Bucs Need Small but Critical Bump in Rushing Attack

The Buccaneers have stuck to their guns in regard to the ground game, running the ball on almost 50% of their snaps so far, one of the highest team percentages in the league.  Rookie running back Doug Martin has looked promising and third-year man LeGarrette Blount has moved past an early-season injury scare and is ready to contribute more heavily.  Even without Pro Bowl guard Davin Joseph, out for the year with a knee injury, the offensive line is strong.

What needs to improve is the team’s average of 3.3 yards per carry.  That’s a function, in part, of the lack of breakaway plays so far; the Bucs’ longest run is 17 yards, and only Pittsburgh (13) has a shorter top run this season.  A 25-yarder here and there would (and probably soon will) do wonders for the Bucs’ rushing average, but Head Coach Greg Schiano says the key for improvement on offense is just a little improvement in the ground game.

“I hope that when we do run the football, that those twos and threes turn into fours and fives,” said Schiano on the morning of the Bucs’ Week Four game against the Redskins.  “As soon as that happens, you start having a more manageable third-down situation.”

The Bucs are actually averaging 4.2 yards per carry on first down this season, which is a perfectly acceptable number.  They have been less successful on second down, picking up just 2.7 yards per try, and that includes some snaps on second-and-10 following an incompletion.  An unproductive run in that situation obviously leads to a more difficult third down try.”

Whether the Bucs emphasize the run this Sunday as much as they have during the first three weeks remains to be seen, as the numbers would suggest that Washington’s defense is much more susceptible to the pass.  Still, even if the Redskins have looked good against their opponents’ running games so far, there will certainly be moments in Sunday’s contest in which the Bucs’ offense will try to impose it’s will.  What Schiano saw on the practice field this week leads him to believe that could happen.

“It went well, but you’ve got to go out and do it in the game,” he said.  “Practice is one thing, doing it in a game is another.  But you have to start by doing it in practice, so it gives us a chance.  Now today we’ve got to go out and execute.”

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