TAMPA — Scrutiny has ganged up on running back Cadillac Williams like defenders this season, but it has yet to bring him down.
Despite averaging just 2.5 yards per carry, Williams is one of the Bucs' emotional leaders and still the best man for the job, coach Raheem Morris and offensive coordinator Greg Olson said.
"We want someone to prove they are better than Cadillac," Olson said Monday. "We haven't seen it. We didn't see it in training camp. Obviously some of those guys we picked up late, and as you know, we don't go full-go in practice. We're still comfortable with Cadillac. You go back and look at the carries throughout the season, we are not happy right now where we are at in the run game. To pin it all on Cadillac Williams is a major mistake. … Cadillac is still Cadillac Williams."
The Bucs lost perhaps their best option when Kareem Huggins tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee after a 7-yard reception in the third quarter of Sunday's 31-6 loss to New Orleans.
Williams finished with 18 yards on 10 carries Sunday.
Olson said the Bucs will take a long look at running backs LeGarrette Blount and Kregg Lumpkin in practice this week. Both were inactive Sunday. Morris said one active roster spot went to receiver Preston Parker because starter Mike Williams missed practice all week with a foot injury.
The decision backfired when fullback Earnest Graham aggravated a hamstring injury and Huggins went down.
"We will have to get a real hard look at both Lumpkin and Blount," Olson said. "Those are the only two other guys that we have at this point. … Again, they got to us late. They are still learning the position and everything that goes along with it: the protections, as well as the running game. There is a chance we may dual-role Lumpkin. He may be a fullback/tailback depending on Earnest's status throughout the week."
Olson said the Bucs have had difficulty running against eight-man fronts. He said that won't change until quarterback Josh Freeman can consistently make teams pay downfield. Sunday, Freeman went 25-of-43 for 219 yards with one touchdown.
"We've got to do a better job of coaching, of blocking the eight-man front," Olson said. "We've seen a lot of eight-man fronts; we saw a ton of blitzing (Sunday), all-out blitzes two weeks in a row, which obviously makes it difficult to run. Until you start beating it with some of the deep throws down the field, you're going to continue to get the eight-man fronts."
Morris suggested Monday that the Bucs might be trying to do too much with their running scheme. The Bucs are ranked 27th in rushing offense.
"Right now we might be trying to be a little too perfect with some of things that we are trying to do," Morris said. "We don't want to overthink the run game. We want to go out there and execute. That's the No. 1 thing. We don't have a million runs. We have a couple of runs, but we just have to go out there and run them well."
Perhaps the biggest reason Williams still is the starter is because he does the best job of protecting Freeman on blitzes.
"There's no doubt about it. Cadillac is an emotional leader on our football team," Morris said. "And he goes out there and he does a lot of great things as far as what we ask him to do. Can we get some better play out of some of the younger players in different situations? I agree. But I don't want to say the loyalty clouds your judgment because it's not that.
"It's that you know what he's going to give you, you know what he's going to bring to you, you know he's going to protect your quarterback. It's more about protecting No. 5 (Freeman) than anything else."