FB Zack Crockett spent two weeks on the Bucs' roster earlier this season
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers continue to tinker with a running back corps that has had only one real constant this season: Earnest Graham.
Graham, who has developed into a reliable and productive workhorse since injuries sidelined Cadillac Williams and Michael Pittman, will have two new backfield mates this week, though introductions won't be necessary. Both newcomers will be making their second appearance on the Bucs' 53-man roster this season.
First, Tampa Bay promoted rookie tailback Kenneth Darby from the practice squad, clearing space on the active roster by releasing second-year back Lionel Gates. Then, the team re-signed 13th-year veteran fullback Zack Crockett, who played in two midseason games during his first stint in Tampa. The Bucs had an open spot on the roster to sign Crockett due to the one-week suspension of tight end Jerramy Stevens.
Darby's promotion also left the Bucs with a vacancy on their eight-man practice squad, but they promptly filled it by signing rookie tight end Zac Herold.
Both backs could help the Bucs weather injury-related shortages on the depth chart. At tailback, the team has been without the services of versatile runner Michael Pittman due to an ankle sprain for six of the last eight games, including last week's loss at Houston. At fullback, starter B.J. Askew has played in every game so far, but he's been fighting through his own painful ankle injury. Askew played against the Texans even after spending much of the lead-up week with his right foot immobilized in a cast.
Darby, a seventh-round pick this past April out of Alabama, has spent most of the 2007 campaign on the Bucs' practice squad. He landed there to start the season and spent four weeks practicing with the team in that capacity. After Williams suffered a season-ending knee injury at Carolina in Week Four, Darby was promoted to the active roster on October 3. He was active but did not play in the Week Five contest at Indianapolis, then was released on October 13 and added back to the practice squad a week later.
The 5-10, 211-pound Darby finished his Alabama career as one of the most productive backs in school history. He was just the third player in team annals to surpass 3,000 career rushing yards, and in 2005 he was an all-conference first-team selection after ranking second in the SEC with 103.5 rushing yards per game. His final Alabama totals included 3,324 rushing yards and 70 receptions.
During the 2007 preseason, Darby carried a team-high 33 times for 135 yards and a touchdown, averaging 4.1 yards per carry. He also looked smooth in the passing game, making five receptions for 36 yards.
Crockett (6-2, 240) could help the Bucs' backfield in a variety of ways, as he is a multi-talented player who started at both tailback and fullback during his eight years with the Oakland Raiders. From 2004-06, he opened 25 games at fullback for the Raiders, providing strong lead blocking. Crockett has also started 12 games at tailback since 2003 and he owns 510 career carries for 1,701 yards and 36 touchdowns. He is particularly effective around the goal line, as evidenced by his 28 scores on just 188 carries from 2000-03.
During his first stint with the Buccaneers, Crockett played briefly against Tennessee and Detroit and logged one carry for no yards.
Herold entered the league as an undrafted free agent out of Nebraska-Omaha this past spring. He signed with the San Francisco 49ers and, after being waived on the final cut-down, was added to the Niners' practice squad. He spent one week on that crew with the 49ers, and later appeared on the New Orleans Saints' practice squad for two weeks in November.
The 6-5, 260-pound Herold played in 39 games with 32 starts at Nebraska-Omaha, recording 73 receptions for 1,048 yards and seven touchdowns.