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New OC wants Bucs to establish running game

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Tampa Bay is trying to be more consistent on the ground in 2019.

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Peyton Barber rushed for over 100 yards just once in 2018.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were explosive on offense in 2018. They finished with the No. 3 total offense in the league and the No. 1 passing game. Regardless, there was one fatal flaw. The running attack.

The Buccaneers averaged just 95.2 yards on the ground per game, the fourth-worst in the NFL. Whether it was inconsistent play calling or just plain bad blocking by the offensive line, the team couldn’t figure out the mystery of running the ball all season. Running back Peyton Barber was the only Buc all season to record over 100 yards rushing in a game, he did it just once in 2018.

That’s going to have to change. And change quickly. The best teams in football are the ones that can throw the ball and run it consistently. One dimensional football simply doesn’t work. Every single team to make the postseason outside of Philadelphia finished with a top-20 rushing offense.

Three of the four teams to advance to the semi-finals of the NFL playoffs were top-6 in running the ball. The correlation is simple. Good teams do it all and that’s exactly how new offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich wants his unit to play next season.

“I think you do have to run the ball in this league,” Leftwich said during his introductory press conference a few weeks ago. “You watch these games … late-December football, January football, you’ve got to have the ability to run the football.

“Guys throw the ball around, but as you guys watched [in the playoffs], they’re turning around and handing that ball off because it’s extremely important.”

If the Buccaneers want to commit to improving their rushing attack, they’ll need some upgrades. While Barber is certainly a capable running back, there are definitely talented options available in free agency and the draft.

Likewise, it’s imperative that Tampa Bay works to mitigate some of its problems on the offensive line during the offseason, particularly the tackles. The Bucs will have to decide if the mediocre play of Donovan Smith and Demar Dotson is worth their return to the team in 2019.