, for his part, will just make sure to stay confident and come prepared.
“Just having the ball, I know I can do something with it,” Hansbrough said. “Whether it’s third down or whether it’s first down, I know I can get the job done.
“Everybody can do a little something different and that’s the big thing. We’re all playing football and trying to make plays. You just have to come out here and compete every day. Make sure you know the plays and every thing like that.”
Zach is entering his 3rd year covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a writer for PewterReport.com. Since 2014, he's handled a large part of the beat reporting responsibilities at PR, attending all media gatherings and publishing and promoting content daily. Zach is a native of Sarasota, FL, and a graduate of the University of Tampa. He has also covered high school football for the Tampa Tribune and the NFL for Pro Player Insiders.
Contact him at: [email protected]
I’m still pondering why we need 4 RB’s. If we have to carry four, then I would give the Rookie the benefit of doubt. Go Bucs!
In the practices I’ve watched all have had their moments. All run hard and have an ability to catch the ball. Pass protection is probably what will determine who makes the roster. I can seen one or two landing on the Practice Squad. Not sure if Mike James is eligible.
I agree Horse. Keep the kid from Auburn.
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