Only five other teams have run the ball more than the Bucs this season, so getting healthy bodies in the running back room should provide a nice boost to game plan execution.

Tampa Bay got starter Doug Martin back in the mix two weeks ago against Chicago and Jacquizz Rodgers and Charles Sims III may be next to return.

Running back Jacquizz Rodgers gets tackled on Monday night – Photo by: Getty Images

Running back Jacquizz Rodgers gets tackled on Monday night – Photo by: Getty Images

Rodgers hadn’t been able to practice since injuring his foot Week 8 against the Oakland Raiders, but the 26-year-old returned on a limited basis Wednesday.

As for Sims, the third-year pro has been on the injured reserve list since suffering a knee injury Week 4 against the Denver Broncos. He began his 21-day practice window period and is eligible to return to the active roster on Dec. 5 at the earliest, according to NFL.com.

The league passed a rule change this offseason regarding how teams can manage players on the injured reserve list. Similar to past years, only one player is eligible to return from the IR per season. Teams just don’t have to designate who that player is beforehand. Injured reserve players now have to sit out at least six weeks and one can be activated once he’s healthy enough to play.

If Sims shows that he’s able to return and gets activated – he remains on the team’s IR as of Wednesday – it would effectively end the seasons of all other Bucs on the IR. While that fate was known for most of those other Bucs, that list contains running back Antone Smith, defensive end Jacquies Smith, rookie linebacker Devante Bond, wide receiver Vincent Jackson, defensive end George Johnson, and defensive end Howard Jones.

Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter was asked Wednesday about getting Rodgers and Sims back on the practice field and what that could mean for the offense moving forward.

“They’re just good football players, they’re good all-around players,” Koetter said. “They were on the [practice] field – now Charles Sims isn’t able to play yet, but he’s able to practice for a couple of weeks here. And Jacquizz made his first [showing] back at practice today. It was great to have those guys out there, we’ve been razor-thin at halfback here for a month and most of you guys were out there for warmups – that was the longest line in history, those guys weren’t even getting tired out there. There were so many halfbacks out there. So, we’re slowly getting healthier at halfback, but whoever’s up – we’ve already seen this movie – whoever’s up, we’re expecting them to play well.”

Despite the injuries and ever-changing rotation of running backs seeing game action, Tampa Bay has remained committed to establishing a presence on the ground through 10 games. The Bucs rank sixth in the NFL with 287 total rushing attempts, though their 106.0 yards per game average is 16th.

Rodgers didn’t join the team until after Tampa Bay’s Week 1 opener at Atlanta, but is the team leader in carries (88) and yards (393).

Bucs RB Doug Martin - Photo by Cliff Welch/PR

Bucs RB Doug Martin – Photo by Cliff Welch/PR

Coming off a career year in 2015, Martin’s struggled to get going since returning from a six-game absence. He rushed 16 times for 33 yards and a touchdown against Chicago, then followed that up with a 24-carry, 63-yard performance last week in Kansas City. Martin did add three catches for 42 yards against the Chiefs.

Bucs running backs have also had to run behind a line operating with one or two inexperienced players the past two weeks, but Koetter said there’s no question the offense is at its best with Martin in the backfield.

“Doug makes our offense go,” Koetter said. “All you’ve got to do is look at all the tape from last year. We spin a lot of stuff off of how Doug plays and it was great to have him out there, even though he wasn’t breaking as many long ones as maybe we’re used to seeing [from] him. I think that will come as he plays more and that makes everybody else around him better. I think Peyton Barber’s one of the most improved guys on our team right now. We’ve had to play more guys than we would’ve liked to this year, but as I said, we’re happy that we’re getting healthier.”

Barber, a rookie out of Auburn, saw his role expand as teammates went down with injuries. He got his first career touches Week 5 in Carolina and is picking up 4.2 yards per carry (43 attempts for 182 yards). Highlighting Barber’s brief but growing NFL experience was the 44-yard, knockout-punch touchdown run he broke off in San Francisco to seal Tampa Bay’s 34-17 win.

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About the Author: Eric Horchy

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Horse
Horse
5 years ago

This is just my thinking here with 6 games left? I’m for using this time to see what we got and what we don’t have. We already know what Sims,Rogers, J. Smith and all the other players on IR can do. Bond is an interesting player because we need to confirm or find another LB either thru free agency or the draft. If Bond is healthy I would activate him and let him play in a couple games. Just my opinion.

plopes808
plopes808
Reply to  Horse
5 years ago

A very valid point Horse, and I agree. With Martin, Rodgers, and Barber playing so well, I don’t see a reason to use our return designation on Sims…unless Rodgers will be out for a long period. I would say we should even consider the possibility of trading Sims as I think we are in good hands at HB with the 3 mentioned above. I wouldn’t take anything less than a 3rd rounder, but if it happened we could pick up another HB in the draft for depth and development

Dude
Dude
5 years ago

I thought Louis Murphy returned from the IR and started practicing back in Oct? What happened to him? So if only one player can return from IR, and I don’t see his name mentioned here, does it mean that he is out?

What about the OL we signed from Seattle, I’m taking it that this season is a loss with him too?

plopes808
plopes808
Reply to  Dude
5 years ago

I believe Murphy had a setback and was placed back on IR. As far as Sweezy, he seems like a loss for the year. We should have seen that one coming with his surgery already planned out before we signed him

macabee
macabee
5 years ago

Happy Thanksgiving fellas! As plopes808 stated Louis Murphy entered the 2 week practice to qualify for the 53 roster. He did have a setback and was left on the PUP list. He was never on IR. OG JR Sweezy did not begin his practice period within the allotted time by NFL rule and must remain on the PUP list for the remainder of the season. RE RBs Sims and Rodgers – Both returned to practice yesterday Wednesday 11/23. Sims was designated return from IR and is in a 21 day practice period. He can’t play until week 14 for the… Read more »