FAB 2. Bucs Running Game Is Grounded

Almost a year ago I suggested that it was time to blow up the Bucs’ backfield and start over at running back in a previous SR’s Fab 5 column. I questioned whether or not Doug Martin could rebound into form as a 1,000-yard rusher following his rehab and subsequent suspension, and wondered whether Charles Sims could stay healthy and be more productive in a contract year.

With Tampa Bay’s season nearly three-fourths complete, Martin has rushed for 376 yards and two touchdowns with a 3.2-yard average along with seven catches for 60 yards, while Sims has rushed for 57 yards, averaging 4.4 yards per carry along with 26 catches for 178 yards (6.8 avg.) and one touchdown.

Martin, who will turn 29 next year, is set to make $6.75 million next year, which is way too much for a player that might struggle to reach 600 yards rushing this season. Martin’s suspension last year voided the guaranteed money in his contract, which means the Bucs can cut him next year without any salary cap hit if they choose.

Bucs RB Doug Martin and C Ali Marpet - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs RB Doug Martin and C Ali Marpet – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Jacquizz Rodgers’ 217 yards (3.6 avg.) and one touchdown, and Peyton Barber’s 88 yards (2.9 avg.) and two touchdowns haven’t shown they are the tonic to what ails the running game, either.

“In my opinion, [Martin] is not the reason we’re not moving the ball on offense,” said Bucs head coach and playcaller Dirk Koetter. “If you look at the tape, Doug’s making a little bit out of not too much more often than not.”

There is no doubt that the Bucs need to make some changes upfront along the offensive line, whether it is personnel, scheme or coaching. That’s a big part of Tampa Bay’s struggling running game, but that’s another column for another day.

The focus of this SR’s Fab 5 is the Bucs’ stable of running backs that scares no one. Tampa Bay’s ground game currently ranks 28th in the league, averaging 81.1 yards per game. That’s a big drop off from last year when the Bucs’ rushing attack ranked 24th in the league, averaging 101 yards per game.

The return of Martin from a three-game suspension to start the season was expected to spark the running game, but that hasn’t happened. Two weeks ago at Miami, Martin rushed for just 38 yards on 19 carries (2.0 avg.). Now he’s in concussion protocol after rushing for 33 yards on seven carries last week in Atlanta.

That wasn’t Martin’s worst rushing performance of the year. That came at New Orleans five weeks ago when he had seven yards on eight carries – in the worst rushing performance of his career.

It’s been 23 games since Martin last rushed for 100 yards. That came on November 29, 2015 when he rushed for 235 yards and 27 carries in a 45-17 win at Philadelphia.

That was just over two calendar years ago – a long time.

Bucs RB Doug Martin - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs RB Doug Martin – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Martin is currently the 36th ranked rusher in the league behind Minnesota’s Jerick McKinnon and ahead of Green Bay rookie Aaron Jones. Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson (401) has more rushing yards than Martin does.

It’s time for the Bucs to move on.

Sims had the game-winning touchdown catch against the New York Jets four weeks ago. The last meaningful game Sims had was catching a touchdown in a 31-24 win in the 2016 season opening win at Atlanta. Sims totaled 124 yards and a touchdown against the Rams last year, but also had a pass go through his hands and into Rams linebacker Mark Barron’s that led to a touchdown. That’s three solid games in the last 18.

Sims is a one-dimensional pass-catching back that shouldn’t be re-signed.

It’s time for the Bucs to move on from Sims, too.

“Believe me, if we thought Gale Sayers was sitting back there behind Doug, he’d be in there,” Koetter said. “I haven’t seen Gale out there.”

Koetter is right. Martin and Sims had a great year for Tampa Bay in 2015, but past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results.

Neither Rodgers nor Barber is a dynamic runner. I’d keep the 23-year old Barber, Tampa Bay’s fourth-string runner, around for one more year as he’ll be an exclusive rights free agent, but I would move on from the 27-year old Rodgers, who is due $1.6 million next year.

The Bucs have just 892 rushing yards on the season and only three teams average less than Tampa Bay does at 3.5 yards per carry.

Pittsburgh’s Le’Veon Bell leads the league with 981 yards rushing and five scores, followed by Kansas City rookie Kareem Hunt, who has 890 yards and four rushing touchdowns. Jacksonville rookie Leonard Fournette, who was drafted third overall, has totaled 765 yards and six touchdowns this season and ranks sixth in the league.

Bucs RB Jeremy McNichols (Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR)
Bucs RB Jeremy McNichols (Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR)

Despite PewterReport.com proclaiming running back to be a big need in last year’s draft and listing Hunt as a Bucs’ Best Bet for Tampa Bay, the Bucs waited until the fifth round to draft Boise State rusher Jeremy McNichols, who couldn’t grasp the playbook and wouldn’t hit the hole hard during training camp and the preseason. He was released in the final roster cut-downs and opted to sign with San Francisco’s practice squad.

There were a bumper crop of running backs in last year draft – a total of 30 rushers were drafted in 2017, including 15 in the first four rounds. A total of eight rookie running backs have rushed for at least 300 yards this season, and four rookies – Christian McCaffrey, Alvin Kamara, Tarik Cohen and Hunt – have at least 30 receptions.

The great news for the Bucs is if a good deal of juniors come out, this year’s draft class could be just as robust, and for a Tampa Bay team that needs to draft at least one, that’s welcomed news. Here is a list of some of the potential prospects with an asterisk (*) for underclassmen:

Potential Round 1 RBs In 2018
*Penn State RB Saquon Barkley – 5-11, 230 – 4.49
*LSU RB Derrius Guice – 5-11, 212 – 4.52

Potential Round 2 RBs In 2018
*Alabama RB Damien Harris – 5-10, 216 – 4.55
*Stanford RB Bryce Love – 5-9, 191 – 4.36
*USC RB Ronald Jones II – 6-0, 200 – 4.42
San Diego State RB Rashaad Penny – 5-10, 220 – 4.52
Georgia RB Nick Chubb – 5-10, 225 – 4.56
*Notre Dame RB Josh Adams – 6-1, 219 – 4.48
Georgia RB Sony Michel – 5-11, 215 – 4.53

Potential Rounds 3-4 RBs In 2018
Oregon RB Royce Freeman – 5-10, 234 – 4.54
*Auburn RB Kerryon Johnson – 5-11, 212 – 4.45
*Miami RB Mark Walton – 5-9, 195 – 4.49
*Washington RB Myles Gaskin – 5-9, 191 – 4.50
*Tennessee RB John Kelly – 5-9, 212 – 4.53
Iowa RB Akrum Wadley – 5-10, 191 – 4.54
*Alabama RB Bo Scarbrough – 6-1, 232 – 4.59

Potential Rounds 5-7 RBs In 2018
*North Carolina State RB Nyheim Hines – 5-8, 197 – 4.50
Colorado RB Phillip Lindsay – 5-7, 190 – 4.49
Fordham RB Chase Edmonds – 5-9, 202 – 4.57
Old Dominion RB Ray Lawry – 5-10, 204 – 4.54
West Virginia RB Justin Crawford – 5-10, 198 – 4.53
Northwestern RB Justin Jackson – 5-10, 193 – 4.52
Washington RB Lavon Coleman – 5-11, 228 – 4.59
Arizona State RB Kalen Ballage – 6-2, 227 – 4.56
TCU RB Kyle Hicks – 5-10, 210 – 4.52
Vanderbilt RB Ralph Webb – 5-9, 202 – 4.50

Not all of these underclassmen will likely come out, but there will be at least a dozen very good running backs for the Bucs to choose from in the first four rounds of the draft.

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Scott Reynolds is in his 24th 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 son's Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]

30 COMMENTS

  1. Uncle stan this whole first page

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  2. Interesting how you mention Bill Clinton and his half dozen accusers but not the 13 women who have accused our current president.

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    • Yes, I was going to say the same thing, Skipper… But, that’s how Scott rolls.

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  3. I believe if Schiano walked in on that shower scene he would’ve put a stop to it. No way Schiano the man, father turns his back on something like that. I didn’t like him as a coach, like I don’t like Koetter as a coach. However I don’t know any of these players, or coaches personally so when I post a comment it’s strickly from what I see on the field. I hope all fans feel the same way, and hate this guy, or that guy should never be part of the conversation.

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    • Surferdudes; exactly. I know I have no hate in my thoughts regardless how it comes out in my poor grammar reply’s; I believe many of us are this way.

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  4. Truth. What Tennessee and it’s “fans” did to Greg Schiano is as disgusting and shameful a smear I’ve seen in some time. Say what you will about Greg, and I happen to believe he’s a good man who deserved another year when he was fired for the awful St. Lovie, but no man should have been subjected to this kind of public personal attack on his character.

    Frankly it will be my pleasure to see Tennessee lose for years to come for this disgraceful outrage. F’ em.

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  5. Scott good Article. I don’t know if we can afford to pick up a RB until the 3rd round as we need OL and DL help too; probably 2 DE’s. I’ll keep preaching the need to trade a player or two where we have depth in order to pick up more draft picks. We have done a poor job in Free Agency and that hasn’t help either, but Coaching is where the main problem lies. I think Licht gets a one year pass. I still can’t get around the thought the Glazer’s would have anything to do with Gruden. I hope they try another up and coming NFL DC or OC. Just my thoughts.

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  6. I love Rashaad Penny. If we take a DE in the 1st round, do you think he will be available in the 2nd round? With all those great stats it seems like he could go in the 1st round. If he falls to us in the 2nd round i would take him in a heartbeat. We could really use a runner like him and hes great at returning punts/kickoffs. Kerryon Johnson looks good too. Whatever happens in the draft we need to take a dynamic all around RB in the 2nd or 3rd.

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  7. Enjoyed the RB analysis. Doug’s history and other than Barber we don’t have a future. I agree with Horse we can’t lose focus on Edge Rusher an OL, but if a decent back falls or last till RD3 we need to go after him. Things still a little unsettled about where we will pick. I believe we need to win often and well for our last five games and evaluate everyone on the roster.

    Call me old school but I don’t want Gruden. The Buc’s don’t have a Tony Dungy built team that he can win with. If he wants back into coaching I am sure owners like Jerry Jones will be interested. While I believe Koetter and Smith need to improve I can’t see another 2 yr Turnover. No one will want to have anything to do with Glazers and The Buc’s. I say build on what we have, add a few more pieces and be patient.

    Every play is designed to score with, players who drop passes, miss assignments, and draw penalties cause questions regarding play calling. QB’s can audible out of plays if the defense shifts, so play calling is not totally on Koetter. I have no problem with him assigning it to another coach, but I am tired of everyone blaming him for player mistakes.

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  8. Okay, I’ll bite on the Schiano is a good man deal. One thing I’ve learned as a man is that the best thing someone can say about you is that you’re a good man. That means a lot. With that being said, just because you’re a good man, doesn’t make you a good coach, or head coach for that matter. I’ve said it many times, I love Monte Kiffin because he knew his role, he knew what he was good at, and he did it at the top of the game for 10 years right here.

    Can’t say I was thrilled with Fab 1 but I guess I can see how you had to get that off your chest…

    The best was the piece on my man Stocker. Loved that kid and I hope he gets to where he wants to be after playing.

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  9. Kind of off-topic, but I’m still trying to figure out why you use the words “serviced by” and not “sponsored by” when referring to DGD. I assume that you are referring to the 33rd definition of “service” which is “to supply with aid, information, or other incidental services”. Anyhow, even with that, I always enjoy reading them.

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  10. No coments on Schiano.
    When it comes to the draft the Bucs can not fill all the holes on the Defensive line and Offensive line in one draft.

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  11. Showing your politics again, Scott:

    “his accusers were slut-shamed by the media that was sympathetic to Clinton’s politics”

    That is absolute BS. Those women were not slut shamed by the media as I recall. That’s the thing with you right wingers — you’re always making up #FakeNews about how the “liberal” media makes excuses for democrats or liberals that they actually don’t. If anything, it’s the right wing outlets that are the most shameful in their acceptance of bad behavior (sexual or other criminal) based on politics — FuxNuze had Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly… They’ve ignored Don Dump’s extensive sexual misbehavior and I’m betting they’ve gone pretty easy on Roy Moore (I can’t stand to watch to find out)… You right wingers are living in a fantasy world. Also, why was this inserted into the story anyway, AS ITS OWN PARAGRAPH? No bias here, right? No spin zone? Hahahaha, right… And don’t mistake anything I’m saying as dismissing Clinton’s escapades as president… But, ya know, he was president 17 years ago… And we now have a serial predator as president and it goes uncommented by right wingers like you. Seriously. Blinders on. Bet FuxNuze doesn’t mention Trump’s many accusers (they’re all lying, right?)… Keep spewing nonsense.

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    • I do find it funny that Scott throws his politics around, some intentionally, some unintentionally, then gets outraged when Gerald McCoy or Mike Evans expresses any political thought.

      So it’s cool if you let your right-wing politics show on a Bucs site but if an NFL player like Mike Evans or Gerald McCoy does the same, and particularly one you don’t agree with you find ways to express your “ALL CAPS” opinion.

      It’s the height of hypocrisy Scott, but that’s your right. Just like it’s Gerald’s and Mike’s right to say and stand for things you don’t agree with as their views are no more relevant to playing football for an NFL team as your views covering it for an NFL covering publisher 😉

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      • I’d love to see Scott respond, but now that he’s been called out as a Hannity-level propagandist, he’ll probably blame Obama.

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        • It’s unfortunate for Scott that he’s espoused his beliefs in enough ways that he’s pigeonholed into this MAGA cap wearing, FN viewer, but he hasn’t left much to the imagination.

          Much like his favorite president who has seen 4 subordinates face charges or plead guilty due to a Russian investigation run by and appointed by Republicans, Scott has made his bed and now he can lie in it 😀

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  12. ON football matters… If Schiano learned (1) how to deal with media more cooperatively, and (2) how to not be a constant hardass, I think he’ll end up being a very successful HC with a top D1 program. Could end up back in the pros, and I think he will succeed. He was dealt a bad hand here and then made some of his own mistakes… But remember how great his run defense was in year 1 with the Bucs… There were some positives going on that got washed out with some of the Freeman distractions, in addition to MRSA, and some questionable draft picks by Dominik. Would’ve been better to keep him around another year than to hire Lovie Smith. but we get Licht out of that change and he’s a better GM than Dominik… Anyway, hindsight…

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    • Couldn’t agree more. I wasn’t a big fan of Schianos offense but our defense was hard hitting and smart. Problem was they were always on the field and got gassed by an inconsistent offense that hated each other in the locker room. Remember that Carolina game where we held them to 12 total rushing yards as a team?? Carolinas gonna run ALL OVER this team this year, just watch.

      Under Schiano, we were tough. We hit you in the mouth. I didn’t like the Goldson pick up, but for Christsake the man talked REVIS into coming here. The right kind of players bought into Schiano. But he had a team full of brats.

      But the past is the past. Looking ahead, I really hate Koetter at this point because he makes so many dumb fuck coaching decisions but I think he needs a full year as just a head coach. Being an offensive coordinator was his “thing” but he needs to grow and take the next step, just as he’s asking his players to do. I think he’d be a good HC. You could see the players actually liked him and trusted him during that won streak last year. But he tainted that trust by trying to do too much. He can win it back by stepping back and letting the assistants do their jobs.

      I also think we should keep Licht. Come on Glazers, thus past offseason was the best hype and feeling we’ve had for Tampa in a long time. Even Raheem Morris’ 10-6 “youngry” team didn’t win over the national media like we did last year. We were darlings. It’s time to trust the guys that put you in the spot, and get rid of the ones who are actively destroying it (Mike Smith, Jay Hayes, whoever the hell our defensive backs coach is)

      Clean house on the defense and bring in someone aggresive. Mike Smith talked all offseason about multiple looks. Apparently he only meant multiple by switching between cover 4 and cover 2. He only started cover 1 and 3-3-5 once the fans started calling out plays from the sidelines lol.

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  13. Schiano is a proven a-hole and scumbag to many people over his football career. Fact.
    Yet Scott wholly presumes his innocence from testimony based on a night of sharing: a family dinner, some football tape, good ole boy values, and fear of the same the god.
    The times we live in.

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  14. Say what you want about Schiano, but he’s the only coach that knew how to get the most out of Lavonte David’s talent!

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  15. Scott after all the political crap you’ve stirred up over the years on a website that’s supposed to be about football, to bring it up at all yet again I have lost all respect for you.

    As many times you’ve angered your customers pushing your politics on them, were you my employee I’d fire you for it. Post your political bull cap on your Facebook page and keep your political opinions off our damn Bucs site.

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    • Ironically Scott has the toughest time when football players express their own thoughts (as they happen to diverge from his own despite being no more an appropriate a setting than Scott using this platform).

      But I have yet to read a post yet that hasn’t implicated Scott’s politics as they happen to be, Fox-&-Friends-Right-Wing-BS. It is what it is, I’d love to talk politics with Scott someday. I just don’t know how appropriate a Bucs board is for it though 😛

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  16. The Glazer’s gave us fans a raw deal when hired Schiano.

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  17. Good timing on featuring R.B.’s in this Fab 5. With the college championships this weekend you gave us a clue on who to watch for. I like college backs who split carries with other backs during their careers. Like Michel, and Chubb. I like the Penny kid because he faced lesser competition therefore I believe has less wear, and tear. I’d stay away from Johnson from Auburn. The kids shoulder is messed up. He shouldn’t have continued against Bama, and I don’t think he should even play this weekend, but will, and do further damage. As for our stable of backs, I would’ve moved on from Martin, Sims, Quiz before this season. I got hammered for stating such, a lot of Martin love out there, but in a R.B. loaded draft how good would Kamara look right about now? So Martin is washed up, why not cut him, and bring in some P.S. backs for try outs? Do we even have one on our own P.S.? If not, further proof Licht is not a good G.M..

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  18. I think complimentary duo RBs are better than a three down do it all back aka bellcow. Right now the Bucs need a slasher to add to Rodgers, Barber and Sims. Martin’s future is unknown at this point.

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  19. Are memories really that short…Greg SchiaNo a good coach? Have we forgotten:
    – “half time is for a taking a dump not making adjustments”
    – his ‘strategy’ (a term I use incredibly loosely) of throwing around time outs whenever he felt like have another conversation, leaving us constrained in time management game after game
    – whatever the heck he was doing with Freeman…I don’t care how big of a mess Freeman may or may not have been, SchiaNo ended it on the field that’s for sure – taking any chance of Dominik trading him for something off the table and leaving us with Glennon
    – his cadre of 27 assistants and whatever the heck they were supposed to be doing – what a waste.
    – you mentioned his draft input and then somehow totally excuse it…why?
    – his record…as Love said, “you are what your record says you are”…a bad coach!

    Come on man!

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  20. I feel like the RB question is being discussed backwards. Fixing the oline will suddenly make all our RBs look so much better when they’re not being hit in the backfield. I don’t think Martin has any lack of talent whatsoever or anything like that.

    Would have rather seen a column focused more on scouting Oline than RBs in that sense.

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  21. I have to agree with Matador Mark, keep your right wing leanings out of the sports section so I don’t have to spend time correcting you.
    As an earlier writer noted, you speak of the women who were “slut shamed” by Clinton’s staff, who, as almost everyone will rememberby a tight group of well funded right wing groups intent on destorying President Clinton.
    Yet you conveinently forget about the mass of women who accused your glorious leader, the traitorous racist Donald Trump, of sexually assaulting them.
    Not only that, but Trump actually admitted to it, but also peeping on young underage teenage girls during his beauty contests.
    What a big fat pig.
    I also found it the height of irony, the moralistic Ken Starr was eventually run out of Baylor for ignoring and trying to cover up the rapes of coeds on his campus by players on the football team.
    Now on to Schiano.
    I never believed Schiano ruined Freeman’s career because basically there was nothing in it for him but the unemployment line if he did.
    Freeman ruined Freeman’s career from what i heard from a couple of reliable sources in your industry by partying way to much. So much that the Bucs were so concerned about it they went out and drafted Glennon.
    I remember the Jets game where the Bucs were penalized twice for delay of game on the same series because the headset in the helmet was broken.
    Schiano, for some strange reason, was blamed for that whereas I blamed Freeman who also missed the team bus to the game that morning I believe.
    He must have been n one hell of a bender that Freeman couldn;t een call a QB sneak to keep from getting a penalty.
    As for wanting a RB that is just fine but like most people believe out here, where is he going to run to if the current OL stays in place.
    This is the smae logic you used two years ago when you were dancing around calling for the Bucs to draft Hargreaves.
    The game starts in the trenches.
    I don;t care if you have four Deion Sanders and Jim Brown in the backfield, it isn’t going to mean spit if the QB has all day to throw while drinking a cup of joe and defenders are hanging on to the RB when he gets the handoff.

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  22. I have to agree with Matador, Mark, please keep your uber right wing philosophy off the sports section so I don’t have to spend time setting the record straight.
    You speak of the women who were slut shamed by Clinton’s staff, but conveniently leave out they were all recruited ad funded

    by a tight group of well funded right wing groups intent on destorying President Clinton.
    Yet you conveinently forget about the mass of women who accused your glorious leader, the traitorous racist Donald Trump, of sexually assaulting them.
    Not only that, but Trump actually admitted to it, but also peeping on young underage teenage girls during his beauty contests.
    What a big fat pig.
    I also found it the height of irony, the moralistic Ken Starr was eventually run out of Baylor for ignoring and trying to cover up the rapes of coeds on his campus by players on the football team.
    Now on to Schiano.
    I never believed Schiano ruined Freeman’s career because basically there was nothing in it for him but the unemployment line if he did.
    Freeman ruined Freeman’s career from what i heard from a couple of reliable sources in your industry by partying way to much. So much that the Bucs were so concerned about it they went out and drafted Glennon.
    I remember the Jets game where the Bucs were penalized twice for delay of game on the same series because the headset in the helmet was broken.
    Schiano, for some strange reason, was blamed for that whereas I blamed Freeman who also missed the team bus to the game that morning I believe.
    He must have been n one hell of a bender that Freeman couldn;t een call a QB sneak to keep from getting a penalty.
    As for wanting a RB that is just fine but like most people believe out here, where is he going to run to if the current OL stays in place.
    This is the smae logic you used two years ago when you were dancing around calling for the Bucs to draft Hargreaves.
    The game starts in the trenches.
    I don;t care if you have four Deion Sanders and Jim Brown in the backfield, it isn’t going to mean spit if the QB has all day to throw while drinking a cup of joe and defenders are hanging on to the RB when he gets the handoff.

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  23. Sorry I missed this Fab 5! This is FREAKING HILARIOUS!!! Schianopoleon got a RAW DEAL??????

    I’m just waiting for Scott to start telling us what a rotten deal Clown Donald is getting from Robert Mueller and the 19 different women that have accused him of sexual assault. We shouldn’t have to wait too long. lol

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