TAMPA – Going into the second of three games without two-time Pro Bowl running back Doug Martin, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are still trying to figure out the best way to utilize the running backs they do have.
Their original game plan was to use Jacquizz Rodgers as their lead back and to turn to Charles Sims on third down and Peyton Barber in short-yardage situations but that plan may already be changing.
Though Rodgers graded out well last week as both a runner and a pass protector, according to offensive coordinator Todd Monken, the Bucs most effective back, at least from a ground-gaining perspective, was Barber.
The second-year pro out of Auburn ran 10 times for 47 yards, and just as you would expect, that performance has the Bucs wondering if Barber should get a few more carries, at least in the short term.
He has certainly earned the opportunity to get the ball more, Monken said, but the Bucs are a little hesitant to take Barber out of the other part of the role they initially carved out for him.
Because he’s a little bigger than both Rodgers (5-foot-6, 205 pounds) and Sims (6-foot, 213), the Bucs like the idea of using the 5-11, 225-pound Barber as a punisher and closer in the second half when defenses are tired.
That’s how they used him last week, when each of Barber’s 10 carries came after halftime, and as much as they’d like to use Barber more in the first half going forward, they don’t want to dampen the impact he can have in the second half.
“He’s much more of a load,’’ Monken said of Barber. “And as we got going a little bit last week, (he was delivering) body blow after body blow there at the end of the game and both teams were tired.
“I mean, it’s always a matter of who’s going to finish the game, but he’s always a good guy to have in short yardage and as I said, you want him to finish the game if you can.’’
The easy solution may be to simply use Barber a little more in short-yardage situations. After all, the Bucs turned to Sims for one of those last week and the result was disappointing to say the least.
On a third-and-1 play from their own 47 the Bucs gave the ball to Sims, who proved yet again why he’s not cut out for such duty when he tried to shimmy his way through the hole instead of attacking it head on.
Had the Bucs used Barber in that situation, not only would they have met their objective of keeping Rodgers fresh, they probably would have converted the third down as well.
And it’s not like one carry would have worn Barber out. Even if he gets three or four short-yardage carries early in the game he should still be able to close games out the way the Bucs believe he can.