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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Baker Mayfield: Rachaad White Has 'Vital' Role in Offense

Bucs QB Baker Mayfield has increasingly relied on the ability of RB Rachaad White to turn a handful of quick passes into key plays that keep the offense moving


Rachaad White is the lead back in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 30th-ranked rushing attack, which might suggest he hasn't had a particularly productive first half of his second NFL season. In fact, White plays an integral role in a Buccaneers offense that is coming off its most impressive outing so far.

White has rushed for 378 yards and three touchdowns, accounting for all of the team's scores on the ground and 81.6% of the yards gained by running backs. He has also caught 33 passes for 279 yards, giving him a total of 657 yards from scrimmage. Across the NFL, that ranks 13th among all running backs, right between the Cowboys' Tony Pollard and the Bengals' Joe Mixon. He has more yards than such established number-one backs as Seattle's Kenneth Walker, New England's Rhamondre Stevenson and Washington's Brian Robinson.

White's sure hands and sharp open-field moves have made him increasingly important to quarterback Baker Mayfield as an outlet when his early reads – often in the direction of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin – are not open. It has been both a high-percentage option for Mayfield and often one that yields more yards than expected. The last 19 times Mayfield has targeted White have all resulted in receptions, all for positive yards and five of them for 20 or more yards.

"It's vital for the backs to be able to have these checkdowns and stuff in the pass game," said Mayfield. "Then when you can feature them in different formations and things like that, that's when you really become dangerous. I think the best example…is just that short little stick route he ran in the red zone [in Houston]. It was third-and-whatever, he catches it, splits a couple of guys and almost scores a touchdown, but gets the first down to set up first-and-goal."

Earlier in the Houston game, White had caught a checkdown on the Bucs' second drive in the left flat and cut quickly back to the right, causing linebackers Denzel Perryman and Chris Harris to stumble and springing him into the open field for a 33-yard gain. That was the longest play in a 75-yard touchdown drive. On the play that came to Mayfield's mind, White looped out of the backfield to the left, caught a pass at the six, spun toward the goal line and instinctively jump-cut past linebacker Henry To'oTo'o. He then lowered his shoulders and powered into linebacker Blake Cashman and safety DeAndre Houston-Carson, getting almost to the goal line.

"Those are the things – the hidden yardage when you can catch a ball, get straight up field, drop step and get vertical," said Mayfield "He's got a knack for making people miss, but on that one, he got north and south. He understands what he needs to get done."

White has exceeded 100 yards from scrimmage in each of his last two games. In Week 10, more of that came on the ground (73) than through the air (46). The Bucs didn't really improve their rushing rankings with that game, finishing with just 81 total, but they stayed balanced with 31 carries and White added some of the long-awaited "explosives" with runs of 16, 11 and 11.

"We've been talking about the run game, but I think you saw just being on the same page on Sunday of just better execution overall, whether it's communication up front, guys finishing the blocks, down-the-field blocks – we were better in that aspect," said Mayfield, who has emphasized incremental improvements in the ground game for two straight weeks. "The overall understanding of our system – that's continuing to get better and better the more reps we get."

Just as they were during the recent Tom Brady era, the Buccaneers are probably going to remain a pass-first team this season, as their roster is currently constituted. The quartet of Evans, Godwin, rookie wide receiver Trey Palmer and tight end Cade Otton, has begun to coalesce as a versatile and reliable set of weapons for Mayfield. White rounds out the group and, with what he has done on short, quick passes, has provided some sembleance of a rushing attack that requires defensive attention.

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