Bucs running backs: How do Charles Sims, Jacquizz Rodgers fit in?

The addition of rookie Ronald Jones puts Bucs' returning depth at running back in question entering 2018 season.
Bucs running back Jacquizz Rodgers, shown on a kickoff return last season, finished 2017 in more a special-teams role, with only one carry and two receptions in the final four games of the year. [Times files (2017)]
Bucs running back Jacquizz Rodgers, shown on a kickoff return last season, finished 2017 in more a special-teams role, with only one carry and two receptions in the final four games of the year. [Times files (2017)]
Published May 29, 2018

The Bucs don't report for training camp for another two months, but with the addition of rookie Ronald Jones and a solid finish by Peyton Barber last season, how will Tampa Bay's depth at running back shake out?

Where exactly do Charles Sims and Jacquizz Rodgers fit in?

In simple terms, you could think of Jones displacing Doug Martin on the roster, taking over his role as primary ballcarrier. Barber, Sims and Rodgers dressed for all 16 games last year, so they'd likely return in the same roles, and the Bucs are likely to carry four backs on the 53-man roster, if only to insulate themselves against any injuries during the season. Undrafted rookie Shaun Wilson of Duke could challenge for a backup job.

We'll start with Sims, who actually played the most offensive snaps of all Bucs running backs last year (383) but had only 21 carries for 95 yards, getting most of his work on third downs as a pass-catching back, with 35 catches for 249 yards. But he went unsigned for six weeks in free agency, with the Bucs bringing him back right before the draft with a modest $200,000 signing bonus.

"We're happy to have Chuck Sims back in the role we like him as, which is a third-down back," offensive coordinator Todd Monken said earlier this month. "His ability to catch the ball and protect, that's an undervalued thing in this league, being able to protect on third downs, which he does a great job of."

Rodgers led the team in rushing in 2016, re-signed and played a ton when Martin was suspended for the first three games, rushing 40 times for 165 yards. But in the remaining 13 games, he had just 24 carries for 79 yards total, with only one carry longer than 10 yards.

Consider the offensive snaps in the last six games of 2017: Barber got 195, Sims 149, Martin 53 and Rodgers just 36. In the last four games, Rodgers had one carry and two receptions, his largest role being on kickoff returns, where he averaged 23.2 yards over the final seven games.

If Rodgers is only a special-teams player, does that justify a $1.6 million salary? He has a solid history with Dirk Koetter from their Atlanta days and drew mixed praise from his coaches this month.

"Quizz has done a great job with his role. He's developed into a good special-teams player at the back end of his career," Monken said.

Here's running backs coach Tim Spencer: "Quizz is a professional. I love Quizz. I love having Quizz in the room. He's like a second coach, but he's a football player. Quizz knows everything. You can bounce things off of him. When he gets in there, he's able to make plays. He's a guy you can trust. You know he's going to be where he's supposed to be, when he's supposed to be there and he can do a good job in doing it. That's one of the reasons I really like having him. He's a good, older guy you can pull from, but also you can depend on him if you need to put him in there."

Could Wilson challenge for a spot on the 53-man roster? He might need to win the kickoff-return battle to do so, but he got $20,000 in guaranteed money as part of his rookie contract, which suggests the front office likes his talent.

"I like him a lot," Spencer said. "Shaun is more like a true third down-type guy. You're going to split him out wide, do some of the things we do like with Chuck. The two young guys (Wilson and Jones), they have speed. They have some speed we really haven't had at the running back spot. They're very quick, so we have to capitalize on some of that. Shaun's a quick learner, has been in some offense we've been in, so he picks it up pretty good. I'm looking forward to seeing what he can do when we really get the pads on. But I know he's going to do alright, because he's tough. He's got a chip on his shoulder, another smaller guy, everybody told him all along, coming up, 'You can't do this. You're too small for that.' He's out to prove what he can do."