Spencer likes Sims' flexibility, Demps' speed
TAMPA -- When Bucs running backs coach Tim Spencer first saw Charles Sims in the offseason, he liked what he saw in the former Houston and West Virginia running back enough that he started lobbying hard, enough that Tampa Bay grabbed Sims in the third round despite having solid depth already in place in the backfield.
"I like the athleticism. I like guys that can do a little bit of everything," said Spencer, who was Lovie Smith's running backs coach with the Bears as well and sees a bit of Chicago star Matt Forte in the rookie. "'One of the first things I like when I see him is 'Is he going to block the way he runs? Is he a tough guy? Do I see the same type of effort when he runs the ball as when he's pass-blocking? ... I like that he took pride in all of his game. He has some qualities Matt had that I liked."
Sims caught 203 passes in his college career and has also played some receiver, and that pass-catching versatility will allow the Bucs to send him out of the backfield and line up alongside another running back.
"It can be an advantage for us because we can get a couple different guys in the backfield with him," Spencer said. "It's nice to have that guy, because we can do a lot of different personnel things with a guy like that. It helps the game out. Once he understands the whole deal, we can sort of blossom."
Spencer has plenty of options in a deep backfield -- Doug Martin, Mike James and Bobby Rainey all rushed for at least 150 yards in games last season -- and he has to find a way to best utilize the speed of former Olympic sprinter Jeff Demps, who was limited by a groin injury last season but has impressed his new coach.
"He's ultimate fast. That guy can really run. You sit there with amazement just to see the burst he has," Spencer said. "You see guys thinking they're going to cut him off. I like what I see in Jeff. We have some things we have to do to harness that speed and get him in the right situations. That speed can definitely help us out."
Smith carried four total running backs in each of his last three seasons in Chicago (including fullbacks), so the Bucs will have difficult decisions to make as they choose a final 53-man roster. Spencer said some of his backs will have to establish themselves as contributors on special teams to increase their value to the team.
"I'm hoping I get four or five, and I'm hoping is that those guys play (special) teams," Spencer said. "If one of those guys is a core special teams (player) and he's a running back, that's great for our situation. If you're not 1 or 2, (then) 3 or 4, they've got to be core."