A weekly look at what the Buccaneers need to fix:
Tampa Bay’s running game has gotten worse as the season has gone on and that’s a big part of the reason the Bucs are 1-8.
The latest example of problems in the running game came in Sunday’s 27-17 loss to Atlanta. The Bucs gained only 92 yards on the ground and 39 of those came from quarterback Josh McCown, who ended up as the team’s leading rusher. Bobby Rainey, who got the start at running back in place of injured Doug Martin gained only 14 yards on six carries.
This is not a new issue for the Bucs. In six of their past seven games, they have failed to rush for 100 yards. That has led to an inability to protect leads and helps explain why the Bucs have blown fourth-quarter leads in each of the past three games.
"If you don’t have production from your running game, you’re going to start with the offensive line first and everybody involved in that," coach Lovie Smith said. "From there, though, as a running back, when you get a couple of holes, you need to make someone miss and be able to get yards that way."
There’s no sudden cure coming for the offensive line. That means improvement has to come at running back and there’s a glimmer of hope in that area. That’s rookie Charles Sims, who made his NFL debut Sunday after missing the first eight games with an ankle injury. He had eight carries for 23 yards and two receptions for 17 yards.
Martin has been ineffective when he has been healthy, and it appears he might not be in the team’s plans. Rainey is decent as a backup, but the Bucs need more from their starter.
The team used a third-round draft pick on Sims because the front office and coaching staff believe he’s an all-purpose back. Sims is the future at running back, so get ready to see a lot more of him the rest of the season.