Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris discussed his running backs carries distribution on Monday. The Bucs lost to the Dallas Cowboys 34-21 on Sunday, but their running backs combined for 160 yards on 26 carries. Only one of those carries went to running back Earnest Graham, and Morris was asked why the veteran tailback did not receive more work.
"That was a product of Earnest Graham coming to me and saying keep those guys in because they are hot," said Morris. "Like I told you guys last night, that is what this team has got to become. We got to become that way across the board. If I could copy that running back room and put it throughout my team and change the body types I would. Earnest Graham came to me, I said ‘it is your series.' He said ‘no put Caddy in, he's hot.' Okay. That's what it's got to be about."
Graham was the primary running back for Tampa Bay in 2007 and 2008 under former head coach Jon Gruden. Graham led the Bucs in carries, yards, and touchdowns in 2007. He ran the ball 222 times for 898 yards (4.0 yards per carry) and 10 touchdowns. Last season Graham was on pace to lead the team in rushing, but injured his ankle in Week 11 and missed the rest of the season. In 2008, Graham had 132 carries for 563 yards (4.3 average) and four touchdowns.
Tampa Bay started Carnell ‘Cadillac' Williams against Dallas and he led the team with 13 carries and 97 yards rushing (7.5 yards per carry). Derrick Ward contributed 12 carries for 62 yards (5.2 yards per carry) and two receptions for 21 yards. Both Ward and Williams scored a touchdown. Graham was the lead blocker on Ward's one-yard touchdown plunge. Morris was asked if he was surprised that Graham deferred his carries to his teammate.
"No, I've been around Earnest Graham long enough," said Morris. "We preach that. We talk about it. That is what we got to become. We got to get some other people like that. We have to do that in other rooms. We have to move that thing around. That has got to be contagious. I talked about it last night. Cadillac, Ward, Earnest, Ronde Barber, Michael Clayton and how he performed yesterday. I dare somebody to write an article about how Clayton is on this team again. I dare you."
Clayton caught five passes for 93 yards with a long reception of 47 yards. The sixth-year veteran also contributed to the rushing attack with blocking on the perimeter of the offense.
All three running backs have had to miss games due to injury in recent seasons, so Tampa Bay believes that all three running backs will get plenty of carries in 2009.