The Buccaneers released their depth chart early this week, along with a game plan to use youth and depth to their advantage by routinely rotating players, particularly at running back.
Cadillac Williams will lead the running attack, but that does not mean Derrick Ward and Earnest Graham will take a backseat.
“We’re gonna work them all in there,” said head coach Raheem Morris. “I think that’s gonna be a strength for us to get them all the football. They’re all different, dynamic runners. They create different problems for different people and we wanna use that to the best of our ability.”
Williams is coming off back-to-back patellar tendon surgeries, while Ward looks to build on his 1,000-yard effort with the Giants a year ago. Graham, no stranger to sharing the load, will round out the three-back-attack in newly appointed offensive coordinator Greg Olson’s system.
While questions still surround Williams’s durability for a full season, his performance in practice and his recent 54 yards on eight carries against the Dolphins has Olson feeling optimistic.
“When I saw him rehabbing a year a go it was really a pleasant surprise,” said Olson. “This guy is starting to look like his old self.”
Despite being listed atop the depth chart, Williams embraces sharing the load.
“I know right now it’s a running back by committee, and I’m good with that,” said Williams. “I’m just looking forward to contributing. I can stay fresher throughout the season and the game, so it’s gonna be big. I think it’s gonna be a good thing.”
Morris will adopt a 2-2-1 timeshare this Sunday in the season opener against the Cowboys, with Ward as the No. 2 back ahead of Graham. Morris said he will stick with the hot guy if someone gets into a groove, but for now, he will likely follow a set rotation.
So goes the trend in the NFL these days. The two-or-three-headed monster at running back is replacing the 2,000-yard back of the past, and Morris is not afraid of conformity.
“Everybody has two (running backs), some have three, and they find ways to get them the ball,” said Morris. “We gotta fall within that trend to remain fresh – try to wear on people.”
Olson’s offensive scheme calls for a more vertical passing game and a power running attack. While it remains to be seen whether or not Olson’s offense can find the way to the end zone, a healthy Williams with Ward and Graham in the background is likely a good foundation to build on.
– Paul Mueller, Publishing Editor