Buccaneers vs Falcons: Breaking Down Tampa’s Offense

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Sep 14, 2014; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Bobby Rainey (43) runs with the ball during the second half against the St. Louis Rams at Raymond James Stadium. St. Louis Rams defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 19-17. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Running Backs

Doug Martin had a very strong rookie season where not only did he run the ball well (1454 yards, 4.6 ypa) but displayed strong pass catching ability (49 catches, 472 yards). He was looking like he’d be the next great running back but injuries derailed his sophomore season. This year, he struggled against Carolina’s dominant front-7 in week 1 mustering only 9 yards on 9 carries before sitting out week 2 with a knee injury. All signs point to him being ready to go against the Falcons on Thursday night.

Martin is one of the most gifted running backs in the league. For a player with his compact frame, he has unusual speed and quickness. He can get up to top speed quickly and is a tough runner to bring down, often breaking through tackles thanks to his strength and balance. He is explosive in space and can make defenders look silly. He can also catch passes out of the backfield with ease. Physically, there’s nothing Martin can’t do on the field. However, he still has issues which relate to the mental portion of football. To this day, he still struggles in blitz pickups and the nuances of pass protection. He had a terrible whiff against Luke Kuechly on a sack where he got beat way too easily. He’s a player you’d much prefer to send out on a flare from the backfield rather than keep in pass protection. The problem is the offensive line has had it’s struggles and the Buccaneers have needed to keep in an extra body.

The back that filled in for Martin in week 2 against the Rams was Bobby Rainey. Falcons fans would remember his mesmerising performance against us last year when he ran for 163 yards. He possesses a similar compact frame but is a different style of runner to Martin. Rainey is very nimble and agile, with great stop-start burst. His skills in traffic is on another level to Martin. His vision and movement in such tight situations is exceptional, and he also has soft hands to catch passes from the backfield. He might not have Martin’s overall natural talent but he is just as dangerous of a runner. He is also just as much of a liability in pass protection.

It’s still unclear just how much each back will play but both of them share the same major weakness and that is pass protection. But first, the tackling has to improve, the defensive line has got to do better holding up blockers and the linebackers have to come up quicker. When that happens, that’s when you can challenge them with blitzes.