To say that Greg Olsen was a thorn in my side last year is a bit of an understatement. I hated the offense that was being run. It was ineffective, the scheme didn't match the players and he put way too much pressure on bad quarterbacks. The one passionate plea (or one of) I had this offseason was to RUN THE BALL. While I doubt I was alone in this sentiment, and I seriously doubt Greg Olsen cares less what a blogger from Atlanta has to say, I do believe that the pressure was put on him, internally, to do just this.
Through 2 games, the Bucs have averaged just 3.3 YPA. This is good for 23rd in the league. What I would argue though, is that it's not about the success of the running game, rather that we are running the ball. Does success effect the offense? Sure. You'd be a fool to think that an offense that is unsuccessful at gaining positive yardage is a good thing. My point is that the success of the running game should have no determination on how often we run it. When we run it? Sure. The TB Bucs are 6th in the league in Attempts per Game with 32. I don't want this number to fluctuate too much. Obviously, if we are in a huge hole, running the ball won't get us out of it. We run the ball to take pressure of Josh Freeman, keep LB's honest and to give our OL an opportunity to get physical.
There is a misconception that we only passed the ball so much last year because we trailed in all of our games. While this has some hint of truth in it, the reality it was part of the cause. We abandoned the run early and never turned back to it in games.
The Greg Olsen of last year would have seen Williams run the ball for 2 or less yards on 5 of his first 7 carries and curled up in the corner with his safety blanket known as the passing game. This year he believes in the idea of the run-game. He has stuck with Williams giving him over 22 carries in both starts. People worry that this may be a bit much, but I believe that is based off the perception (falsely) that Williams is teetering on the wall of getting injured again, when this simply isn't true. It hasn't shown up in the stat line this season, but last year Williams was at his best when get got more than 15 carries a game. Most running backs are. They get into a rhythm, get used to contact and the game slows down significantly for them.
Whether you run the ball to set up the pass or pass the ball to set up the run you are doing one thing. Keeping the defense honest. It's a cliche. You hear it all the time when you watch football games. But, It's true. If you are committed to balancing out the game, you are also staking a commitment on keeping the defense guessing. Suddenly, DE's can't just pin their ears back, LB's arent' taking the first steps to the pass zones, DB's are watching the backfield, etc. None of this is relative to the success of the actual play. Especially when you have a talented back like CW.
Maybe a better way to phrase "keeping the defense guessing" is that you are forcing them to read the development of the play. If a CB knows you are passing, their hips turn slightly quicker and they drop back without hesitation. If you are making a safety take a step towards the LOS, you are keeping them honest. The most important aspect of this is you are taking pressure off a young, wide-eyed quarterback, and you are seeing the results of it. Freeman is a lot more comfortable and isn't being asked to make a ridiciouls amount of plays. He is also not being asked to win the game. You are simply asking him to make a small number of completions 15-20 and not make mistakes. Compare this to him throwing the ball 32X a game and a couple of game where he was asked to throw over 40 balls and you can instantly see why he is playing with a little more freedom and looking like a "3rd year player."
Lastly, there is no hiding how bad our offensive line has been in run-blocking. It's actually embarrassing. They aren't opening up holes and as a result Williams is taking an absolute beating. His 22-25 carries a game are some tough carries. The one positive about this though, is that they are getting 7-8 more plays a game to beat up on the defensive line. I'm not pretending that our offensive line is mean and more physical than others. But an often overlooked aspect of the game is wearing down a defensive line by running the ball. The OL becomes the aggressors. Instead of passively warding off rushing defenders, you are pulling and ear-holing DLineman, getting at their legs and trying to move them. While they may not be sending the guys to the sideline, it is opening up some opportunities at the end of games.
You have to believe that the more we run the ball, at some point the running game will free up. Abandoning the run after 2 games closes the door on countless of opportunities. Not to mention, we have chewed up a significant amount of playclock. We find ourselves at 12th in TOP/G with 31:35. A vast improvement of the 28:24 from last season.
So, again, I applaud Greg Olsen for his commitment to the running game. Even when the numbers are supporting it. It will come. Olsen just needs to be patient and find ways to create holes for Williams.
Writers Note: While similar in nature to a JoeBucsFan article, I assure you that there was no intent to plagiarize or produce similar material. This article was written before I read the JBF piece. I suggest you supplementing your reading of this article with his. It's solid work.