Doug Martin is most likely heading into his final season as a member of the Buccaneers. Although his popularity still resonates throughout the fan base, running back Charles Sims appears to be in line to take over as the number one ball carrier for Tampa Bay.
That has been debated countless times before. After looking at six games from Sims' 2014 rookie season, it's understandable why the staff is high on the 24-year-old running back.
Sims showed plenty of athleticism and shiftiness at the position. He carried tacklers, juked a few players out of their shoes (there's a screenshot of one later), showed decent vision and demonstrated good patience. But, he also struggled -- not often -- with those same abilities.
Here against the Saints, the play was designed to go up the middle where there appeared to be a hole between the center and guard. Sims would see a New Orleans linebacker closing the gap and kick it out to his right where there was lots of open space.
Later in the same game, Sims saw an opening to his left as he was about to run into a wall. He had two options at that point which was continue on in that direction or cut it back up field. He chose to cut it back up field which forced a Saints linebacker to over run his angle. Sims would make a Saints safety miss as he cut back left to gain 20 yards.
Another good quality Sims demonstrated throughout the games watched was his ability to make people miss at times. In the running game he used his shiftiness when he got into the second level. That was teased in the above screenshot against New Orleans.
At Carolina, Sims broke the ankles of All-Pro linebacker Luke Kuechly -- figuratively of course. Sims could have easily tried to avoid contact altogether but instead faced Carolina's linebacker and juked him out of his shoes.
This allowed Sims to cut to his left and as he went up field, he once again cut to his left after seeing a safety approaching him and ran in between two blockers to pick up 18 yards.
Sims demonstrated a good ability in allowing blocks to develop as good as he could with how the offensive line played last year. While a good amount of runs called last season were outside the guards and tackles, Sims realized with some designs he had to be patient before hitting the hole. That was the case in this touchdown run against the Saints.
In the screenshots below, you can see Sims wait and follow a path that would lead him in between blocks and hit the space opened by the line. He turned on the jets and ran in for a touchdown.
His Worst Enemy
Although Sims displayed the above mentioned abilities often throughout his limited time last season, he was also his own worst enemy.
Against Chicago, Sims had the opportunity for a big play. Perhaps even take one to the house. In the screenshots below, instead of going to his right (best option) or to his left, he stayed the course and ran straight into the center, Evan Smith.
There was a safety waiting deep in the Chicago secondary, but it would have taken him some time to get up to Sims. That is noticeable in the following stills.
His patience sometimes got the best of him as well. In a similar run design that was called against New Orleans which was executed perfectly, Sims danced and stutter stepped one too many times in that backfield before hitting the hole after the blocks were initiated ahead of him against Cincinnati . It resulted in no gain.
Sims will continue to learn as he goes. Although it felt last season as if the staff rushed him onto the field to justify selecting him in the third round of last year's draft, Sims showed signs of improvement as the year went on.
His 2.8 yards per carry average does not tell the entire story. Opposing linebackers were getting through the offensive line with ease and a lot of the runs called when Sims was in appeared to be attempts to get him in the open field. Unfortunately, the play up front did not allow Sims to get beyond the first level very often but when he did, it was easy to understand why the staff talked about him in the open field.
Sims will be fine. With a full offseason learning a playbook and the team's continued commitment to him, 2015 should be more productive for the second-year running back.
That is if the offensive line also improves.
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