TAMPA — Cadillac Williams is like most running backs. When it comes to carries, they would likely contend, the more the merrier.
Williams still subscribes to that theory, but the Bucs' sixth-year veteran has seen his rushing attempts decline as quickly as rookie LeGarrette Blount's star has risen.
What hasn't decreased, though, is Williams' impact.
It's no coincidence that his most impressive runs and first two rushing touchdowns this season came in the past two games in which Blount has earned the lion's share of the carries and Williams has served in a complementary capacity.
For the Bucs, they're getting the best of them both.
"I think it has really helped," offensive coordinator Greg Olson said. "I think it's made Cadillac a more efficient runner, and he's obviously excellent in pass protection, and he can catch the ball coming out of the backfield. So we have played upon his strengths and we're still able to maintain some of our power running game. It's working."
During the season's first five weeks, Williams averaged 15.2 carries per game, rushing 22 and 27 times in Weeks 1 and 2, respectively. But Williams hasn't surpassed eight carries in the five games since.
That, however, hasn't kept him from having some of his better performances.
The past two games, in particular, he has been outstanding, scoring two touchdowns and averaging 9.4 yards per carry. Williams' two longest runs of the season, 45 and 26 yards, have come in the past two games.
"He's having a real obvious impact the last few weeks," coach Raheem Morris said.
But why? Williams, 28, cites a number of reasons.
"The opportunities that I do get now, I'm going to make the best of them because you have a sense of urgency," he said. "Plus, if you (turn) on the film and watch us, you'll see it's night and day. I think the offensive line is playing as one now. There's lanes and alleys there. You have to give those guys up front a lot of credit because those guys are doing a heck of a job.
"Then, Blount gets in there and wears the defense down. They get tired of hitting that guy. Then you have a change of pace guy like me who comes in and is a slasher."
That last point is critical. Coaches always intended to have a duo in the backfield, but they never envisioned having one like this, with a 250-pound battering ram in Blount.
In the offseason, the plan was to use Williams and Derrick Ward. After Ward's ineffective preseason and subsequent release, the Bucs hoped Williams could team with speedster Kareem Huggins. When Huggins hurt his knee and was lost for the season, it was back to the drawing board.
It turned out the best combination was one coaches had never considered, one that used Williams as the change-of-pace runner, not as the featured back.
Now, Olson is fine-tuning how and when he uses each back, because Blount has gained a more thorough understanding of the offense, particularly pass-protection schemes.
When Blount — second among rookies in rushing (441 yards) — first entered the lineup, coaches were reluctant to use him in passing situations, fearing missed blocking assignments would result in quarterback Josh Freeman taking unnecessary hits.
But Blount has improved in that area, which has led to less predictable play-calling.
"I think Blount is getting more familiar with the offense, and now we can play him on some play-action plays and some passing plays," said Williams, the fifth overall pick in the 2005 draft out of Auburn. "Early on, when I was in the game, (the defense knew) it was going to be a pass. So they're starting to switch things up, and it's catching the defense off guard."
Williams has been especially effective on draw plays and also has become a proficient receiver capable of making yards after the catch. And even Olson admitted Williams suddenly looks faster, though he wasn't certain that was attributable to the reduced workload.
Whatever the reason, Williams is producing.
"Right now we have a nice combination at running back that got us 162 yards (Sunday against the 49ers)," Morris said. "(Williams) had two touchdowns that were huge, big-time plays. … So, is he an every-down back at this point? Who knows?
"I'm not going to say no to that. He's not playing that position for us right now because he doesn't have to. But when it comes to everything we ask him to do — protecting, being the (third-down) back, teaching LeGarrette Blount and all the young guys around him — he's doing the job."