If anything good came out of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ running back situation in 2013, it was the fact that the Bucs showed that they have a lot of depth at the position. After a disappointing 2013 season, which was cut short due to an injury, running back Doug Martin will look to rebound with 2012-like numbers. Martin is still the clear number one running back in Tampa, after racking up 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns as a rookie in 2012. Throw in the fact that the Tampa passing game is way ahead of where it was in 2012, and it could be a great year for Martin.
“Doug’s our starting tailback,” head coach Lovie Smith told ESPN. “He’s on most of the billboards around here. He’s an All-Pro running back. There’s nothing to dislike about Doug Martin. At the same time, we want Doug around for many years. By that, you need to have some other guys. He can’t carry it every second of the way. He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do. We couldn’t be more pleased with him.”
The only area that Martin struggles at is being a receiver out of the backfield, and that is where 2014 draft pick Charles Sims comes into play.
It seems that Sims’ receiving skills has jumped him ahead of Bobby Rainey and Mike James on the depth chart as the number two running back. Sims racked up over 200 receptions in his college career, and was named the best pass catching back in the 2014 draft by analyst Mike Mayock.
Smith even compared the rookie to Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte.
“We love him,” Smith told the Tampa Bay Times’. “We have an excellent running back coach who liked Matt Forte when no one else did. Tim Spencer came up to me after the Senior Bowl talking about Charles Sims. Whether someone else liked him, he’s a very good football player. In time, everyone else will like him.”
Sims’ role in Tampa can be compared to that of Darren Sproles when he was in New Orleans. His main role will be to catch passes out of the backfield and possibly out of the slot. Sims will have to quickly prove that he can handle the load given to him if he wants to stay the number two back on the Tampa depth chart.
The number three running back for Tampa looks to be second year pro, Mike James.
James was phenomenal in his rookie season in 2013 after Martin got hurt. James ran for 158 yards on 28 carries in a loss to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks. That is a 5.6 yards per carry average against the NFL’s best defense. James’ road to glory quickly came crashing down as he broke his ankle the very next week against the Miami Dolphins. It is unclear if James is fully recovered from the injury but if he is, he will carry the load as the change of pace back if Sims is unable to succeed.
Then there is Bobby Rainey.
If you had asked any Buccaneers’ fan who Bobby Rainey was before the start of the 2013 season, I guarantee you that they would have had to Google it. The Western Kentucky product was acquired off Waivers from the Cleveland Browns in 2013, and was quickly thrown into the starting role in Tampa after Martin and James were injured. Rainey started six games for Tampa in the second half of the season, and did a good job accumulating 556 yards and five touchdowns. He also had an 80-yard touchdown run in a win over the Buffalo Bills.
Rainey is the fourth running back on the Tampa depth chart, and barring any major injuries or if Martin gets a game off to rest, he will not see many touches.
The Bucs could use Rainey as trade bait for teams who have a running back that go down with an injury early in the season.
Martin is the clear number one running back in Tampa, so the battle to watch before week one is between Sims and James.