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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs' Offseason Outlook: Running Backs

An overview of the Buccaneers running back depth chart entering the offseason workout program. 


A new league year begins, ushering in change. From free agency departures, re-signings, to draft selections, the roster evolves. With the Tampa Bay Buccaneers win-now approach as Tom Brady returns for his 23rd season in the NFL, the organization is striving to remain atop the NFC hierarchy in 2022. Each position group will be evaluated during the offseason workout program as turnover shifts the depth chart. Next up in the series, let's take a look at the running back corps.

The Bucs' three-down back, Leonard Fournette, re-signed for $7 million a year and will be the club's incumbent starter. Ronald Jones II signed with the Chiefs via free agency, creating opportunity for another playmaker to materialize on the field. Third-round pick Rachaad White and third-year pro Ke'Shawn Vaughn will compete for the No. 2 spot. Giovani Bernard has primarily been the team's pass-catching back, replacing Fournette on some third downs and clear passing situations.

Fournette is a powerful runner with a lethal spin move to make defenders miss. With a rare combination of size and speed, Fournette's acceleration allows him to burst through holes. Despite a hamstring pull that landed Fournette on injured reserve for three regular season games and the playoff contest against the Eagles, he led the Bucs with 812 rushing yards on 180, averaging 4.5 yards per carry. He cemented his role in the backfield and became an essential piece of Tom Brady's aerial attack. Prior to his injury, Fournette led all NFL running backs with 69 receptions, resulting in 454 receiving yards and two touchdowns. He has built a great rapport with Brady and the two work seamlessly together.

For White, his long frame creates an advantage as a pass-catcher (48 targets in 2021 led all Pac-12 backs). He will be a bigger target for Brady with solid body control and tracking in the passing game. Known as one of the shiftiest backs in the Pac-12, White quickly accelerates post-cut and possesses the lateral agility to bounce to the outside and elevate wide zone runs. His elusiveness in space makes defenders miss and White will compete for playing time.

"If you think back, we've always talked about David Johnson and how his role was in Arizona in the offense and Lenny [Leonard Fournette] kind of filled that bill because he could split out wide with receiver stuff," running backs coach Todd McNair explained. "His versatility is a plus. This kid [Rachaad White] is like Lenny in that aspect. He can split out, catch it, do all the stuff we ask him to do and is a great fit for us in the offensive scheme."

The key for White to earn time under the spotlights will be absorbing and understanding the scheme; After learning, comes application. Ke'Shawn Vaughn has been a dependable back for Tampa Bay. Bruce Arians repeatedly voiced his faith in the club's 2020 third-round draft pick, and he proved the admiration was not displaced. During the playoffs with more emphasis on running the football, Vaughn stepped up. Without Fournette in the lineup against the Eagles in the Wild Card victory, Vaughn rushed for 53 yards and a touchdown. He is able to bounce off tacklers with a low center of gravity, enabling him to explode past the second level.

Bernard joined the Buccaneers last year after spending the first eight seasons of his NFL career with the Bengals. In 12 games, he accumulated eight carries for 58 yards and caught 23 passes for 123 yards and three touchdowns. With both Fournette and Jones battling injuries, Bernard made his presence known in the Wild Card playoff victory against the Eagles. Bernard tallied 83 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown. He became one of the league's most esteemed pass-catching backs while playing for the Bengals and adds an additional threat in the Buccaneers' offensive onslaught. Veteran Kenjon Barner, a primary kick returner the last two seasons, provides additional depth.

As the page turns and the NFL regular season is just months away, the Bucs' running back corps will be one to watch.

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