Few thought Bobby Rainey would be anything more than a practice squad player this year, and even fewer thought he would be a starting running back for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. However, due to early season injuries by Doug Martin and Mike James, Rainey has gotten that opportunity, and is making the most of it.
Starting just five games, Rainey has rushed for more than 500 yards with five touchdowns, averaging more than four yards per carry. He has provided a spark to a Bucs’ running game that was thought to be lost with the injuries of Martin and James.
This brings an interesting debate as to what will happen to Rainey next season when all three running backs are assumed to be healthy. Having three starting caliber backs is a good problem to have, but one that needs to be addressed. How much will Rainey be used, if at all? Will he be on the trading block? While it will be a long time before there is a definite answer, here is what I think should happen, and what I think will happen.
First off, I think Rainey deserves to be a starting running back regardless of what team he plays on. He has great vision and great running abilities, which have led some to even say that he is better than Martin. While I love and respect Rainey’s play, Martin is simply a better overall running back, and what he did last season cannot be understated. In addition, James is the perfect complement to Martin. That leaves Rainey as the odd man out. Therefore, I think Rainey should be traded, possibly as part of a draft day deal. He is a good, young running back who is bound to get at least a late round pick, maybe even a mid. If the Bucs could trade him to address needs such as their pass rush, line depth, and secondary depth, then I think it would be an excellent move on their part. Rainey would get a starting gig elsewhere, and the Bucs would get a valuable pick in what is said to be a very good draft class.
However, I think the Bucs will ultimately decide to keep Rainey and try a three-back system. Having three fresh, skilled running backs to use will be too tempting of an option for Tampa. In this scenario, I see Rainey playing at least 5-10 snaps per game, and find it hard to believe that he would get buried on the depth chart. Having said that, Martin should be the lead back, no matter what is decided.
All in all, this is a story to keep an eye on in the offseason. Keep your eyes peeled for reports on what the Bucs plan to do with Rainey, and hope that he is able to at least have a contributing role on whatever team he ends up playing with in 2014.