Bucs WR Humphries glad to be involved in run game, too.
WR Adam Humphries shows promise taking a pitch in backfield.
TAMPA — It was just one play on the Bucs’ first touchdown drive of a long afternoon in Carolina, but it was a valuable clue as to one way Tampa Bay might add life to its rushing attack and balance to its offense.
Even amid all that pass-catching talent, how about giving a speedy slot receiver an opportunity to run the ball out?
That’s what the Bucs did on their first play of the second quarter, trailing by two touchdowns and looking to move the ball in the red zone. From a four-receiver, empty-backfield set, they moved Adam Humphries in motion to the left of quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick in the shotgun.
Fitzpatrick took the snap and pitched to Humphries, who had open space along the left side. He received a block from tackle Donovan Smith and gained 7 yards to the 4.
It was just the second time this season that Humphries has run the ball out of the backfield — he had a 4-yard run against Pittsburgh in Week 3 — but putting the ball in Humphries’ hands in the backfield adds a wrinkle that keeps defenses honest when the Bucs line up in a four-wide set.
“Every game, there’s a play in there,” Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said. “By your formation or your group tendencies, sometimes you’re just trying to do something different. We always do.”
Today’s NFL is leaning on multidimensional offensive threats: Explosive running backs who are as dynamic pass receivers as they are rushers like Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey or New Orleans’ Alvin Kamara.
So if the Bucs’ strength is its receiving corps, and they’d like to balance it with an more respect to the running game, why not let one of their best receivers run the ball out of the backfield.
“Obviously, that’s cool to see the coaches have confidence in me to get in the backfield and execute the play,” said Humphries, who had a careerhigh two receiving touchdowns and 82 yards in a 42-28 loss at Carolina on Sunday. “Our coaches do a really good job of playing to everyone’s strengths on our offense and putting people in the right position to be successful.
Humphries has just eight career rushes in his fouryear NFL career, and he only had 10 carries in four college seasons at Clemson, but he had double-digit rushing touchdowns in both his junior and senior years of high school outside Spartanburg, S.C.
“I do feel comfortable back there whenever they ask me to do it,” Humphries said. “We had worked on that. I was expecting it to get called eventually. We’ll work different looks for myself and different players each and every week. Some weeks it doesn’t get called. Some weeks it does. I was able to get seven yards on that, so maybe we’ll see more of it. Who knows?”
The Bucs enter Sunday’s home game against Washington leading the NFL with 356.6 passing yards per game. Their 90.1 rushing yards a game rank 29th of 32 teams. Tampa Bay is averaging just 3.77 yards per carry, which ranks 28th.
One only need look at last week’s game to see Humphries’ running potential. Of Humphries’ 82 receiving yards on Sunday, 53 were after the catch. Most of those — 24 of them — came on his 30-yard touchdown reception, a play in which Humphries lined up on the outside, caught an inside slant route pass and dodged two tacklers before taking another into the end zone.
“Sometimes he’s not open and you don’t get him the ball. Other times it presents itself,” offensive coordinator Todd Monken said. “It worked out well for Adam.”
So will the Bucs look to give Humphries more opportunities out of the backfield?
“Possibly,” said Monken, the team’s offensive playcaller. “Some of the things we’re doing with four receivers on the field, I think you have to utilize him in different ways.”
Adam Humphries is tackled by Panthers defensive back Captain Munnerlyn. Humphries is a bright spot catching and running the ball in Tampa Bay’s loss.