Bucs season preview..the running backs

This is a first in an eight part series giving you an in-depth preview of the Buccaneers position by position. Today we look at the running backs.

The Buccaneers are coming off a season in which their running game was abysmal. The Bucs started the season with Peyton Barber as the starter, and he averaged just over three yards a carry.

With Barber and Jones as the feature backs, last season the Bucs struggled to gain yards at times on the ground. Even a half yard at times, the Bucs could not get when they needed it.

As a team, the Bucs ran for 1521 yards good for 23rd in the league. The bigger stat is the Bucs averaged just 3.7 yards per carry good for 30th in the NFL.

Only the Jets and the Dolphins had fewer yards per carry than the Bucs.

Pro Football Focus ranked the Bucs running backs 29th in the league. The Rams, Jets, and Dolphins were rated below the Bucs.

The Bucs just announced moments ago that they have signed running back LeSean McCoy to a one year contract.

Last season, McCoy ran for 456 yards and averaged 4.6 yards per carry. McCoy caught 28 passes for 181 yards and one touchdown.

McCoy has been hit by injuries the last few seasons and his production has declined considerably.

This signing is more about the Bucs lack of confidence in Ronald Jones than anything else. Did they need some depth at the position? Sure. But it’s obvious they had some concerns with Jones and Rookie Ke’Shawn Vaughan as the two main backs.

McCoy is now the best back on the roster at 32 years old. With Brady using his running backs to catch passes out of the backfield, this move makes sense.

The Bucs will pay McCoy right around a million dollars on the one year deal so they didn’t break the bank.

McCoy through his agent said Rosenhaus Sports said that “He is very excited to play with established vets like Brady and Gronk in trying to win another championship.”

Ronald Jones took over as the starter midseason and averaged 4.1 yards a carry but the coaches’ confidence seemed to wane as the season went along and Jones averaged around eight touches per game the last quarter of the season.

Jones has been working out hard this off-season. He has posted pictures of his workouts on his Instagram account. Jones has also been working on his pass-catching abilities.

Tom Brady likes to use his running backs in the passing game much more than they were used last season. Jones must be able to be a consistent pass-catching threat out of the backfield.

Jones will be the starter coming into the season, although thee are some analysts that think Ke’Shawn Vaughan will replace Jones as the starter at some point this season. Now that McCoy is on the roster, he could also challenge Jones for the starting spot at some point this season.

 

Ke’Shawn Vaughan courtesy of Sports Illustrated

 

With Peyton Barber leaving for Washington, the Bucs drafted Ke’Shawn Vaughn from Vanderbilt in the third round. The Bucs then added some depth in drafting running back Raymond Calais from Louisiana Lafayette in the seventh round.

The Bucs have holdovers Dare Ogunbowale and TJ Logan on the depth chart as well.

Ogunbowale was used primarily as a receiver out of the backfield and as a kick returner. Ogunbowale had 35 catches out of the backfield and averaged 18.6 yards per return.

TJ Logan was picked up from the Arizona Cardinals and was averaging 20.8 yards per kick return when he broke his thumb and was sidelined for the rest of the season.

Logan was also used as a punt returner and averaged 9.5 yards per return.

Logan was used as a returner as he had just three carries and caught two balls last season.

With the Bucs drafting of Vaughan and Calais, they will challenge Logan for the kick returner job.

The Bucs are going to need better production from this unit and that starts with Ronald Jones.

Jones did improve in his second season but must take another step forward in his third season in the league.

This will be an important season for Jones as he needs to show the Bucs that he can be the man. If not, the Bucs may turn to Ke’Shawn Vaughan or LeSean McCoy as their starting running back.

How much did the offensive line play in the running game’s inability to run the ball?

Some, the offensive line always plays a role in the overall success of the running game. Like a goaltender in hockey that has to win some games for his team and make some tough saves, the running back has to get something out of nothing on occasion to help his team keep the chains moving.

Ronald Jones did not do that very well last year and neither could any other Bucs running back.

The Bucs have their eyes set on making a deep playoff run. If the Bucs are to do that, the running game is going to have to take a huge step forward.

Barring an injury, the Bucs will go with Jones and Vaughan, and McCoy asprimary backs with Ogunbowale, and Logan serving as the backups.