Bucs running game going nowhere
The Bucs’ 42 rushing yards today were, by far, the lowest total of this young season. Unfortunately, the answers to curing this seasonlong problem are as evasive as ever.
“It’s been five games and the running game is invisible right now,” running back Cadillac Williams said. “I don’t know. I’m lost (for answers).”
And the problem worsened in another respect on Sunday because backup RB Kareem Huggins, who coaches hoped would provide a spark off the bench, suffered what the Bucs fear was a significant knee injury when he was hit by LB Marvin Mitchell, taking a shot to the knee while his shoe was planted firmly in the ground. Huggins left in severe pain and did not return, with the team suspecting he had torn ligaments, leaving his season in serious jeopardy.
Adding to the injury toll was the fact FB Earnest Graham aggravated a hamstring strain that he sustained during practice last week, leaving him unable to return after exiting in the first quarter.
Graham said he believed he could return against the Rams next week with a little rest, but he allowed that hamstring injuries can be problematic, too.
“Hamstrings are funny things,” he said. “You just have to play it by ear. I felt good in warm-ups and all that, but then game time came and it got screwed up again.”
But going beyond the injuries, the Bucs have to address the glaring need to run the ball more effectively.
Said Graham: “It doesn’t look good at all. You have to be honest about that. We have to find consistency no matter who the running back is. It’s one of those things where the running game has always been about mentality. I’m not saying we don’t have it, but that’s one of the important things. There are some other technical things as far as assignments. We have to go look at the tape and figure this out.”
Williams, who finished with 18 yards on 10 carries, suggested the Bucs need to find out what kind of running team they’re going to be. Sometimes, it’s unclear whether the Bucs employ a power running game or a finesse running game or something else.
“In the running game, you have to find your identity,” he said. “If somebody was to ask what’s our identity, I can’t tell you.”
Backups LeGarrette Blount and Kregg Lumpkin were inactive on Sunday because coaches wanted to get Huggins involved while activating players like WR Preston Parker. But whoever winds up running the ball, there needs to be more productivity.
“It’s the NFL,” Graham said. “You can’t win like this. . . Everybody knows that. It’s no secret. You saw it on the field.”