Camp is fully in session and the team has been grinding out practices as they progress towards their first game on Saturday at Miami. We've touched on a few position battles going on in camp, mainly at nickel back and the log jam at wide receivers, but there remains one interesting battle that probably won't get much press, but could play a big part in the 2010 Tampa Bay Buccaneers season.
I'm of course talking about the battle for our 3rd running back or scat back based on each player's attributes.
The incumbent third running back is Clifton Smith, or as most people call him "Peanut". He burst onto the scene two years ago with return duties when former 2nd round picK Dexter Jackson kept getting tackled by the turf monster. Peanut proved to be a gamechanger in the return game on both kickoffs and punts as he took back a kickoff and punt for a touchdown. His great season was capped with a trip to the Pro Bowl, giving him much needed security on the roster.
2009 was another story. While he had another decent year returning kicks, he didn't flash the same stuff we saw in 2008. He also started to battle a case of the fumbles. Peanut was being used as a true 3rd down back at times and while he showed good burst, his inability to hang onto the ball is something that put him in the doghouse. In 8 touches as a running back/wide receiver, he fumbled three times, losing one of them (against Washington). That's pretty awful. Of course, he would battle the concussion later in the year after a cheap shot by a Panthers player.
This brings us to Kareem Huggins, or Huggy Bear. He's from Hofstra which is where Raheem Morris graduated from. He brings little experience and has as many regular season NFL touches as I do, a whopping zero. But he was a big surprise in camp last year and has endeared himself to the coaching staff.
Now, neither one of these guys should be asked to do much if Carnell Williams and Derrick Ward do what they're supposed to. But you need at least 3 active running backs each week, and when you figure that one or both of these guys can fill special team spots, it makes them that much more valuable. The only issue is, both of these guys won't be active on game day. There is no need to have a 3rd and 4th running back active or to have just a special teams player who fills no other role active. This means that whomever is going to be most useful in special teams should get the nod. With Michael Spurlock and Sammy Stroughter able to fill in as returners, the decision between Peanut and Huggy Bear will probably come down to ability at the running back position.
Personally, I don't know much about Huggins, but it's tough to write him off, if only for the fact that Peanut has shown us several times that he can't hang onto the ball. I'd settle for a little less sizzle and more ball security with our 3rd running back than have to hold my breath every time he gets him
So Bucs Nation, if you had to choose today between Peanut or Huggins, who would it be and why?