As it stands now, the Bucs are holding onto four players at the running back position, not including full back Erik Lorig. Recently signed DJ Ware joins Doug Martin, LeGarrette Blount, and Michael Smith. The rookie Martin is also the work horse. Coach Schiano has made it quite clear that Martin will player a major role in the offense this year while LeGarrette Blount has been fading out by the day. Now with Ware on board, there is some speculation that Blount could be on the trading block.
If you believe most of the reports coming out these days, Martin will see the majority of snaps in the backfield by a wide margin. I don’t doubt that Martin will be the feature back, but it seems a little curious that Schiano would want to run his rookie RB into the ground. Especially with a proven talent like Blount on the roster. The Blount situation is interesting if not complicated. He of course has never shied away from controversy in his life. He made headlines in college by punching a Boise State player after a loss in the opening game of the 2009 season. He was then suspended for the entire season before eventually being reinstated for the last couple of games of the season. He went undrafted out of Oregon, but ended up making the Bucs after being waived by the Titans. Of course Tampa’s young team surprised everyone that year, and Blount was a big part of that. He rushed for 1000 yards on the season, averaging 5 a carry with 6 touchdowns.
Last year he struggled a bit, falling to 4.2 YPC, but still managed 781 yards and 5 touchdowns. Respectable numbers for sure, but not up to the standards he set in his rookie season. Last April, the Bucs used their second first round pick to take Boise State RB Doug Martin. The writing has been on the wall for Blount since then, with Morris out and Schiano in. So is Schiano trying to find a scapegoat in Blount for their miserable 2011 campaign? That would be easier than finding a new QB to replace Josh Freeman and overhauling the entire offense. For now, though, Blount remains on the roster, and if that holds true, I still see him as a part of this offense. Blount holds enough value to get at least a late round draft pick from a team in need of a RB like Detroit. So if he stays, he plays.
As for Ware and undrafted rookie Michael Smith, they will likely only see significant playing time if Martin or Blount struggles or gets injured. If Blount truly is getting weeded out of the offense, Ware would be the favorite as a change a pace back and occasional third round option. He plays well in pass protection and only became expandable with Bradshaw and David Wilson on the roster, as well as other RBs on the roster that offer more on special teams. Smith is an undrafted rookie out of Utah State. He likely won’t see the field much at all, being the fourth RB option as it stands now.
This will be an interesting situation to monitor throughout the season as it could one that changes frequently. With Davin Joseph out for the year, the line takes a major hit up the middle that could slow down the running game. Martin, even as a rookie, will have major pressure to perform well this season. Blount may or may not be on the roster by the time the trade deadline comes around. I’ll keep the updates coming as they happen.