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How meaningful is Rachaad White’s pursuit of 1,000 rushing yards?

The Bucs back already has that many yards from scrimmage. Can he reach the milestone via the ground, becoming the first Bucs player since 2015 to do it?
 
Bucs running back Rachaad White (1) reacts after scoring a touchdown in the first quarter against the Panthers last Sunday.
Bucs running back Rachaad White (1) reacts after scoring a touchdown in the first quarter against the Panthers last Sunday. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published Dec. 10, 2023

TAMPA — Rachaad White is making a run to become the first Bucs player to rush for 1,000 yards since Doug Martin in 2015.

It’s stunning that it’s been that long since a Tampa Bay player has reached what once was a magical line of demarcation.

But with 17 regular-season games, the accomplishment certainly has been diluted. A better barometer of success may be yards per carry. Of the 15 backs who rushed for 1,000 yards last season, only the Steelers’ Najee Harris (3.8) averaged fewer than 4 yards per attempt.

With 643 yards rushing, White needs only 357 more on the ground over the next five games to reach one of the most misleading stats in football.

Currently, White is averaging 3.7 yards per attempt, which matches his rookie season.

Even so, it’s undeniable that White is doing something rare in the NFL these days. He’s not just a No. 1 tailback. He’s not a third-down back. He’s a bell cow back, something that seems extinct in an age of specialization.

White already has 1,000 yards in total offense, thanks to his 46 receptions for 386 yards and a touchdown. Two weeks ago, White had his first 100-yard rushing game in a 27-20 loss at Indianapolis. Last week, he rushed 20 times for 84 and a touchdown. Those games also included breakout runs of 38 and 30 yards, respectively.

The improvement came before the Bucs played at Buffalo on Oct.28 when running backs coach Skip Peete convinced White to scrap his Le’Veon Bell-like running style for a more physical, downhill approach.

In addition, the offensive line is blocking better in Dave Canales’ zone-run scheme.

“I can’t be more thrilled with the direction we’re going,” Canales said. “We’re just seeing a lot of improved fundamental play from a group that has games upon games stacking together.”

Two weeks ago was only the second time White had gone over the 100-yard rushing mark in a game. He did it as a rookie against Seattle in Germany.

“He has continually improved,” Canales said. “It’s obviously a new system for him. Some of the run schemes are similar to what he has done in the past, but like I said with the run game improvement, a lot of that is on the O-line. But also him with his eyes where he’s looking at how to read these blocks. Obviously, he is a special athlete when he’s got the ball in space. We know that, but just his improvement in setting blocks up has been a huge difference.”

Watch out, Mauch

Bucs guard Cody Mauch can take a punch. He proved that when Carolina defensive lineman Brian Burns was ejected for throwing a right hand to his head.

Mauch of course was not injured and it’s a surprise Burns wasn’t as well.

But Mauch got a lot of good-natured ribbing from his teammates.

“Missing the two front teeth, I don’t know if he could’ve suffered a third loss,” tackle Luke Goedeke said. “That would’ve kind of been tragic.”

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