Entering 2017, it was no secret it was best that the Buccaneers parted ways with Doug Martin. After yet another bad season, Martin was finally advised this past offseason the team was letting him go after a failed comeback attempt.
But the Bucs, mainly head coach Dirk Koetter, remained committed to giving Martin the ball. As he struggled, Peyton Barber started seeing more work before finally being given the starting role to finish off the season.
Barber finished the season starting four of the final five games of the season averaging 3.9 yards per carry. He scored just one touchdown during that stretch but his vision and ability to run through a lane that didn’t seem possible had some wondering if he can be an every down, every week back.
Working against Barber is that small sample size. Starting four games is just not enough to say “he’s the guy” when there is still some uncertainty.
There also tried starting Jacquizz Rodgers towards the beginning of the season in place of Martin who was serving his suspension. Starting in four games last year, Rodgers finished the season with 3.8 yards per carry and one touchdown.
With Charles Sims hitting free agency and the signing of Dalton Crossan from a few weeks ago, Tampa Bay’s backfield is loaded with question marks.
A quarterback’s best friend is a good running game. Not only that, but the ability to control to clock due to a good running game is equally as important. That is a department the Bucs struggled in more often than not.
In order to correct this problem, the team needs to start looking in free agency ahead of the draft. There are certainly options in the draft, but a running back prospect carries no guarantees. Nor are they guaranteed being able to draft one.
The Buccaneers would be wise to target a few names in free agency to be potential starters. New England’s Dion Lewis, San Francisco’s Carlos Hyde, and Tennessee’s DeMarco Murray are definitely good places to start.
Of those three, Lewis would probably the best option. His five yards per carry average last season looks good, but keep in mind he was also playing in an offense with Tom Brady. Still offers a better option than Hyde or an aging Murray.