• Outside of running back Doug Martin getting a hefty five-year, $35.75 million contract extension in the 2016 offseason, the Bucs have done little to address the running back position in terms of player acquisition. Tampa Bay has drafted only two running backs under Jason Licht’s regime – Charles Sims, who has proven to be nothing more than a third-down back, in the third round in 2014, and Jeremy McNichols, who struggled to learn the playbook and wasn’t a confident runner, in the fifth round in 2017.
Bucs RB Charles Sims – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Sims is in a contract year, and while Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter likes to use him in the passing game, he offers little in terms of running the ball. The other running backs on the team are Jacquizz Rodgers, who was signed as a street free agent that previously played for Koetter in Atlanta, and Peyton Barber, an undrafted free agent.
With Martin turning 29 in the offseason look for Tampa Bay to address running back in next year’s draft, which should be loaded at the position. Aside from the famous names like Penn State’s Saquon Barkley, LSU’s Derrius Guice, Georgia’s Nick Chubb, Oregon’s Royce Freeman and USC’s Ronald Jones II, keep an eye on some unheralded prospects, such as Iowa’s Akrum Wadley, Stanford’s Bryce Love, the heir apparent to Christian McCaffrey, and San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny, the heir apparent to Donnell Pumphrey. I wrote about Penny in SR’s Fab 5 a few weeks ago. Love (787 yards) and Penny (716 yards) are currently the top two leading rushers in the FBS.
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• Bucs center Ali Marpet struggled with a few shotgun snaps in his first road game at Minnesota last week – in addition to struggling in the run game. Marpet and his offensive linemates are eager to get back to the running game after just eight called rushing plays in Minnesota last week. The New York Giants’ run defense is ranked dead last in the league and the Bucs plan to capitalize on it.
“Every week we want to be able to run the ball,” Marpet said. “If a team is struggling to stop the run then we should be able to take advantage of that. I’m sure just like we’re sitting here talking about how their run defense isn’t very good, their coaches are working on their fits in the run game and their technique. They are working hard to patch up any issues they’ve had. That’s just football. This league is week-to-week because you are either getting better or getting worse. We have to go out and play well because they are an NFL defense, regardless of what happened the first three weeks. They are going to come out and say, ‘We’re not going to let them run the ball on us.’”
Like his teammates, Marpet eagerly awaits the return of starting running back Doug Martin from his three-game suspension on Monday.
“It will help to have Doug back,” Marpet said. “He’s a weapon for our offense and he gives us more option. We’ll be a better offense when he’s back. If you’re Doug you have to feel like your body is ready to go. Mentally, he’ll be locked in 100 percent. He’ll be fresh and ready to go, which is good. We need him.”
• Be sure to visit PewterReport.com (almost) EVERY Saturday morning for the preview and predictions for Tampa Bay’s upcoming game. The PewterReport.com staff will offer up its predictions for the Bucs vs. Giants game on Saturday and then the Bucs vs. Patriots game on Wednesday in advance of Tampa Bay’s home game against New England on Thursday Night Football. Don’t miss it!
• If you haven’t had a chance to listen to an episode of our Pewter Nation Podcast I encourage you to do so. Mark Cook, Trevor Sikkema and I will be taping a NEW podcast today live from One Buccaneer Place that will be published Friday afternoon. With Bucs regular season action now underway, we are now producing two shorter podcasts (30-40 minutes) during the week – one mid-week and another one immediately after the Bucs preseason and regular season games. Here is a link to the latest Pewter Nation Podcast – Episode 31: Bucs-Vikings Recap – Hurt.
• The NFL got turned upside down in Week 3, showing just how parity reins in the league. The Bucs trounced the Chicago Bears 29-7, in Week 2, just like Pittsburgh beat Minnesota 26-9. Then in Week 3, the Vikings beat the Bucs 34-17 and the Bears upset the Steelers in overtime 23-17.
“That’s the NFL in a nutshell,” Bucs defensive tackle Clinton McDonald said. “The talent is pretty evenly distributed across the board among all 32 teams. It depends on Sunday to Sunday. They had a movie out called ‘Any Given Sunday’ with Jamie Foxx as Willie Beamon. Any given Sunday you can win or lose.”
Bucs tight end Luke Stocker said there is a lesson to be learned after seeing what transpired in Week 3.
“That just speaks to how if you want to be a good team in the NFL you have to be good week in and week out,” Stocker said. “You just can’t be good every other week because you’ll finish 8-8 and you don’t make the playoffs. It’s important for us to be consistent throughout the season and win games back-to-back and string some wins together.”
• Bucs right tackle Demar Dotson has been a bright spot for Tampa Bay’s offense. Through two games he’s earned an 83.8 rating by Pro Football Focus, which makes him the third-best offensive tackle in the NFL according to the stats site. Dotson said he’s beginning to develop a good chemistry with new right guard J.R. Sweezy.
Bucs QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Getty Images
“We’re gelling,” Dotson said. “We’re not as good as guys that have been playing together for two or three years, but we are two guys that have played a fair amount of football in this league. We’re picking it up. Sweezy is a good, hard-nosed, tough football player. He loves the running game. He’s always coming to the sidelines saying, ‘We need to run the ball! We need to run the ball! We need to run the ball!’ It’s like, ‘Hey, man. We’re down by 21 points. We can’t run the ball.’ He’s like the damn Terminator, man. He just wants to go kill somebody.”
• Although Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston had a rough outing in Minnesota with three interceptions last week, he is off to a good start this year in terms of completion percentage. Tampa Bay needed Winston to become a more accurate passer and he’s done just that through two games. Winston is completing 65.7 percent of his passes this year, and despite his picks in Minnesota, he completed 70 percent of his throws against the Vikings.
In addition to being well on his way to another 4,000-yard season, Winston is also making big, needed strides when it comes to completion percentage. After hitting 58.3 percent of his throws as a rookie, Winston improved to 60.8 percent last year. If he can maintain his 65 percent completion percentage all year the result should be extended drives, more points and hopefully more wins for the Buccaneers.
• And finally, I want to thank Will Faulkner and the folks at Discount Garage Doors, a family owned and operated Florida business since 1998, for their multi-year commitment as the official sponsor of SR’s Fab 5 and the exclusive garage door company of PewterReport.com. Several PewterReport.com readers have already used Discount Garage Doors for repairs and to improve the look of their home with new garage doors. Please support the businesses that support PewterReport.com. If your garage door needs repair or you are looking for a new look for your garage to increase curb appeal, I encourage you to trust the folks at Discount Garage Doors to do a quality job. Call them at 866-420-DOOR or visit them on the web at DGDoors.com and tell them that I sent you.
Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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