Bucs Central

State of the Buccaneers: Running Backs


Does Williams fit into Bucs future plans?

In the coming days, Bucs Central will address the different areas of the Buccaneers offense, defense and special teams by taking a look back on the 2009 campaign and looking forward to the 2010 offseason and beyond. From potential cap casualties, re-signings, free agent signings to draft picks, that could have quite a huge impact on the upcoming season and seasons outside of just 2010. Areas that have already been addressed are quarterbacks.

Physically violent downhill running team was the mantra being spoken shortly after Raheem Morris was named head coach. What was delivered, however, was anything but physical. The team wanted to run behind an offensive line, that they figured was going to be a strength heading into 2009. Using a familiar rotation that the teams prized free agent pickup Derrick Ward was accustomed too, in a 2-2-1 shuffling of backs that was supposed to be a magic formula to catapult the teams rushing attack into the upper echelon in the NFL and we all know how that worked out, dont we?

2009 Roster

Carnell “Cadillac” Williams — B
A season, in which one can only describe as a miracle, after Williams career was in serious jeopardy after sustaining not one, but two consecutive season ending torn petal tendons injuries in opposite knees. Williams in his fifth year in the league finally was able to play in all 16-games. But what was even more expressive is the authority in which he ran the ball with. Couple that with his improved hands and you understand why many of the Bucs coaches and players viewed him as an inspirational leader in 2009.

Derrick Ward — D+
Derrick Ward was the Bucs biggest free agent acquisition in the offseason after the team inked him to a 4-year $17 million dollar contract.  Ward was supposed to be part of a running back by committee approach, but more often then not he failed to deliver the goods and played second fiddle to Williams. If one word could describe Ward’s performance in ’09, it would be “underwhelming”.

Earnest Graham — C-
After the team placed FB BJ Askew on I.R. in late October, Graham was relegated to lead blocker and became an afterthought as he was seldom used as a ball carrier. But he did manage to prove capable as a short term replacement at fullback.

Clifton Smith — Inc
Smith is being pigeon holed into strictly a return do in large part to his propensity to cough the football up. The team likes what he can do in space, but after suffering two concussion this past year Smith days a running back may be severely limited.

Kareem Huggins — Inc
Was activated to the roster from the practice squad late in the year as a precautionary measure, as some in the organization felt another team was trying to sign him to there 53-man roster. More hype then substance at this point.

Byron Storer — Inc
Storer landed on I.R. in training camp, more of a backup type and special teamer.

BJ Askew — F
Askew is the standard fullback when healthy, but injuries have derailed his career since signing with the Bucs. Between on field injuries to car wrecks he just couldn’t keep himself out of the ice tub.

Chris Pressley — Inc
Pressley was sign off the Bengals practice squad late in the year and saw limited action. The team likes what they have seen thus far and will see if he can earn a spot on the roster in 2010.

2009 Summary

The Bucs ground game was stymied due to injuries and poor performance along the offensive line, but the lack of a game changer and workhorse back only compounded matters. Factor in the team’s inability to find a capable replacement for Askew and the ground game was kept under wraps. The 2-2-1 rotation that was all the rage in training camp never materialized putting the offense behind the eight ball.

Off-Season Goal

The team will have some tuff decisions to make with regards to its stable of running backs. Who stays and who goes is must likely the question being pondered by the powers that be. With Williams likely to become a restricted free agent. The team needs to decide if he fits in to there future plans. Do they keep Derrick Ward who is better suited for a zone blocking scheme and what do they do with Earnest Graham? The bottom line, however, is the team desperately needs to find a workhorse back who can carry the load and be a game changer.

Best Case Scenario

The Bucs draft a young back that can shoulder the load early on or can be part of a rotation. With CJ Spiller of Clemson being the top rated rusher entering the draft he could be an option if the team trades down, but three other backs that could be on the board in the second round that the Bucs could be targeting are Jonathan Dwyer of Georgia Tech, Jahvid Best of California and Ryan Mathews of Fresno State.

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