Todd Bowles wants more running back balance. Will he get it?

TAMPA — While a perpetual debate lingers among fans about what to do with the Bucs’ back row system, Byron Leftwich seems more determined on the issue.

Speaking with reporters Thursday, the fourth-year offensive coordinator suggested the team might continue to have the guy in better shape on that particular day.That was the case Sunday, when the Buccaneers hired the veteran Leonard Fournette (162 total yards) led almost entirely in a 19-16 overtime win over the Cardinals.

“We’re at that point of the year in December football where, really, we’ve got to really put all our thoughts on winning and how to win football,” said Leftwich, whose 7-8 team could win Sunday’s game. 6-9 win over the Panthers to win the NFC South. “Whatever it is, whatever it takes, we’ll try to make it happen.”

The rotation debate was reignited Sunday, when rookie Rachaad White — who has started the past six games — combined for 25 yards in the game’s first two passes. He had two carries (zero net yards) and one 8-yard catch the rest of the second half, and completed for 36 yards on seven carries (5.1 yards per carry).

Fournette completed for 72 yards on 20 carries (3.6 yards per carry), but caught nine of 10 passes targeted at him for 90 yards.

“We’ve got to do a better rotation,” coach Todd Bowles said Monday. “Lenny walked more, so (we were) a bit hot-handed, but I think Rachaad could have played more. We’ll be better at that.”

The Cardinals' JJ Watt (99) tackled Bucs running back Rachaad White (29) on Sunday.
The Cardinals’ JJ Watt (99) tackled Bucs running back Rachaad White (29) on Sunday. [ DARRYL WEBB | AP ]

White, considered the faster and more versatile option, had 114 carries for 444 yards (3.9 yards per carry) entering Week 17 and caught 53 of 53 passes targeted at him. 45 times. Fournette, who is stronger and more experienced, averaged just 3.6 yards per delivery (640 on 179 carries) but finished second on the team with 68 receptions, has clearly morphed into Brady’s favorite checking option.

Plus, his previous playoff success (448 total yards and four touchdowns in the 2020 playoffs alone) could prompt staff to keep rooting for him in Sunday’s de facto postseason.

“I knew who was in the game at the time,” Leftwich said. “Sometimes what happens in the series determines who gets the most reps, but we’re just playing.

“I think it’s the same as in every other position: we’ll put anyone on the field, play your skills, play the best you can and help us win football games.”

Contact Joey Knight jknight@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.

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