Bucs' Jacquizz Rodgers prepared for potential bigger role
Just two weeks ago, as the Bucs first prepared to try to run the ball without Pro Bowl running back Doug Martin, Jacquizz Rodgers' role was still just a backup, to be ready to step in for starter Charles Sims "when Chuck gets tired."
As Martin remains sidelined by his hamstring injury, Rodgers could be in line for a much larger role on Monday in the Bucs' game at Carolina, with Sims missing Thursday's practice with a knee injury suffered in Sunday's loss to the Broncos. Sims has been largely ineffective as a starting running back -- he had six carries for 6 yards in the first half against the Rams (finishing with 55 on 13 carries) and had just 28 yards on 15 carries in the loss to the Broncos, and also had a hand in four Bucs turnovers.
"I always try to take advantage of my opportunities that are given," Rodgers said this week. "You know, you've got to practice like you're No. 1, so when your number is called, you'll be ready to go."
Rodgers, who was signed in Week 2 after he was let go by the Bears, has had success in a limited role, with 69 yards on 13 carries for a 5.3-yard average, including 25 yards on six carries in Sunday's loss. The Bucs want a run-first offense, with consistent success running the ball early setting up the passing game and setting up less predictable play-calling, something they haven't done well in the last three games.
"I think once we start clicking in every area, we'll get those long runs we need," Rodgers said. "The hole is there. The o-line, they're doing a good job in the run game. Us, as running backs, we've got to make our plays and I think as we keep getting better every week, they're going to come."
Bucs coach Dirk Koetter, not wanting to shed any insight into which backs might be healthy enough to play Monday, said the run game is crucial to the Bucs' offense, regardless of which back is carrying the ball.
"I'm confident in whoever we've got out there," Koetter said. "I have three years of experience with Jacquizz, and he's just a good, solid, all-around player. If he's the guy that's called on to be out there, then I expect him to do the job."
Martin and Sims missed Thursday's practice with their injuries, which could put Rodgers in line for his first NFL start since the end of 2014, when he had nine carries for 44 yards for Atlanta in a loss to the Panthers. The only other running back on roster is rookie Peyton Barber, who hasn't played a single snap on offense; another rookie, Russell Hansbrough, was signed Wednesday to the practice squad and could be promoted Monday for depth if necessary.