Buccaneers running back Earnest Graham is all for a RBBC approach, as he feels he will be fresher down the stretch, if he can remain healthy. Graham who shared carries last season with Warrick Dunn guesstimates he averaged around 13-14 carries last season in the same scenario.
“I love the idea,” said Graham of becoming a two-headed backfield weapon with Ward. “I love the idea, man. I went through a season two years ago where I was the only back and I got all the carries and never came off the field. That’s tough. It’s tough, man. Last year, playing some fullback…it’s tough to make it in the league like that. I think it’s changed somewhat. I don’t think you can make it through the league like you could years ago. I’m definitely looking forward to it.
“I think only averaged about 13 or 14 carries a game last year,” said Graham. “It felt good to be able to do that. I always felt comfortable that I could do that. The year before I was nicked up and I was the only guy out there, so I was very tired. I was doing all the routes, all the running, all the protecting, so I really didn’t have my legs. Last year, I had Warrick and I was a little fresher towards the end [of his 10 games].”
With both Graham and new comer Derrick Ward possessing some of the same abilities as running backs, it will be interesting to see who the team tabs as the starter, but best guess here, with the team wanting to equally distribute carries amongst both players is that it wont be something as concrete as many think. It will be more of a situation where the team has a 1a and 1b type of chart when it comes to the tandem.
“We’re both strong guys, built strong. We can both take a certain amount of carries, and I definitely think we’re going to end up splitting them. There’s nothing like a fresh back, and we’ve seen that the last couple years with some other teams. So I think having both of us fresh, having Cadillac, having Clifton [Smith] provide some other things, I think it’s going to be fun.”
If you liked the way the new York Giants & Carolina Panthers were able to run the football last season, then you are not alone as Graham firmly believes the Bucs have the potential to be as good this coming season.
“The potential is through the ceiling, especially with the way we’re talking about running the ball,” said Graham. “Who doesn’t like watching Carolina play and watching those two guys tag-team other teams? We’d like to present some of the same problems.
“[The potential] is there, without a doubt,” he said. “With the way Derrick runs the ball, the way I run the ball, the way Cadillac runs the ball when he’s ready…it’s there. I definitely think that, if everyone’s healthy, we have the talent to do that.
“I think running the ball is going to be more of a priority. But schemes are schemes. I think it definitely depends on how we gel in the locker room, with a mix of new players.”
With the new zone blocking scheme the offensive line will be required to have more movement laterally as well as the ability to utilize there athleticism more to get to the second level of their respective zones. But the running backs must buy into the concepts of making one cut, then squaring there shoulders and hitting the hole. Look for growing pains early on as it will take some time for both units to fully grasp the new scheme, but are better suited for the ZBS, which should have the team gaining ground down the stretch in 2009.