Overview: Austin Powers might be known as the "international man of mystery", but several Buccaneers hold that title here in the bay area, and Cadillac Williams is as much of a man of mystery as anyone. He's been suspiciously absent from the Buccaneer backfield (and the endzone) far more often than most of us would like or expected this season.
Really, mystery should be one of the words used to describe this season. To most of us, it's been a mystery why Raheem and the Buccaneer front office cleaned house and proclaimed that they were looking to go in a new direction and that this would be a violent, physical team. They went out and got RB Derrick Ward to create a RB triumverate of Ward, Caddy, and Earnest Graham. Clearly, with Caddy coming off of two torn pattelar tendons, they wanted to ease him back in the game and they saw something they liked in Derrick Ward as a possible featured back.
Flash forward to Week 15...
The Bucs sit at as arguably the worst and least physical team in the league with a 1-12 record and a basement-worthy rank of rushing yards per game. Rookie Josh Freeman has supplanted two ineffective Buccaneer quarterbacks. Despite his hot-and-cold see-saw performances from week-to-week, the Buccaneers continue to throw at a percentage that would make Tom Brady and Peyton Manning blush. The line can't get a consistent push and the running game is nearly non-existent.
Many fans are angrily calling out the coaching staff not just for the painful results this season, but for the questionable offensive philsophy the team has taken, especially since the FOTF (Face of the Franchise) Josh Freeman has taken over the reigns of the offense. Why do they refuse to run the ball consistently? We hear it week in and week out on Total Access and at the weekly presser that they're going to find a way to run the ball more, but that proclamation gets thrown out with the trash come Sunday, as Josh Freeman continues to air it out 60-70 percent of the time.
The Bucs certainly aren't without playmaking talent at running back. They've got a couple of guys who've thrived at different times on this team, one of whom is our main home run threat and fan favorite, Cadillac Williams. Although never putting together an MVP-calibur season, he's shown to be able to give the Bucs a big-play threat and carry the load when needed... and healthy, which has been a problem for him. He hit the ground running, literally, in his 2005 rookie campaign, exploding onto the scene with 1178 rushing yards at a respectable 4.1 yards per clip. Lingering injuries and Gruden's love affair with the short pass in lieu of the run limited Caddy's opportunities from '06 through '09. Despite the devastating patellar tendon injuries that sidelined him for parts of '07 and '08, he's come back running hard and determined... and it appears the previous regime and current staff forgot he can run like this...
Highlights: The first two plays are an exhibition of why you stick with the run early and often, even when the sledding gets tough early, and worth looking at a little more closely. Just as our defense did against Thomas Jones in the 2nd quarter last week, players miss tackles, take bad angles, and miss assignments, leading to big plays. What's great about having a guy like Caddy is that he can make that big play...hit that home run.
First play is a single back, two tight end set. A simple dive play. Caddy hits the A-gap with a good burst and quickly finds the optimal route to a 12-yard gain and a first down. The key on this play is two-fold, in my opinion... the line, all 5 of them, got a good 2-yard push on the front 7 and locked up their defenders right between the pads. Michael Clayton made a heck of a block on the outside linebacker, which was probably made a bout a 9-yard difference.
On the very next play, a tremendous individual effort from Caddy resulted in the first Buccaneer points of the game. Strong right I-formation, off-tackle run called. However, the end comes into the backfield unblocked and Caddy, recognizing his lane closing, hits the L1 button and cuts left away from the play and takes it to the garage. It almost looked like an iso counter. Good vision, quick feet, and good speed.
Against New England, Caddy runs a simple iso up the middle for a solid gain, showing his willingness and ability to put his head down and run over defensive backs. Faine and Joseph pushed back Wilfork and Trueblood pushed out the defensive end nicely, creating a big alley for Caddy. It's also nice to see a guy coming off two devastating knee injuries not being afraid to take contact with multiple defenders and push hard for the extra yards.
Finally, Caddy hits the hole against Washington, puts on a move, and takes it for almost 20 yards. Although he has not managed to stay on the field, which certainly can't go overlooked if you're looking for a running back to feature, he has good straightline speed and can get to the linebackers more quickly than other backs. That split-second difference makes a huge impact in the runnign game if the line is having a hard time holding their blocks.
Prospects for Week 14:
Despite promising us several times that they're going to find ways to get the running game going, I just don't see them sticking with the running game, which is a shame because as I said before, big plays can be had on the ground just as they can through the air with far less risk of a significant negative play or turnover. Seattle is actually pretty good against the run, ranking 5th in the NFL in 81 YPGA. Despite their blowout loss last week, Seattle held the Texans' backs to a combined 85 total rushing yards. Based on the Bucs' offensive tendencies and Seattle's solid run defense, I'd expect about 11-13 carries for 50-65 yards and maybe one score on Sunday.