In 2015, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had a top 5 rushing attack that powered Tampa Bay to a Top 5 offensive ranking for the first time in franchise history. Since then, the running game has struggled. Can the Bucs return to the heights of 2015?
Doug Martin rushed for 4,633 yards and 26 touchdowns in his six years as Tampa Bay’s leading rusher. The Bucs gave up on Martin, releasing the former All-Pro in February.
RoJo, Ronald Jones II, the Bucs 2nd round pick from USC, as well as college free agent Shaun Wilson from Duke and Dalton Crossan, a try-out player who was in the Colts camp last season.
Peyton Barber has been declared the starter (at this point) by Head Coach Dirk Koetter. It remains to be seen if Barber, who would be the primary ball carrier for the first time in his NFL career, will retain the starting position or if the team’s 2nd round pick Ronald Jones II will take over.
Barber paid his dues and he certainly has a solid skillset when given the opportunity. Barber was the team’s leading rusher, carrying the ball 108 times for 423 yards and 3 touchdowns. He has a career-long run of 44 yards.
For now, RoJo has to settle for second fiddle, but one has to wonder how long it will be. While Barber is a solid young back who can churn out 6-to-8 yard bursts at regularity, Jones II has the ability to be a game breaker and the more chances he will have to touch the football, the more games he can break open. Jones II will, of course, need to work on his blocking skills and his pass-catching ability if he has any hopes of being a 3-down back.
Charles Sims has returned to be the team’s 3rd down back, but according to some reports, is getting a stiff challenge from UDFA Shaun Wilson. Wilson ran a 4.42 and is expected to try to earn his spot on special teams.
Jaquizz Rodgers remains on the roster and he is a Koetter favorite. He’s a vet entering his 8th season in the NFL.
Dalton Crossan will get an opportunity to prove he’s more than camp meat.
Tampa Bay also has FB Austin Johnson on the roster. Most teams in the NFL don’t use a true FB anymore. Johnson played in one game with the Bucs last year after spending 2 years in New Orleans.
Improvement or No?
Yes, I believe there has been a significant upgrade at the running back position with the promotion of Barber and the addition of RoJo. This two-headed attack could be a “Thunder and Lightning” type combo that could really fuel the Bucs’ offense in 2018.