Running Backs: A Sinking Ship

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What do the ’97 Broncos, ’99 Rams, and ’14 Seahawks all have in common? They had a great running game. Terrell Davis, Marshal Faulk, and Marshawn Lynch all were the gold standard in the backfield. They were important to their teams because of their ability to run the ball with consistency. The run game doesn’t seem to be as dominant in today’s NFL, but make no mistake about it, without one the Superbowl is unreachable.

The Buccaneers have had a plethora of very good running backs in their history. These include names such as James Wilder, Mike Alstott, Warrick Dunn, Micheal Pittman, and Doug Martin. These running backs have been the focal point of offenses of Buccaneer past. So the question is, who do we turn to now?

Peyton Barber, Jacquizz Rodgers, and Ronald Jones II are not getting the job done. In fact, it is almost embarrassing how horrendous the Buccaneers’ run game is at this point in the year. I am not ready to give up on Ronald Jones yet. In 2017, the Buccaneers had a chance to draft guys like Alvin Kamara, Kareem Hunt, James Conner, and Tarik Cohen. They passed on all of them—smart move! They chose to go a different route in the NFL Draft. Lucky for us the Buccaneers get to see how good Kamara is each year because the rival New Orleans Saints picked him in the 3rd round with the 67th pick.

In 2019 there will be a few available free agents. Le’Veon Bell, Mark Ingram, Latavius Murray, Marshawn Lynch, Tevin Coleman, Jay Ajayi, and Alex Collins are just a few who will hit the open market. It would be great to steal Ingram or Coleman away from the division rivals. Will the Buccaneers get any of these free agents? Probably not. A running back of this caliber would really take the pressure off of Winston and shrink the game down for Tampa Bay. They will probably settle for bringing back Peyton Barber and letting Ronald Jones II get ready for 2019.

The NFL Draft is also an option for the Buccaneers, but honestly the defense needs more attention in the draft. Bryce Love is the top running back in 2019 NFL Draft. He is a Stanford product who really broke onto the scene last season. He is about 196 pounds and stands at 5’10”. He is an electric back both running and catching the football. He is a projected first round pick. Oklahoma’s Rodney Anderson is next on my list of potential running backs. He is 219 pounds and stands at 6’1”. He is big, fast, and strong. I know another guy from Oklahoma who was built like Anderson. The last prospect the Buccaneers should look at is Alabama’s Damien Harris. He is 214 pounds and stands at 5’10”. I know what you are thinking—another Alabama running back? That will be a bust. Harris may make you think twice about that notion. He is a beast out of the backfield. He can run between the tackles and catch the ball out of the backfield.

The last thing the Buccaneers need is another bust in the draft, so I would look for them to search free agency to help the backfield. Of course, the running backs only get yards when the offensive line creates holes to run through, and that has been a struggle thus far. The Buccaneers are close, but they just don’t have enough to get over the hump yet. If Bell or Ingram sign with the Buccaneers in the off-season it could be the missing link in 2019. Be patient, Tampa Bay fans. Help is on the way!

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