A behind-the-scenes look at the Buccaneers' game against the Chargers.
For most NFL teams, in most in-season weeks, Tuesday is the player's day off. It's a chance to rest, regroup and – win or lose the previous weekend – turn the page to the next opponent.
It's also a perfect time for us to discuss the hottest topics surrounding the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And for that reason, the One Buc Mailbag is back! Every Tuesday, I'll be fielding a handful of questions from the fans, but you can send them in all throughout the week. The easiest way is to hit me up on Twitter (@ScottSBucs, using #BucsMailbag), but if 140 characters aren't quite enough to get your point across, you can also send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week, we start with a little dive into Bucs history and then get topical with a pair of questions about the receiving corps and the offensive skill positions as a whole. Let's get to it.
1. Nose for the End Zone
Nate starts me off with an easy one. Thanks, Nate! I know this would be pretty easy for an individual to look up, but this way we're treating it like a trivia quiz. So did I know the answer off the top of my head? I sure did! (Obviously, you have to take my word on that, but I think I've demonstrated a good grasp of Bucs history, and statistics, in the past.) I will admit that I couldn't quite name all the Tampa Bay running backs who have had 10-TD seasons; somehow I forgot Earnest "Insurance" Graham, one of my favorite Bucs.
Two names probably come to mind immediately for any Bucs fans who have been around for a while: Mike Alstott and James Wilder. Alstott, of course, is far and away the team's career leader in rushing touchdowns, with 58, and Wilder is just as comfortably in second place with 37. As it turns out, it's Wilder who reached the highest season peak. Alstott actually got to 10 rushing touchdowns "just" once in his career; he was all about year-to-year consistency.
In all, five different Buccaneer running backs have posted seasons with at least 10 rushing touchdowns; Wilder has done it twice.
Most Rushing Touchdowns, Single Season, Buccaneers
- James Wilder
2t. Doug Martin
2t. Errict Rhett
4t. Mike Alstott
4t. Earnest Graham
4t. James Wilder
Since that was so easy, let's take a moment to look back at that remarkable 1984 season for James Wilder. That was John McKay's last season at the helm, and the Buccaneers weren't very good that year. They finished 6-10, had a -11 turnover differential and allowed 24 points per game. But, thanks to James Wilder, that team could move the ball, finishing 10th in the NFL's yardage ranking.
Kevin House had a 1,000-yard receiving season that year, but the rest of the attack was almost all Wilder. Not only did he set a (since-broken) NFL record with 407 rushes, but he also caught a team-leading 85 passes, which was also a Buc record at the time. That's a total of 492 offensive touches in one season, or nearly 31 per game. Do you know how many other Buccaneers have ever had 492 offensive touches in one season? Right, none. Do you know how I know this? Because nobody else in NFL history has ever had that many touches in one season. Kansas City's Larry Johnson got the closest in 2006 with 457.
No other Buccaneer has ever reached 400 touches in a single season and chances are none will. Doug Martin had 368 in 2012, and he's the only other one over 350. Few teams operate with a single tailback taking 95% of the snaps anymore. Somebody may eventually break James Wilder's franchise single-season rushing touchdown record (Martin has already gotten close) but nobody is going to, uh, touch those 492 touches.
2. Help for the Receiving Corps?
Well sure, they could, assuming White himself is interested. Will they? I doubt it.
White, as most fans know, was released by Atlanta last March after an outstanding 11-year run for the Falcons. A first-round pick out of a small school (Alabama-Birmingham), he took a few seasons to adjust and then took off in Year Three with 83 catches for 1,202 yards and six touchdowns. From that season through 2012, White averaged 94 catches, 1,296 yards and eight touchdowns per campaign. In 2012, he and second-year man Julio Jones were an incredible wideout tandem, combining for a 171-2,549-17 line.
READ: WEEK 14 POWER RANKINGS
Over the next three seasons, White's numbers waned while Jones became one of the league's best receivers, if not the best. They were still a dangerous pair for a five-year stretch, but White's totals last year (43-506-1) were his lowest since 2006. The most obvious statistical difference was a drop in his yards per catch. Through White's first eight seasons he averaged 14.0 yards per catch; over the last three, it was 11.5.
White has not visited a team since his release, though given his stature he probably wouldn't have to in order to get signed. It's very possible that some teams have reached out to him and his agent but, obviously, he hasn't signed anywhere yet.
From 2012-14, Dirk Koetter was the offensive coordinator for the Falcons, and of course that's the reason why White's name has occasionally come up in the media in potential connection with the Buccaneers. Surely that's what prompted the Twitter question above, especially after the Buccaneers' receiving corps took some hits in last Sunday's win at San Diego. Cecil Shorts is out for the season with his knee injury and Adam Humphries has been placed in the concussion protocol.
Still, I would think the most likely move for the Buccaneers would be to address that shortage from the resources they already have on the practice squad. Koetter, in fact, alluded to that very possibility during his day-after-game press conference on Monday. Josh Huff and/or Donteea Dye could be promoted; Huff has been working with the Bucs' offense for about a month since signing to the practice squad, and Dye has even more experience in Koetter's system.
For all I know, White can still be a productive NFL receiver; perhaps he's still looking for the right opportunity. I wouldn't dismiss a player with his amazing resume. I just believe that if the Buccaneers were interested in bringing him in it would have happened before now, such as when Vincent Jackson went on injured reserve in October.
Just to be clear, this is my own analysis of the situation. This is not meant to reflect the thinking of Koetter, General Manager Jason Licht or any of the Bucs' player personnel professionals.
3. Arranging the Offense
I think I answered the first part of that question above, Kenneth. Yes, I expect a promotion from the practice squad to replace Shorts. The more complicated matter is wide receiver Adam Humphries, who is in the concussion protocol. Assuming that is not a long-term situation, he'll remain on the 53-man roster, which means the team would have to find another way to get an extra receiver on the roster if they wanted to have five active for game day on Sunday and Humphries was not available.
We know that Koetter prefers to have five receivers active for a game, and we saw on Sunday exactly why. Had they come into that contest with only four, they wouldn't have had the personnel to run three-wide after the early injuries to Humphries and Shorts.
"The four wideout thing was out of necessity," said Koetter back in early October, after his team had been forced to play two games with only four receivers active. "That's not a pretty picture because if somebody goes down and you're down to three, you're really holding on, or if someone just needs to rest."
However, the situation may be a little bit different now, and Kenneth hits on the reason: Charles Sims. The third-year running back, who was such a productive complement to Doug Martin last season, is expected to return from injured reserve this week and be active against the Saints on Sunday. If and when that happens, the Bucs will suddenly be loaded in the backfield after many weeks in which they could barely scratch together a full complement of backs. Martin, Sims and Jacquizz Rodgers will all now be available, and rookie running back Peyton Barber has steadily improved. Rodgers and Barber both play on special teams, as well, so the team could be motivated to keep all four tailbacks active on game day.
That would be a change. Koetter noted on Monday that the team usually keeps a total of 12 active players between the running back, receiver and tight end groups. The usual alignment this season has been five receivers, four tight ends and three running backs, but he mentioned that it was possible they might go for a different arrangement this Sunday. I would suspect that would have to do with the return of Sims; if you keep up four backs you're going to have to go with either four receivers and four tight ends or five receivers and three tight ends.
Keep in mind what a great pass-catcher Sims is. If you're going to run with one fewer receiver than usual – one option if Humphries is ruled out before Sunday and no additional receivers are added to the 53-man roster – it would help if one of your running backs could be a significant part of the passing attack.