Running back Earnest Graham had a performance on Sunday against the St. Louis Rams that may allow him to finally shed the nickname of “Mr. August.” Graham had eight carries for 75 yards and two touchdowns in leading the Bucs to a 24-3 victory over the Rams and improving Tampa Bay’s record to 2-1 this season.
Graham got his infamous nickname because he always seemed to show flashes of talent when running the ball during the preseason. However, when he would get carries during the regular season Graham didn’t have the same success when it mattered the most.
Graham has been a special teams’ standout during his four-year career with the Bucs and has provided Tampa Bay with an emergency third running back if necessary. Graham has been plagued with fumbling issues as well, which made head coach Jon Gruden hesitant to use Graham in the regular season.
Bucs running back Cadillac Williams’ struggle to run the football and his costly fumble in the second half led to Graham’s opportunities in the fourth quarter. After Graham’s performance on Sunday, Gruden must now must figure out how to get the ball to another playmaker.
“You have one ball and we think [running back] Carnell Williams is a great back,” Gruden said. “I think he’s proven at times to be tremendous and I believe he has an unbelievable future ahead of him. [Running back] Michael Pittman has been given a lot of leftovers and rightfully so – he’s an outstanding football player. Obviously, now we have to put our minds together and figure out how to get Earnest more involved because clearly he’s also deserving of the football and that’s a good problem to have.”
The fourth-year running back did all of his damage in the fourth quarter as he scored his first career touchdown on an 8-yard scamper at the 8:03 mark. Graham showed his power and speed on his second touchdown run breaking off a 28-yard jaunt, finishing the run plowing over safety Corey Chavous.
“I’ve always had a pretty good stiff-arm and Corey Chavous was there in the secondary and he’s a smaller guy, so I knew I could push him off the next five yards and that’s what I did,” Graham said. “That wasn’t even my favorite play of the night. My favorite play was on the punt return. On the punt return, I got a chance to crack back on one of the Rams.”
Graham has been waiting for his opportunity to make plays in the offense and finally got his shot on Sunday. Despite his success against the Rams, Graham remained grounded in his role.
“I held my role when I was just playing all special teams, so I held my role when I was running the ball today,” Graham said. “I was doing my best to be the best player there. When it was my time to run the ball, I ran the ball. I’ve played five sports all my life. It’s just sports. It’s just plain sports. It’s just football. I just had to run the ball and score tonight, and that’s what I did.”
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