Buccaneers Running Back in Danger of Being Cut, Says Analyst

Todd Bowles

Getty Todd Bowles takes over as the new Buccaneers head coach.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers depth at running back could mean that veteran Giovani Bernard may not make the final roster. ESPN’s Jenna Laine suggested that Bernard “could be left out” depending on the progress of rookie rusher Rachaad White during training camp.

“With Leonard Fournette becoming a three-down back, Ke’Shawn Vaughn’s improvement and the Bucs selecting Rachaad White in the third round of the NFL draft, where does that leave Bernard?” Laine wrote on July 6, 2022. “He’ll be 31 in November, and he caught 23 passes for 123 yards and had 58 rushing yards on eight carries last year. If White assimilates into the Bucs’ system quickly and can consistently pick up a blitz, Bernard could be left out.”

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Jones’ Departure Paves Way for Fournette to be the Bucs 3-Down RB

With the departure of Ronald Jones to the Chiefs in free agency, the path is clear for Leonard Fournette to be the Bucs leading rusher in 2022. Despite Fournette being Tampa Bay’s RB1 in previous years, Jones was still involved in the offense and competed for touches. White is expected to potentially begin his NFL career as more of a passing downs back which could prove to be a threat to Bernard’s future with the team. That may be the plan, but it is not stopping White from having a goal of winning the Bucs lead back role.

“What I’m looking forward to for the Buccaneers, I know they’re going to put me into a great situations, great spot,” White explained during a May 4 interview on “The Jim Rome Show.” “My expectation, my goal is I’m going in there competing. I want to be the starting running back. That’s how it go. I know I got Lenny in front of me. I’m going to soak up a lot of knowledge from Lenny and that running back room, Giovani Bernard. That’s just the type of guy I am, but I’m always a competitor first.

“I’m just doing my job. Whatever my coaches need me to do, whatever Tom [Brady] need me to do. I’m just there to do my job. Like I said, be the best player I can possible be, be the smartest player. I know Tom can help slow the game down for me. I can learn a lot from him even though we play different positions. I can understand just how to get better in certain ways, certain areas.”


Fournette: ‘I Have to Get My Weight Down’

Bernard signed a one-year, $1.27 million deal with the Bucs this offseason. The veteran running back initially joined the Buccaneers last offseason and was expected to be a favorite target of Tom Brady, especially on passing downs.

Bernard had a shaky first season in Tampa as the running back struggled to stay on the field playing in just eight contests in 2021. The Bucs running back had eight carries for 58 yards along with 23 receptions for 123 yards and three touchdowns in 2021.

As for Fournette, the running back will need to get in better shape if he wants to be a true three-down back this season. During minicamp, Fournette admitted that he is aiming to shed some weight prior to the start of training camp.

“Well, I’ve been here with A.P., just working out and things like that,” Fournette noted during a June 7 press conference. “Obviously, I didn’t get my weight down, which has always been [up] during the summer. We always get my weight up, it’s gonna come back down, though. …I ran like 23 [miles per hour] in college, so that’s why I have to get my weight down, to get back where I want to be. That’s definitely one of my goals right now to play at the weight I feel comfortable at. …I’m at a 240-something right now. So, definitely 230, 228 [is] definitely my range.”

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