Tuesday, August 18, 2009
The one are of this team with suitable depth is the RB position. Earnest Graham is still slotted as the starter, but I believe Derrick Ward will finish the season with more touches. Not a bad 1-2 combo. Graham is the fan favorite vet, the late bloomer who came on strong in ’07 but had ’08 cut short due to injury. He’s a guy who’s shown the ability to take the ball into the teeth of the defense and gain positive yardage, and I’ve admired the way he seems to always fall forward, getting the most out of his runs. He also adds a reliable weapon to the passing game, totaling 72 receptions over 25 games the last two years. In addition, Graham has also shown the ability to fill in as a lead blocker if/when needed.
Ward comes to the Bucs after playing the dash to Brandon Jacobs’ smash for the Giants. He has slightly less career carries than Graham, but his YPC is a full yard better (5.1ypc vs. 4.1ypc). New York’s line has quite a bit to do with that, but Ward is a talented runner in his own right. Like Graham, Ward is no stranger to catching passes out of the backfield. With receiving numbers similar to Graham, Ward caught 68 passes over 24 games the last two years, averaging an impressive 9.4 yards per reception in ’08. Like Graham, Ward is a hard runner who always seems to get the most out of his totes.
Like I said, I still think Ward will finish with more touches, but I do believe that this carries-sharing scenario is better for both runners. Add to that the Bucs’ passing game weaknesses, and having two lead backs is a necessity, not a desire. Those two backs should account for the majority of the carries, but the Bucs have 3 other backs on their roster who could make some noise of their own in ’09.
Clifton Smith – The Pro Bowl return man brings another dimension to the offense. He’s a home run threat every time he touches the ball, but due to his tremendous contribution to special teams, I’ve been hesitant to want him included as a regular part of the backfield. I’d hate to see our dynamite return man get hurt in a “secondary role”. Well, I just may have to suck it up. The guy simply makes plays, and the Bucs are going to need all of them they can get this year. He’s a runner who can turn a 2 yard gain into a 20 yard scamper.
Carnell Williams – Coming off his second patellar tendon tear in two years, Williams is no longer being counted on as a major offensive contributor. I salute the man for the physical and mental strength to rehab and recover from not 1 but 2 major knee injuries, but how much more can he take? I’d like for him to prove me wrong, but I don’t see him contributing more than Clifton Smith in ’09. Is Williams going to be explosive? Can he take the pounding and physical stress on a weekly basis? Does a 27 year old back coming off 2 major knee injuries have any trade value? Is he worth keeping on the roster at the expense of a guy like…
Kareem Huggins – A.K.A. Mr. August 2009. The free agent product from Hofstra had quite an impressive debut for the Bucs, making quite a bit out of his 12 touches against the Titans. After dropping a catchable pass by Byron Leftwich, Huggins proceeded to turn in positive play after positive play. He’ll have to work a little harder on ball security, evidenced by his 4th quarter fumble, but all in all, there was a lot to like. Huggins (5-9, 198) runs harder than his size and showed the determination you want to see from a guy fighting for a roster spot. I look forward to seeing more of the same against the Jags this week.
So that leads me to my question. With Graham, Ward, and Smith likely to account for nearly all of the backfield carries, is there room or a dire need for Carnell Williams? Huggins can contribute on special teams; something you won’t see from Carnell. Huggins is also 4 years younger and isn’t coming off two major knee injuries. If the rookie continues to show promise out of the backfield, do the Bucs keep Carnell and chance getting Huggins on the practice squad, or will the youngster earn a spot on the final 53 and bring the Cadillac era in Tampa to an end?
There are a lot of questions surrounding the ’09 Buccaneers, but this is one I like.