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Bucs’ Usage Of Rookie RB White Continues To Baffle

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By: Bailey Adams

The Bucs’ offensive coaches have done plenty of questionable things throughout the 2022 season, but perhaps the biggest recurring theme has been the sporadic and baffling use of rookie running back Rachaad White. The team’s third-round pick has continued to show week by week that he’s deserving of more snaps – perhaps more of a 50/50 split with Leonard Fournette. Yet most weeks, it’s Fournette out-snapping White, and often by a significant margin.

Bucs RB Leonard Fournette – Photo by: USA Today

The latest example came in Sunday’s 19-16 overtime win over the Cardinals in Arizona. Fournette touched the ball 29 times, and to be fair, he did well with those 29 touches. The veteran back ran for 72 yards on 20 carries (3.6 avg.) and caught nine of his 10 targets for 90 yards.

But there were times during the game when the offense seemed to be screaming for a dynamic playmaker. That’s what White is. He opened the game with two runs for 25 yards and averaged 5.1 yards per carry on the night. However, he only got seven carries to go with his four targets in the passing game.

At this point in their respective careers, White is the more dynamic running back than Fournette is. And it shows. White has far more speed, which means it’s worth wondering what he would’ve done with the ball on Fournette’s 44-yard catch-and-run or his 23-yard run on Sunday night. That’s not to take anything away from “Sunday Night Lenny,” as those were two of the game’s bigger plays.

But why is Byron Leftwich, the engineer behind this stagnant offense, seemingly allergic to giving White more opportunities? What is there to lose when you’re constantly going three-and-out and putting more pressure on your own defense? What’s stopping you from giving White a carry after Fournette is stuffed on a second-and-1 (and then again on a third-and-1)? Why does it seem like it’s impossible for both running backs to see action on the same drive?

It’s maddening.

Bucs RB Rachaad White

Bucs RB Rachaad White – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

And as Bucs head coach Todd Bowles has been asked about White throughout the season, he has said time and again that he would like to see more of the rookie. Now, he’s the defensive play caller, and for better or worse, he has left the offense to Leftwich. But this is still his team, and it’s almost gotten to the point where it feels like Bowles’ desire to see more of his rookie running back is being flat-out ignored.

Is it a Tom Brady thing? Does Brady trust the veteran Fournette more than the rookie? That doesn’t seem plausible, given Brady’s praise of White throughout the season. Not to mention, Brady has looked White’s way in clutch situations fairly often throughout the year.

So, what gives? Bowles was asked on Monday whether or not there was a reason why White finished Sunday night with only 29 snaps.

“No, we’ve got to rotate it a little bit better,” Bowles said. “‘Lenny’ (Leonard Fournette) got going a little bit more, so [we] rode the hot hand a little bit, but I thought Rachaad could have gotten in there some more plays. We’ll be better at that going forward.”

Will The Bucs Actually Be Better About Using White Going Forward?

Bucs QB Tom Brady and RB Rachaad White

Bucs QB Tom Brady and RB Rachaad White – Photo by: USA Today

It’s hard to imagine Tampa Bay actually being better about its usage of White over the final two games of the season. Bowles has been publicly pleading for Leftwich and the offense to make better use of White since Week 3. During his Monday press conference following the Bucs’ 14-12 loss to the Packers, he mentioned the need to see more of White, as well as No. 3 running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn.

“We’ve got to play the other two more,” Bowles said. “When ‘Lenny’ gets in the flow, we’ve still got to play the other two more. We went in the game that way. We didn’t have [the ball] a lot in the first half, but that still should not be a reason to not play the other guys, and we’ll make sure that gets done.”

Weeks passed and while White got a few chances to flash here and there, it still wasn’t the significant jump in playing time that could’ve potentially benefitted the struggling offense. After the Bucs’ 21-3 loss to the Panthers, Bowles was once again asked about White.

“He’s not running back one, but he should get some more plays,” he said. “We’ve always talked about every week. He does some good things when the ball’s in his hands, he does some good things when he’s out there. Obviously, Leonard [Fournette] is a great running back as well, so we’ve got to find a happy medium and have both of them touch the ball.”

Bucs RB Rachaad White

Bucs RB Rachaad White – Photo by: USA Today

Did the Bucs find a happy medium after that game? Not exactly. White got the start and ran for a career-high 105 yards in the team’s win over the Seahawks in Germany, but the rookie’s start was explained away as the offense simply opening the game with a different personnel package than normal. Sure enough, things didn’t really even out between the two running backs.

Then, after White out-snapped Fournette 40-36 during Tampa Bay’s 35-7 loss to San Francisco in Week 14, Bowles seemed to indicate that at least some progress had been made with the offense in that respect.

“It’s a little different, it’s a little more different. Rachaad is involved a little bit more, obviously,” he said. “We’ve got the running game going a little bit better, not as much as we want it to be. It’s a little bit more and it’s spread out; we’re trying to spread the ball around some. There’s been some injuries taking place since then so the line looks a little bit different as well. But for the most point, we’ve got to score more points, we understand that. And that helps with the offense scoring more and the defense getting more turnovers.”

Whatever baby steps were taken by involving White more in the offense seemed to be moot after the Bucs lost to the Bengals, 34-23, in Week 15. Fournette out-snapped White 43-29 and when he was asked if that was the plan going into the game, Bowles made his feelings clear.

“It’s kind of how it worked out,” he said. “It wasn’t by design.”

For the season, Fournette has out-snapped White 650-420. And while he is the team’s $7 million running back, Fournette’s play hasn’t warranted such a discrepancy. As Bowles has continuously said, there has to be a middle ground.

At Least There’s No Drama In The Tampa Bay Backfield, Right?

Bucs RBs Leonard Fournette and Rachaad White

Bucs RBs Leonard Fournette and Rachaad White – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

As much talk as there’s been about the Bucs’ poor run game, there hasn’t been any drama between the incumbent starter and the up-and-coming rookie. For his part, White is simply taking the opportunities as they come.

“I’m just a big guy on opportunities, so that’s kind of what I focus on,” White said during the team’s bye week. “When opportunities come, I just have to make the best of them – that’s up to me to make them. I got a lot of great guys in my corner, my family and my friends and things like that and we all understand that life is about opportunities. Eventually everyone is going to get their shot and when you get your shot, it’s about what you make of it.”
As for Fournette, Bowles said the veteran is a “true pro” who sees what White has to offer for the team.
“‘Lenny’ is a true pro,” Bowles said. “He understood it, he knows Rachaad is up and coming. He knows he has a lot to offer as well. It really doesn’t matter who starts for us between the two, it’s about who gets hot during the game and then who makes the plays. So, he’s a team player and we’re happy he is.

For the sake of the Bucs’ offense – and for the sake of Bowles not having to repeat himself for what would feel like 18th time next Monday – White needs to see more snaps, more carries and more targets against the Panthers in Week 17. But can we expect that to be the case? Given the track record we’ve seen on display all season long, don’t hold your breath.

The post Bucs’ Usage Of Rookie RB White Continues To Baffle appeared first on Pewter Report.

Originally posted on Pewter Report