Caddy's Remarkable Turnaround

SAN FRANCISCO - NOVEMBER 21: Carnell Williams #24 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers runs in for a touchdown against the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park on November 21 2010 in San Francisco California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Going into the 2010 Season, Cadillac Williams was the starting running back for the Buccaneers. Williams had been through a lot of problems in his short career. Most notably, he had torn patellar tendons in both knees in separate injuries, which had sapped some of his skills. But he managed to come back from those injuries in 2009, starting 15 games as the main running back for the Bucs. He didn't blow up the world, but he managed a respectable 823 yards on 211 carries, for 3.9 yards per carries. Playing for a team with a horrible defense and no competent passing game, that's pretty decent. In 2010 he would be a year removed from his last injury and he'd have a full offseason to work on his game. Hopes weren't exactly high for the former fifth-overall pick, but surely he'd be a competent running back. 

And then reality set in. Through the first eight games of the season, Cadillac managed to run 92 times for a whopping 225 yards. That's a mind-boggling average of 2.4 yards per carry. That's not just bad, that's horrible. That's the kind of running that should get you benched immediately. In fairness, Cadillac had had a number of 10-yard runs called back because of penalty, and the offensive line surely shared the blame for his poor performance. At the same time, though, even with the worst luck in the world a starting-caliber running back could never post such a poor statline.

But after Week 9 something stranged happened with Cadillac's legs. Suddenly he seemed to have the ability to run again. In fact, in Week 10 he had a 45-yard touchdown run to seal the victory over the Carolina Panthers. That would be the biggest run of his season, but he was systematically better as a running back in the second half of the season. He managed to get 33 carries for 212 yards in that time, producing almost as many yards as he had in the first half of the season with just a third of the carries. Although that 45-yard run skews the numbers a little, he was still a much better runner in the second half of the season. 

So what changed? The way he was used. Cadillac all but disappeared from the field on regular downs, and only came out on running downs. Most of his runs came out of the shotgun, which along with the passing situation added deception to the running plays. Instead of facing a box full of defensive players, he faced a spread-out team that couldn't swarm to the line of scrimmage fast enough to stop him. 

2010 showed ys that Cadillac's career as a regular back is over. He cannot run the ball and sustain an offense anymore. But what Cadillac Williams can do is be the change of pace back for an offense. He can offer a different look, take advantage of draw plays, but most importantly: he can work as a back on passing downs. He's transformed himself into a terrific pass blocker and a useful weapon in the receiving game. That's where Cadillac's future lies, and I think the Bucs would like to see him back in that role. Legarrette Blount certainly isn't ready to take on that role, and Earnest Graham isn't nearly as good as a pass-catcher. That would leave rookie Allen Bradford or unknown Kregg Lumpkin as the options on passing downs, and I don't think anyone would be happy to see them on the field. No, the Bucs need to re-sign Cadillac as that third-down back. We all know that's what he's best at now. The question now is: will Williams resign himself to his new role, or will he look for greener pastures in free agency?

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