When veteran running back Giovanni Bernard joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this offseason it was immediately assumed he’d fill the LeSean McCoy role from 2020.
In his role, McCoy touched the football a total of 25 times in the regular season. Not a big workload to replace if you’re Bernard. And it seems in the early going, he’s positioning himself in line to carry a much bigger burden than his predecessor did.
Speaking to Scott Smith, senior writer and editor of Buccaneers.com on the Locked On Bucs Podcast, my cohost James Yarcho asked about the new addition to the running back room. Unfortunately, Smith says he’s doing a ‘bang-up’ job.
“He looks like he’s fitting in really well, and that just makes this way more complicated for me.”
Why would a veteran back doing a good job early on be a problem? Well, for the exact reason I wrote about at the top. If he’s taking the McCoy role, there isn’t much room before he starts eating into touches for other running backs.
“Coach Arians said he considers both (Ronald Jones II) and (Leonard Fournette) starters, which I think is the case,” Smith said. “That’s kind of what it looks like. And then I know they’d like to get Ke’Shawn Vaughn a little more action. So how do you divvy up all these touches?”
It’s a problem worthy of talented NFL coordinators and coaches like Arians and Byron Leftwich. Fortunately, with things returning to normal a bit more every day, they’ll have a full training camp and three preseason games to help them see just how to best employ all of their talented running backs. Assuming of course, as Smith also pointed out, they can all maintain their health through it all.
“I think it’s going to be a long time, well into training camp (and) right up to the season before we have a very good idea - you know, barring injuries of course - what kind of role is available to Giovanni Bernard. Or is he going good enough as a third-down back that you won’t be able to keep him off the field and that’ll cost the other guys some touches. It’s a good problem to have obviously...”
As problems come, this is the variety you’d like to have. More talent than snaps, and a roster full of guys looking for titles, not Pro Bowls. Of course, they’d probably all appreciate getting both.
For more on this and to hear the rest of our conversation with Scott Smith, check out the Locked On Bucs Podcast.