How many running backs do you think the Buccaneers have had that hit the 1,000 yard mark since the turn of the century? What if I was to tell you that since 2000, the Buccaneers have only had 4 different players break 1,000 yards rushing a total of 5 times? Think about that for a minute, in 19 years, the Buccaneers have only broken 1,000 yards rushing a total of 5 times. That’s 14 years we have failed to field a player capable of breaking 3 digit rushing numbers.
The good news about that, is that new Head Coach Bruce Arians, simply doesn’t care. It’s not that he doesn’t care about football, or about the team, or even about running the ball, it’s simply that he doesn’t care what the Bucs have done in the past, and he doesn’t care who is running the ball. He doesn’t care if you’re Todd Gurley or David Johnson, and he doesn’t care if you’re Peyton Barber or Ronald Jones. The only thing he cares about is that you are able to run it, not which player is running it.
“I like our backfield. I think it’s [an] ok backfield. There’s not a David Johnson or a Todd Gurley, but you don’t need one.”
That bodes well for not only our running backs, but the team as a whole. If Arians isn’t worried about trying to focus on one specific player, it opens the starting spot to every player, and whomever isn’t named the starter can still expect to find themselves given plenty of opportunities to make their presence known. It will also shake things up a bit as far as play calling goes, because the opposing defense isn’t always going to know who is being handed the ball if both backs are in, they aren’t always going to know who will be catching the screen if both backs go out, and they won’t be able to zero in on one specific player or play type like opposing defenses were able to do last year due to the lack of a running game.
Arians understands that while a player like Gurley might sell more jerseys than a backup named Ronald Jones II, he also understands that a big name usually comes with a big contract and not always big production. Prior to last season, the average fan had probably never heard of Marlon Mack, nor did they have any idea what he was capable of. It’s not that he wasn’t a talented player, but he didn’t carry the name recognition that Bradley Chubb or Le’Veon Bell carries, yet in the 2nd half of last season, he was able to break out and become one of the best running backs in the 2nd half of the season, and for a fraction of the cost.
If the Buccaneers are able to find that same kind of success with Ronald Jones or Peyton Barber that the Colts were able to find with Marlon Mack, then they will find themselves in a very cap friendly position when it comes to running back as we will have the production we’ve needed for far too long, and for a contract that has a smaller than average impact on the salary cap, which will allow the Bucs to address other issues that in the long run will aid in the running game.
Don’t worry if you don’t hear ESPN talking about our running backs, and don’t fret if your fantasy league members are giving you a hard time for picking up a Buccaneer running back, simply do what Arians does, and pay attention to the production, and you’ll find yourself pleasantly surprised this upcoming season.