How Should Olsen Utilize the Backfield?


The Buccaneers offense seemed somewhat predictable a week ago. Now, with the recent developments of Derrick Ward being cut, many questions have arisen. Primarily, who will be the backup RB? Certainly between now and when Tampa takes the field against Cleveland additions can be made. However, for arguments sake, let's assume they don't. As of now our depth chart will look like this

RB

Cadillac Williams, Kareem Huggins, Clifton Smith

FB

Earnest Graham, Chris Pressley, Rendrick Taylor

Most don't expect Taylor to make the final 53, so he is out of the discussion. Clifton Smith has raised many questions with his fumbling problem last season and spending much of training camp and the preseason sidelined with a case of gout. When he did get his chance this past week, he fumbled a Kick Return which may not be a huge deal in the preseason, it certainly doesn't leave anyone feeling great about any improvements. Failure to mention his ability in the return game this previous season would be doing a disservice. He was phenomenal. However, is being a great returner good enough to keep you on the final 53 if you can't contribute at "your" position? I say no, but some writers here believe it is.

To see what kind of options the Bucs have in the running game, hit the jump.

The first option is that Greg Olsen sticks with the same formula as last season. Last year Carnell Williams (Starter) received 211 carries and 28 catches while Derrick Ward (#2) ran the rock 114 times and had 20 receptions. Earnest Graham was largely unused with 14 carries and 14 receptions. This year that would mean that Kareem Huggins would see over 100 carries to lessen some of the load on Williams and Smith gets very few touches and remains as a special teams athlete.

However, most expect that we run the ball substantially more than last season. The Bucs were 25th in the league in run attempts last year. I think it's reasonable that they would increase this number by 30-40 this year, which puts us in the middle of the pack. In theory these carries would be taken by Earnest Graham at fullback. Last year the fullbacks had a combined 2 carries. Olsen often went with a Single Back backfield. When he didn't, the fullbacks were used as blocking backs.

Option #2 would be to move Graham back to Running Back making him second the depth chart. If this is the case, I would actually expect Graham to get less carries than Ward did last year. While I don't agree with it, I think this is the route Olsen will go. I think Olsen is a passing coordinator at heart and will want to stick to the 3 wide, 1 TE, 1 RB set more often than not.

Option 3 would be to leave it as is and just make Williams the workhorse he was in his rookie season. That year, Williams ran the ball 290 times. It also proved to be a costly mistake when his production took a steep drop the following season. Earnest Graham would remain at FB to lead block for Williams. This leaves Huggins to take around 50-60 carries and Smith about 10-30 carries. If Williams can remain productive and healthy, this may be the best option. Williams was without question better the more carries he got last season. His best YPA games were when he took more than 15 carries. I have believed for a long time that the transition should have been made for Graham. He is a very good blocker with a low center of gravity, can still carry the rock and can come out of the backfield. This leaves the Bucs far more options than having Chris Pressley in and tipping off defenses that he is a lead blocker every single time.

How about you? What do you think is the best option for the Bucs and Greg Olsen?

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