Head coaches divulging game plan information just doesn’t happen much, so it was no surprise when Dirk Koetter refused to budge when asked about the Bucs’ undesirable situation at running back this week.
Not only did Koetter offer little Tuesday in terms of who would be seeing the most playing time, he wouldn’t even admit which players were on the Bucs roster. Former Buccaneer back Mike James had a jersey in the locker room and was on the field practicing before Koetter’s press conference Tuesday, but the head coach wouldn’t talk about his potential impact Thursday night against Atlanta because the team hadn’t officially announced James’ signing.
The team sent out that email before the conference room door shut behind Koetter.
Mind games aside, nothing changes the fact that the Bucs are hurting at running back. Doug Martin, Charles Sims III, Jacquizz Rodgers – they’re all out. Trying to fill the as-of-yet unfillable void is a group consisting of James, veteran backup Antone Smith, and rookie Petyon Barber. The trio’s combined career stats: 130 carries for 742 yards and five touchdowns.
When asked about how the backs might be used Thursday, Koetter offered up little direct information to work with. He did, however, hint at the idea that Barber could see his touches approach the 12 he got in San Francisco two weeks ago.
“It’s probably going to happen.” – On if Barber will get a heavier workload.
“Not sure about that, yet. But we’ll be playing more than one halfback.” – On if Barber would be the lead back.
“We’re using him, I guess if we’re going to put guys in a box, we’re using him somewhat as a third-down back, but that’s not his only role right now. When you have three guys who have been here short-term – other than Peyton, the rookie – your roles aren’t very clearly defined right now. So, we’re trying to patch it together, one week at a time until we get some reinforcements back.” – On how Smith fits into the mix.
Since Koetter wouldn’t acknowledge James’ presence in Tampa Bay, the former sixth-round draft pick’s potential usage is a wild card.
Smith rushed four times for 16 yards and added a 9-yard reception last week against Oakland. He also fumbled once, though it was recovered, and couldn’t come up with a third-and-short catch in overtime. After picking up 84 yards on 12 carries and scoring on a 44-yard run in San Francisco, Barber’s only action against the Raiders was picking up a yard on his only attempt.
James hasn’t logged a regular season carry since Week 10 in 2014. The 25-year-old picked up 16 yards on four carriers in the Bucs’ 27-17 home loss against Atlanta.