Positions Thought I’d Never Do Proper: Running Back

Published: January 31st, 2008
By Bucstats.com weblog

Earnest Graham: Graham is under contract for 2008 but is already in talks for an extension and a raise via his remora, Drew Rosenhaus. The Bucs seem open to it, so it should be a pretty solid bet that Graham will go to camp as the starting running back.

Carnell Williams: Williams suffered one of the worst kinds of injuries that a running back can have, and his recovery is said to be very slow. the team will makes moves around him knowing that he won't be available and he'll most likely spend the entire year on injured reserve.

Michael Bennett: Bennett will be a free agent in March and I haven't heard anything about him being offered an extension. He made some good things happen when he had the ball and I like his speed, but Jon Gruden doesn't trust him in pass protection which is an essential duty of a running back. Bennett was a second or third choice at the trade deadline anyway, so I'm thinking the Bucs are content to let him go and try to upgrade the position in free agency.

Michael Pittman: Pittman's contract voids this year and he becomes a free agent in March. Pittman said that he would like to stay with the Buccaneers but he also wants a bigger role and is willing to listen to other teams that would offer him that. Despite the fact that he has been the ultimate team player since he came to the Bucs, I don't see Gruden giving him more carries. He's a great change of pace, but he sounds kind of disenchanted with the way things are going in Tampa. Sadly, I don't expect him to stay.

Kenneth Darby: Despite being constantly short of running backs, Darby only for two carries all year. You'd think that if the Bucs were interested in getting a good look at him that they would have put him in a couple of those games at the end where they were resting everyone. Instead, Bennett and Pittman were the beneficiaries of resting Graham. Despite this, he has a good chance to stick around because the team needs three backs, he's cheap, knows the system, and probably did well enough in camp last year to warrant another look. If the Bucs select a running back before the sixth round, forget that last sentence.

B.J. Askew: Askew is under contract for 2008 and Gruden is eager to use him in new ways. Askew was difficult to bring down after catching a pass and is really a better pure fullback than Mike Alstott ever was. The Bucs will defer making any big money decisions on Askew until 2009.

Byron Storer: Storer will be an exclusive rights free agents, which means precisely dick. As long as the Bucs tender him an offer, he can't negotiate with anyone else. He played well enough to make the team again.

Last year I thought Cadillac, Pittman, Graham and Jerald Sowell would stick around. I also encouraged Alstott to retire, which he essentially did.

There are going to be some major changes to the offensive backfield this season. Only Graham and Askew are locks to make the team. Everyone else is in flux. Who the Bucs select as the new running backs coach could make a big difference in who they select in the draft or free agency. I would expect the Bucs to spend a fifth rounder or higher on a running back. I expect Justin Forsett (California) to be available on the second day unless his stock shoots through the roof after the combine. He has deceptive speed and excellent vision. His major drawback is that he isn't known for his pass-blocking, but that can be coached. Tashard Choice (Georgia Tech) is also a good option in the middle rounds. It's not an Atlanta thing; he really is a powerful runner and is supposed to have a remarkable work ethic. His major drawback is all the puns on his last name that the papers will run into the ground.

There will be several free agent running backs available in March and the one who has been getting the most buzz is Michael Turner of San Diego. Forget him. He's good, but he's going to be overpaid by someone and it shouldn't be the Bucs. Dallas will retain Marion Barber and let Julius Jones walk. Jones would be a fantastic addition and could be teamed up with Graham for that whole "rocket" backfield thing I keep hearing so much about. My only real concern with getting Jones is that he may not want to come to a team where he will have to continue to split carries with another back. People have been bringing Mewelde Moore's name up ever since the Bucs traded for Bennett, and he may be the choice if the Bucs can't land Jones. Ok, so, Jones (or Moore), Graham, Darby or a rookie, Askew and Storer. Pretty good, right?