“We didn’t have one,” Bowles told reporters. “We’re not going to sit here and sugarcoat anything.”
Bucs running back Rachaad White managed only 38 yards on 14 carries, and the team had 41 yards on 17 rushing attempts overall — reminiscent of its last-place rushing attack in 2022. Named the No. 1 running back this year, White had only 62 yards of total offense in the prime-time loss to the No. 1 rushing defense in the league.
Bowles didn’t level all the blame on White or second-string running back Sean Tucker, who had a yard on two carries. The offensive line played a role, too, Bowles said.
“It’s everybody,” he said. “Probably they made some plays. We’ve got to block them better.”
However, the Bucs simply haven’t shown drastic improvement from the team’s weakest area a year ago. The Bucs rushed for a season-high 120 yards in Week 2 against the Chicago Bears (0-3), but Tampa Bay managed only 73 yards on the ground against the Minnesota Vikings (0-3) in Week 1.
Bowles criticized other aspects of the team’s play, too.
“We didn’t do a good job on first down overall, whether we ran it or threw it,” he said. “We did not do a good job on first down on either side of the ball. And they stayed in third-and-short when they were on offense. We stayed in third-and-long when we were on offense.”
Changes to Bucs Running Back Room Aren’t Working
Tampa Bay made changes to the rushing attack this offseason by cutting Leonard Fournette and signing Chase Edmonds before the draft in April. After not drafting a running back, they signed Tucker in May. Their 2020 draft pick, KeShawn Vaughn, the team’s third back, hasn’t carried the ball once this season.
The Bucs running game took a hit in Week 2 when Edmonds went down with an MCL sprain, and he won’t return for another three weeks, at least, while on injured reserve. However, Edmonds showed minimal promise before his injury, collecting 20 yards on four carries.
Tucker, who had an electric career at Syracuse, hasn’t shown the same burst with the Bucs in regular season play. He has 23 yards on 15 carries plus two receptions for nine yards.
White, a third-round pick in 2022, hasn’t delivered No. 1 back numbers thus far in his second season, averaging 3.3 yards per carry and gaining 5.7 yards per catch on average.
Bucs Could Bring Back Familiar Faces
Tampa Bay could make a change, but the best running backs already have homes for the 2023 season. Fournette remains a free agent, and former Bucs running back Ronald Jones II recently became a free agent again after the Dallas Cowboys released him.
Last season, Fournette rushed for 668 yards and three touchdowns on 189 carries — a 3.5 yards per attempt clip. Fournette sparked the passing game though with 73 receptions for 523 yards and three touchdowns, and he averaged 7.2 yards per catch.
Jones hasn’t looked the part of a feature back or viable second back since his Buccaneer days. He rushed for 70 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries plus one catch for 22 yards with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2022. Neither the Chiefs nor the Cowboys wanted to keep him aboard since then.