The Tampa Bay Buccaneers Hate Running The Ball – But Why?

Published: December 21st, 2011
By Bucs Nation
Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back LeGarrette Blount (27) is stopped after a short gain by Dallas Cowboys outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware, left, and inside linebacker Sean Lee during the first half of an NFL football game on Saturday, Dec. 17, 2011, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Here's one baffling statistic: the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are ranked dead last in the NFL in rushing attempts. They have 313 rushing attempts on the year. They have run the ball less than the Detroit Lions, who have had about half a healthy running back all season long and have a very strong passing game. They have run the ball less than the Indianapolis Colts, who are forced to play catchup and pass near constantly. They've run the ball less than the Cleveland Browns, whose 3.6 yards per rushing attempt rank last in the league.

More confusingly, the Bucs rank dead last in the NFL in carries despite getting 56 rushes from their quarterbacks, which ranks fifth in the NFL. You can add 7 receiver rushes to that total as well. That leaves the Bucs with the ridiculous total of 250 rushing attempts for running backs.

The Bucs have done all this despite a pretty efficient running game. On the season the Bucs have averaged 4.4 yards per carry, which is tied for the ninth best mark in the NFL. In Football Outsiders' opponent and situation adjusted numbers, the Bucs rank 14th in rushing efficiency.

Of course, there's an explanation for that: before the loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, ESPN reported that the Bucs had trailed more than any team in the NFL. That's unlikely to have changed, as the Bucs have spent just under one half in the lead since then. That certainly factors into it, but even considering that fact it's amazing that the team has not managed to run the ball more often. Losing Earnest Graham midway through the season certainly must have hurt too, as Kregg Lumpkin hasn't shown he can do much - but it's not like Mossis Madu has gotten much of a chance, either.

The Bucs are lucky enough to have a running back who can be the foundation of an offense, even if he is limited to running between the tackles, but they haven't used him as such. This would be excusable if Josh Freeman was having a good year and he was making up for the lack of a running game by destroying opposing defenses through the air. Obviously that has not happened.

So, the Bucs are saddled with a quarterback who has been shaky all season long, and decide to run the ball less frequently than they did last season when that quarterback was having a great season. Makes perfect sense, right?

To me, the hallmark of a good coach is one who manages to recognize the weaknesses of his personnel and adjusts his scheme to compensate. Greg Olson has been completely incapable of doing that this season. Look no further than the running game for proof of that.


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