Not much has gone right for the winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers this season, but amid the muck of an eight-game skid, a gem has been unearthed.
One year after drafting the hard-running Doug Martin, the Bucs have another rookie back playing inspired football down the stretch.
Mike James, a sixth-round pick out of Miami -- starting in place of the injured Martin -- blistered Seattle's defense for 158 yards on the ground in Sunday's overtime loss to the Seahawks. To the naked eye, he looked as good as Martin has all season.
We first noticed James in Tampa's Week 7 loss the Falcons. He was an asset in pass protection, throwing himself in front of Desmond Trufant's corner blitz to give Bucs quarterback Mike Glennon that extra second to unleash this pass to Vincent Jackson:
We've seen plenty of young backs get benched because they can't help on passing downs, but James shows promise. On Sunday, he also ran with purpose, often right into the second wave of Seattle's defense:
"One of the things that was the most promising, there were no negative plays, no negative runs," coach Greg Schiano said Monday. "It was all positive runs, whether it was a gain of 1 (yard), it was still no second-and-11s, -12s, -13s, as far as related to the run game. I think that's what gave us a chance early on. We put ourselves in manageable third downs in the first half and we converted them."
The Seahawks overcame a 21-0 deficit largely because Tampa's pass game is a big bowl of vanilla ice cream. Their route combinations are bland and, Glennon, like the rookie he is, is taking off to run when an ounce of pocket patience would make all the difference:
Glennon senses pressure that isn't there. Decides he needs to take off and run. Bad move. Wright ends up WIDE OPEN. pic.twitter.com/zkMZxJLTkXâ NFL Philosophy (@NFLosophy) November 6, 2013
The Bucs helped Glennon early by using James creatively. They targeted the back on a direct snap in the first half before allowing him to operate as a master of disguise on our favorite play of the game:
The Bucs have their issues, but Martin's injury has led to the discovery of another solid young runner. We'll find out soon enough how Schiano plans to use them both. It's one of the few good problems Tampa has right now.