TAMPA — Rachaad White’s running style was slow, patient and methodical, as if he were pushing a cart through a supermarket aisle.
That’s why two weeks ago, running backs coach Skip Peete gave White an order that may have cracked the code to the Bucs’ offense.
“As a runner, you have to play violent,” Peete told White. “You’ve got to be violent. We’re not picking and choosing. We’re violent. We’re always bringing the hammer. It’s a mental attitude that you’ve got to possess. The runner sets the tone for the team. Not only the offense, but the defense is saying, “Whoo!’ "
The new approach has helped White’s production in the run game, but where he really has made things go is as a pass receiver.
With teams content to double cover receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin on the outside and rookie receiver Trey Palmer not getting much done in the slot, White has caught 33 of his last 34 targets from quarterback Baker Mayfield this season, including the last 20, the longest active streak in the NFL.
In addition, White leads all running backs in receiving yards over expected (plus-120), receptions over expected (plus-4.5) and yards after catch above expected (plus-98).
“It’s vital for the back to be able to have these checkdowns in the pass game, and you can feature him in different formations,” Mayfield said. “That’s when you really become dangerous. The best example … is just that short little stick route (White) ran to the end zone (during last Sunday’s 39-37 loss to the Texans). We were third and whatever where he catches it, slips a couple guys and gets a first down while setting us up for first and goal.
“Those are things, the hidden yardage, catch the ball, drop step, get vertical. He’s got a knack for making people miss, but on that one he understood what he needed to get done.”
White also finished in the game, bowling his way to a pair of 1-yard touchdown runs. The Bucs scored a season-high 37 points.
In addition to having great hands, White defeats linebackers and safeties with good route running.
New offensive coordinator Dave Canales has a better feel for what kind of running back White is becoming.
“It’s going back to the versatility, kind of the player that we knew we had in Rachaad, as we get this run game going and see the different styles of runs he has success on,” Canales said. “He’s a patient runner. He’s got good vision.
“And just in general, just our mid-zone schemes coming together, finding different ways to get Rachaad the ball. What types of runs? What types of passes? Is it a screen? Is it just the checkdowns were we get him in space and have him part of the progression like we had him early in the red zone?”
In the Oct. 26 game at Buffalo, White had 109 total yards from scrimmage (39 rushing, 70 receiving). He topped that against the Texans with 119 total yards (73 rushing, 46 receiving).
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For the season, White has run for 378 yards, which is 81.6% of all rushing yards gained by Bucs running backs. He has three rushing touchdowns.
“I’m just hitting what’s there,” White said. “Sometimes I’m running into the back of my guys and give them a push. Falling forward. It’s always about making positive yards.”
Once in space as a pass-catcher, White has created 16 missed tackles, which leads the NFL. He’s becoming the Bucs’ version of the Saints’ Alvin Kamara.
Bold admission No. 1
Canales is very candid about the shortfalls of a first-time NFL play-caller. He indicated Thursday he failed to make or anticipate the adjustments the Texans would implement at halftime.
“You guys saw it, we came out of the half and they had an answer for the stuff we were doing,” Canales said. “It made it hard on us, and we were punting the ball. We were putting our defense out there a lot in the second half.
“That’s where I’ve got to get better learning and taking those lessons of, ‘OK, we’re playing with the lead here and they’ve been drawing up all those things that worked in the first half. Take the next step and try to protect those things instead of going right back to them. .. So, that’s why I can get better.”
Bold admission No. 2
Linebacker Devin White began the offseason asking to be traded and can become a free agent at the end of the season.
He hasn’t had the splash plays yet this season that a dominating inside linebacker would be expected to make. He seemed to partially blame that on coach Todd Bowles for not being more aggressive on defense.
“I’m doing everything the defense allows me to do,” White said. “I’m really proud that I’m not out there not playing sound. You know, I think that’s the perfect word for it. I can do a lot more, and I think coach Bowles is trying to find a way to get it. With people coming in and out of the lineup, you’ve got to do certain things. But man, hopefully he finds more ways to be even more creative.”
Contact Rick Stroud at email@example.com. Follow @NFLSTROUD.
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