TAMPA — The last Bucs running back to rush for 1,000 yards was Doug Martin. Think about that.
The Muscle Hamster was drafted by general manager Mark Dominik in 2012 out of Boise State and rushed for 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns as a rookie.
He went for 1,402 yards and six TDs in 2015. Since then, no Bucs player has reached that rushing plateau. Ronald Jones came close with 978 yards in 2020 and likely would have surpassed 1,000 yards had he not missed a couple games with COVID-19.
General manager Jason Licht doesn’t miss much on offensive linemen. He’s had a knack for picking linebackers and cornerbacks, and is mostly stellar with offensive and defensive linemen.
But selecting ball carriers has not been the Bucs’ specialty.
Jones was a second-round pick out of Southern Cal in 2018 and is out of the NFL at age 26. Ke’Shawn Vaughn was a third-round pick in 2020 but has only 342 career yards and two touchdowns. When he fell to No. 4 on the depth chart, he asked to be traded but the Bucs wouldn’t oblige.
There’s been a solid free-agent acquisition or two, such as Leonard Fournette in 2020. But even he is out of football after six NFL seasons.
Which brings up to Rachaad White, the Bucs’ second-year starting tailback who has only one 100-yard rushing effort in 20 games and 11 starts. He has a career 3.6 yard average despite getting about 80% of the snaps this season.
Certainly, the lack of production is not all on White. The offensive line is a work in progress at best. Guard Ali Marpet retired. Center Ryan Jensen tore three knee ligaments shortly after signing an enormous contract extension last year and may never play again.
Offensive coordinator Dave Canales was brought to Tampa Bay to improve the running game and currently the Bucs are last in average rush per carry at 2.8.
“I think a part of the mentality we’re trying to establish here is if you’re a running team who throws play actions for those guys — for the line, for the tight ends, for the receivers on blocks, for the running backs — it’s got to have an aggressive mindset,” Canales said. “We’re not where we need to be as a group with that mindset running the ball yet.”
No question the Bucs should get better running the ball with time on task. Coach Todd Bowles said he thought White was too impatient, trying to hit the home run. But if a running back is special, it shows up early, the way it did for James Wilder, Warrick Dunn and Martin.
A year ago, Canales coached quarterbacks for the Seahawks, who had a 1,000-yard rusher in Kenneth Walker. He was a rookie.
But the Bucs’ struggle to find a productive ball carrier continues.
Is Richard Sherman busy?
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Injuries can torpedo any NFL team, but some are better equipped to withstand the loss of key starters more than others.
The Bucs, however, don’t have much depth.
That’s particularly true in the secondary, where both starting cornerbacks have missed games.
Carlton Davis, out the last two games with a toe injury, is questionable against the Saints. Jamel Dean, however, is out with a shoulder injury.
That means another start for second-year pro Zyon McCollum, and the Bucs may need some big minutes from defensive back Dee Delaney, who had an interception Monday night against the Eagles.
Well, any more injuries to the secondary could prompt the kind of roulette wheel of defensive backs reminiscent of the 2021 season when the Bucs got Richard Sherman off the Peloton.
Former Bucs safety Logan Ryan said recently that he’s ready to end his retirement if the Bucs need help.
“I really appreciate and like Todd Bowles as a person and a coach,” Ryan told FanDuel TV’s Up and Adams. “He has an opportunity this year to really make that his team in the sense of how he’d want to play the game. I think you’re seeing that out of Tampa right now, and I think they need a few more players.”
The Bucs worked out William Jackson III, which would indicate a need to add some depth sooner rather than later. Jackson was a first-round pick of the Bengals in 2016 and also has played for the Commanders.
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