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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

GM Jason Licht Dubs Rachaad White "Close to Being an Elite Receiving Back" 

At the NFL Scouting Combine, General Manager Jason Licht and Head Coach Todd Bowles addressed the run game


On paper, the Buccaneers finished last in the NFL in rushing, averaging 88.8 ground yards per game in 2023. Despite the stat line, the Bucs made strides and maximized the dual-threat ability of Rachaad White.  White, the team's primary workhorse on the ground, concluded the 2023 campaign with over 1,000 scrimmage yards and was 10 yards shy of surpassing the 1,000-yard rushing mark. He accumulated 272 totes for 990 rushing yards, six rushing touchdowns and 3.6 yards per attempt. The Arizona State product displayed his pass-catching prowess out of the backfield with 549 receiving yards on 70 catches for an average of 8.6 yards per reception.

White became a go-to target for Baker Mayfield on checkdowns and while the Bucs worked to construct an effective run game through duo and mid-zone principles, the staff manufactured the run by utilizing White on screens, sweeps and out of empty packages to complement the play-action game. He handled the responsibility of both phases successfully, showcasing the ability to make defenders miss in the open field and the vision to hit tight creases. As the season progressed, White ran harder behind his pads, falling forward to gain additional yardage that impacted drives.

"I think he's pretty close to being an elite receiving back and he's made a lot of improvements in running the ball, too, towards the end of the year," noted Jason Licht. "You have to keep in mind [that] he's still young, second year. He's doing a lot of great things. He's one of our better players and we are excited about him."

Multi-faceted weapons have emerged in the NFL in recent years, stretching defenses both horizontally and vertically. White takes advantage of free releases out of the backfield and his ability as a pass-catcher creates advantageous matchups for the Buccaneers when he takes the field. Defenses do not have a tell as to whether it is a run or pass when No. 1 lines up. The Bucs will undergo an offensive transition in 2024 under the direction of Offensive Coordinator Liam Coen. Coen will work to harmoniously blend the run and the pass, keeping defenses at bay.

"The marriage of the run and the pass is what we're striving for," stated Coen in his introductory press conference. "We're striving for balance, but to be explosive in both the run and the pass. That's something that I honestly take a lot of pride in. I learned a lot from Sean [McVay] in terms of the run game when I first got to L.A. We understood and tried to study defense more than we tried to study ourselves – how to understand gap integrity, fits, fallbacks and things of that nature to try to be able to dissect the defense. How can we also run into better pictures? Now, we're talking about, 'Well, can we put a little more on the guys? Can we put a little bit more on the quarterback, the center and some of those guys to be able to change the play [and] get us into really advantageous looks, so that we run into better numbers and cleaner looks?' That's something that I think these guys are eager for just talking to some of them right now. They're eager for more and it's something that's our philosophy, as well."

The run game will evolve in 2024 for the Bucs as a new system is installed. Coen, along with the entirety of the Bucs' offensive staff, will build protections and rushes that maximize the skillset of both White and the athleticism of the offensive line. White proved he is one of the top-tier pass-catching backs in 2023 and he will look to build off that stellar performance in 2024. Revitalizing the ground attack is a focal point for the club as a new league year dawns, however, it is not a "necessity."

"We made some strides last year, but we finished last, and I know 32 is 32 two years in a row, described Todd Bowles. "We made some late-game pushes where we had breakout runs but if you look at the overall totality of it, we weren't good enough, so we have got to get better there. That is not going to be the basis of how we win. We want to be better running the football, but we want to score points. Making it [the run game] a priority, not making it a necessity, that will be the trick."

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