Three weeks ago, there weren’t a lot of people who knew who Bobby Rainey was. Or if they were familiar, they didn’t spend too much time thinking about him.
That’s going to change for the Tampa Bay running back, who rushed for 163 yards Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons and led the Buccaneers to their second win of the season. Rainey’s two touchdowns on the ground and one through the air paced his team’s 41-28 victory and put him squarely on the radar of every defensive coordinator left on Tampa Bay’s schedule.
But can Rainey continue to pile up the rushing yards as Tampa Bay pushes through the remaining six games on its schedule?
Rainey was claimed off waivers on Oct. 21 after the Cleveland Browns cut him the week before. He sat on the bench for two weeks while learning Tampa Bay’s system and then was forced into action on Nov. 11 when running back Mike James was injured.
Rainey averaged 5.6 yards on eight carries and scored a touchdown as Brian Leonard’s backup against the Miami Dolphins after James went down. When James was later sent to injured reserve, Rainey’s role expanded.
It wasn’t just because James suffered a season-ending injury that Rainey’s role expanded. After Rainey broke off a 31-yard run in the fourth quarter against Miami, it was easy to see he brought an explosive aspect to the offense that the Buccaneers could use.
Tampa Bay was set up in 21 Personnel with two running backs and a tight end on Miami’s 33-yard line. Miami had three down linemen, two rush ends and three linebackers in the box.
Rainey burst through the line as left guard Jamon Meredith pulled to help guide him through. But the magic happened when Rainey got into the second level of the defense. He made a would-be tackler miss because he was just too quick, and then he cut back toward the sideline and turned on the afterburners.
Rainey was pushed out of bounds at the 1-yard line, and the Buccaneers coaching staff immediately had to know it had something good in this 5’8” ball of lightning.
From the Miami game in Week 10 to the Atlanta game in Week 11, Rainey’s reps jumped from eight to 30. And he didn’t disappoint. Not only did Rainey run for 163 yards, but he also busted loose on another long run for 43 yards in addition to two 11-yard runs.
There’s no reason to think Rainey won’t be able to be this kind of workhorse for the rest of the season. But over the next two weeks, fans should temper their expectations.
In two games, Rainey has carried the ball 38 times for 208 yards and three touchdowns. That 5.47 yards-per-carry average has come against the 25th-ranked Miami and 30th-ranked Atlanta run defenses. It gets rougher.
|Date||Opponent||NFL Rank||Rushing Yards/Game|
|Week 12||Detroit Lions||5||94.6|
|Week 13||Carolina Panthers||3||82.0|
|Week 14||Buffalo Bills||24||118.8|
|Week 15||San Francisco 49ers||T-12||103.8|
|Week 16||St. Louis Rams||18||114.5|
|Week 17||New Orleans Saints||17||114|
Over the next two weeks, Tampa Bay faces the Detroit Lions and Carolina Panthers, the fifth- and third-ranked run defenses, respectively. It’s unlikely Rainey can gash those two defenses like he did Miami’s and Atlanta’s.
But after that, Tampa Bay’s remaining four games come against favorable run defenses. If Rainey can make it through Weeks 12 and 13 unscathed (not a given considering the injury history of Tampa Bay running backs this season), it’s very easy to buy into the fact that he can do damage for the rest of the 2013.
But when 2014 rolls around, expect Rainey to return to a backup role on the depth chart. Doug Martin will still be the feature back, and it’s safe to assume Mike James will be ahead of Rainey, too.