Yardbarker Horiz

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Buccaneers Build Top 10 Rushing Attack

When Head Coach Raheem Morris and General Manager Mark Dominik took the reigns of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before the 2009 season, they painted a picture for the Buccaneer Faithful of a team with a powerful rushing attack and a solid defense.

They have made big progress towards both this season with a winning record to prove it.

With one game remaining, the Buccaneers have reached the top quarter of the NFL as far as production in the running game.  The chart below shows how the offense has made steady improvement running the ball since Week 5:



Currently, the offense has set a new high mark in the per game average at almost 128 yards/game, which ranks 7th in the NFL, ahead of teams like Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, and New England.  Tampa Bay also has a 7-game 100+ yard rushing effort streak still going (which includes teams like Baltimore and Atlanta).

The most impressive part of this evolving running attack is the number of different offensive linemen who have contributed to the effort:

Week 5 (New Orleans):  Center Jeff Faine suffers his first severe injury of the season, and in steps rookie Ted Larsen as Jeremy Zuttah moves to center.  Since then, the Buccaneers have not rushed for less than 90 yards in a single game.

Week 7 (Arizona):  Tackle Jeremy Trueblood and Guard Keydrick Vincent suffer injuries.  The Buccaneers promote G/T Derek Hardman off the practice squad and ask T James Lee to step in for Trueblood.  Lee has started ever since, and Hardman has worked his way into the starting lineup when Davin Joseph was injured during Week 11.

The changes have not all been up front, either.  After Kareem Huggins suffered a season ending knee injury during the New Orleans game, LeGarrette Blount emerged to start playing a larger and larger role in the running game.  Blount had a two-pronged effect:  not only was he effective, his production on first and second down started reducing the need for Josh Freeman to run for positive yards to keep drives alive.

This is all a very good sign for the near future of the franchise:  multiple contributors up front and in the backfield, plus the experience of Earnest Graham and Cadillac Williams.

The running game is becoming a reliable part of the Buccaneers offense, opening up the playbook and providing even more options to offensive coordinator Greg Olson.  A reliable running game has been a strong part of the past success of the Buccaneers.

Looks like those times have returned!

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