Twitter question: What about Bucs’ RB rotation

Published: May 28th, 2010
By Bucs Beat

Thought I'd post another answer to a Twitter inquiry.

This one comes from follower @Toreano. He asked: "The Bucs RB approach didn't work last season. Are there plans to have a clear #1?"

This is good topic to debate. The Bucs went to great lengths last year to divide up the carries among Cadillac Williams, Derrick Ward and Earnest Graham -- at least initially. Remember the whole "2-2-1" format that called for two series for one back, two series for another, and a single series for the third-string back? Well, that lasted about six quarters or so before falling apart.

What resulted was the Bucs seemingly having no real plan on how to use their backs. They went from a very rigid plan to no plan at all to eventually using Williams and often no one else.

Somewhere here, there's a happy medium. To answer the question specifically, the Bucs haven't publicly committed to how they're going to go about rotating their backs. But the way that seems to work best for other clubs is to have a true No. 1 back (probably Williams in this case) and a secondary back in a complementary role (presumably Derrick Ward). That doesn't mean Ward can't amass more carries than last season, when he averaged 8.1 per game. But if Williams is getting hot in a particular game, he probably needs to stay in the game. And if Ward seems like a better matchup against a particular defense, then feed him the football already.

The point is, be flexible, but have a plan. I'm going to give the Bucs the benefit of the doubt and assume they're in the process of working through this better than last year.

And because I know someone will ask, yes, I realize I didn't mention Earnest Graham. I'm not omitting him. I think he has a role, too, but I don't know that it'll be a big one. I think coaches see Graham as being effective in small doses but not necessarily as a featured back. I would, however, like to see Graham get the ball more as a receiver out of the backfield. He's not exactly fast or quick, but he makes yardage in the open field when put in position. This is one area I would argue he is underused. Graham caught 14 passes last season and averaged 7.8 yards per reception. These are high-percentage passes that require less pass protection, so it seems like a win-win if more of these are incorporated.

We'll see what the regular season brings, but the Bucs' backfield options are good enough that they should rank higher than 23rd in rushing, as they did last season. But smart usage of the running backs will be paramount to improving on that disappointing stat.

Got a question? Find me on Twitter and I'll consider using yours in this space, too.