Ranking the Running Game Part Nine: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Jeff LittleSenior Writer IMarch 25, 2008

Part nine of a 32 part series, a running back position analysis of each franchise.

The NFC South division sent one team to the playoffs. Bucs’ coach Jon Gruden led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from worse-to-first with a 9-7 record winning the division. He did it with a journeyman QB, Jeff Garcia, and a special teams player, Earnest Graham. Since being traded from Oakland to Tampa Gruden has had difficulty putting together back-to-back winning seasons.

The Bucs’ running game was decimated by injuries, Cadillac Williams suffered a season-ending knee injury in week four, Michael Pittman spent the year battling a nagging ankle injury and recently retired Mike Alstott suffered another serious neck injury that knocked him out before the season started.

So to say the Bucs’ were hit hard by injuries would be an understatement. The Bucs’ have a good young offensive line but are growing old at a couple of key positions. Jeff Garcia doesn’t have many years left, WLB Derrick Brooks, WR Joey Galloway are also nearing retirement.  

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 

Earnest Graham       5’ 9”  225 lbs.   222 Att.      898 Yards  4.0 YPC Avg. 10 TD’s

                                  (Post-Season      18 Att.      63 Yards  3.5 YPC Avg.   1 TD)

Cadillac Williams     5’ 11”  217 lbs.    54 Att.       208 Yards   3.9 YPC Avg.  3 TD’s

Michael Pittman     6’ 0”   228 lbs.      68 Att.      286 Yards   4.2 YPC Avg.

Kenneth Darby       5’ 10” 211 lbs.       Signed from the practice squad on Oct. 3rd

Cadillac Williams has been the main guy carrying the load for the Bucs’ but he has dealt with several injuries. When healthy he has performed well but for him remaining healthy is the key. The Bucs’ would enjoy another healthy season from Michael Pittman but he is entering his 11 season.

Earnest Graham turned into the guy and performed well when called upon in 2007. I will also go so far as to say that he saved the season for them in their push for the playoffs. Kenneth Darby provide depth at the position. Monte Kiffin’s defense has finished in the top 10 overall in the NFL 10 times in the past 12 years.

The Bucs’ needs are DT, C, WR, CB, RB. The Bucs’ will draft a running back from this draft to help solidify the position. Tashard Choice, Felix Jones, Chris Johnson or a sleeper pick at running back that a lot of people aren’t talking about but will surprise Xavier Omon out of Northwest Missouri State.

The question for the Buccaneers: Can the Bucs’ bring in some offensive playmakers?