With vision, lateral cutting and the ability to square one’s shoulders and hit the hole being an emphasis this season the running game is going to look very different. There is no doubt the team will struggle to find consistency early on in the ground game. But as the season wears on the ground & pound should come together.
The addition of Derrick Ward was a clear sign the Bucs are committed to running the football under new offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski. The problem comes in the form of the fullback position with the team already placing Byron Storer on IR the team has to cross its fingers that BJ Askew can remain healthy or that rookie undrafted free agent Josh Vaughn can make the switch from running back to fullback.
Earnest Graham – After busting out of the gate in 2008 Graham and the running game slowed to a crawl. The big question is whether or not Graham is fully healthy. But with the addition of Ward look for the team to split carries evenly in the beginning until one player becomes hot and then it will be ride the guy who is getting the job done.
Derrick Ward – After a breakout season in which he rushed for over 1,000 yards Ward cashed in. But with a RBBC approach look for the team to have two backs close to a thousand yards in the run oriented offense.
Clifton Smith – Has endeared himself to the new coaching staff and the team likes him in space look for him to be used creatively on screens and as a change of pace back.
Carnell Williams – Looking to come back from a second knee injury in as many seasons it might be best for the Bucs to place him on the PUP list from the start and reevaluate him as the season on folds.
BJ Askew – When healthy is a top lead blocker in the league, the problem is he has spent a lot of time in the tub nursing injuries. Askew will be a vital cog to the overall success of the ground game.
Josh Vaughn – By default Vaughn has a chance to make the roster as a short yardage back and backup fullback with the recent set back of Byron Storer.
The team will struggle out of the gate with a new scheme, but look for the ground game to build momentum as the season unfolds. Both Ward & Graham could have close to a thousand yards with the teams desire to want to run the ball to take pressure of the quarterbacks’.
The two wild cards are Smith & Vaughn as both could play larger then life roles.