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Tampa Bay Buccaneers Injury Report: With Mike James Out for Season, Who is the Starting Running Back in Tampa Bay?

Brian Leonard and Bobby Rainey Are the Only Active Running Backs Left on Tampa Bay’s Roster

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COMMENTARY | The Tampa Bay Buccaneers finally got a win. The victory was bittersweet, however, as Tampa Bay suffered another defeat. Not on the scoreboard, but in the locker room.

Rookie running back Mike James was carted off the field on Tampa Bay's opening drive, and test results revealed a fractured left ankle, which will cost him the remainder of the season.

The sixth-rounder out of Miami took over for Doug Martin Week 6 and was successful finding holes in the defense, rushing for 283 yards, including 158 yards against Seattle's stout defensive line.

Brian Leonard was the main beneficiary of James' injury, gaining 57 yards on 20 carries. But waiver pickup Bobby Rainey was the more explosive of the two backs, and earned himself a bigger role going forward. He rushed eight times for 45 yards, including a 31-yard scamper early in the fourth quarter. He punched it in from one-yard out on the next play, giving Tampa Bay the go-ahead score.

Leonard received the most carries, but Tampa Bay likes to use him as a third-down back, and I'd be surprised if they changed his role this late into the season. He's an exceptional receiving back, but he doesn't move well between the tackles, as evidenced by his 2.9 yards-per-carry against the Dolphins.

Tampa Bay signed Rainey just three weeks ago after he was let go by the Cleveland Browns. He is quick off the line of scrimmage, maneuvers well between the tackles, and shows good vision. More importantly for Tampa Bay, he has experience as a work-horse back -- an asset that coach Greg Schiano desires.

At Western Kentucky, Rainey led the nation in carries and total plays from scrimmage during his junior and senior years. His senior year, in particular, he combined for more than 2,000 yards from scrimmage, scored 17 touchdowns, and averaged 4.6 yards-per-carry. He was the conference offensive player of the year his junior and senior years, and after nearly 900 collegiate carries, he averaged 5.1 yards-per-attempt in his career.

Leonard knows the offense better than Rainey, so Schiano will probably feel more comfortable starting him next Sunday at home against the Atlanta Falcons. However, as the game progresses, I expect Rainey to receive more carries because he better fits Tampa's style of play.

Rainey is capable of being a serviceable fantasy football running back for the remainder of the season. Tampa Bay has made it a point to run the ball, and decrease the number of passing attempts for rookie quarterback Mike Glennon. Both running backs should be good for 10-12 carries a game, with Rainey getting the advantage because of his big-play ability.

James LoPresti lives in Tampa and has a journalism degree from the University of South Florida. He has eight years experience working in print media with the Tampa Tribune. Follow him on Twitter @JLoPresti3114.


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