If we look at the playoff teams his year, especially the final four, all have something in common. They all have a good running game. That is something that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers need to take note of. The two games from this weekend showed that having a running game can change a team’s game plan. The Buccaneers showed once again this year that they were virtually one dimensional on offense. Now I am not blaming all of the offense blunders on the lack of a running game, but I think it played a big role. Especially, when you have a quarterback who has issues with turning the ball over like Jameis Winston. Last season, Winston had 30 interceptions with 7 returned for touchdowns along with fumbling issues. If Peyton Barber and Ronald Jones had been more productive, maybe the turnovers wouldn’t have been there; which, could have led to more wins.
The Tennessee Titans were 9-7 and qualified for the playoffs as a wild card team this year. One of the biggest factors was Derek Henry and the running game, propelling their rushing offense to rank 3rd overall in the NFL. The Titans averaged 139 yards per game as Henry had 1,540 yards on 303 carries for an average of 5.1 yards a carry.
Let’s look at that. When the football was handed to Henry, he could pick up half of the yards needed to move the sticks, in the first two rounds of the playoffs this was evident for everyone to see. The Titans ran right into Foxboro and defeated the defending Super Bowl champions. The week after that, they went to Baltimore and beat the best team in the AFC.
The San Francisco 49ers were 13-3 and the top team in the NFC. Like the Titans, they had one of the league’s premier rushing attacks, the 49ers rushing attack was 2nd overall in the NFL, averaging 144 yards per game. The 49ers had two backs that carried most of the load with Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman. Mostert, so far this season, had 772 yards and is averaging 5.6 yards per carry, Coleman has 544 yards and is averaging 4 yards per carry. Both of these gentlemen have one more game left on February 2nd. Their opponent, of course, is the Kansas City Chiefs who were able to slow down Derek Henry. Like the Titans, the 49ers have been able to move down the field easily, keeping their opponent’s defense on their toes and on the field.
Right now, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers should be thinking, “Hey, this would help out our offense that relies too much on the pass.” The Buccaneers rushing game averaged 95 yards a game, which was good for 24th in the NFL. On the flip side, they were the top-ranked passing team in the NFL. The Buccaneers had a running game by a committee with Ronald Jones, Peyton Barber, Dare Ogunbowale, and Jameis Winston, all contributing to the yards gained on the ground, but failed to have a 1,000-yard rusher.
The player who finished with the most yards, Ronald Jones, ended the season with 724. In fact, the last time the Buccaneers had a 1,000 yard rusher was 2015 with Doug Martin, who finished with 1,402 yards. That was five years ago. This is something that Jason Licht and Bruce Arians need to address in the draft and the off-season. Maybe with the 14th pick draft, they should select J.K. Dobbins out of Ohio State, who could help boost the running game.
In this writer’s opinion, this has been a problem, outside of Doug Martin, since Mike Alstott and Warrick Dunn were in the backfield. Maybe if they could get a threatening run game going, it would make the decision to bring back Jameis Winston look a lot better, but we will have to sit back and see.