Photo credit: John A. Babiak/@Photog_JohnB
There's no doubt that the Bucs running game was non-existent through the first three weeks of the season.
Tampa Bay's 48 rushing attempts were dead-last in the NFL and only the Pittsburgh Steelers gained fewer yards on the ground. The Bucs' rushing attack averaged 3.52 yards per carry, which ranked 26th in the NFL, as well.
But things have changed since Week 4. Per Sports Info Solutions, Bucs running backs have amassed the ninth-most carries (74) and the ninth-most rushing yards (326). Their average of 4.4 yards per carry ranks 13th during this span and they have the fourth-most rushing touchdowns (4), as well.
The driving force behind the improvement is Leonard Fournette. The fifth-year back has looked like Playoff Lenny over the last three weeks and his performances have brought balance to the Bucs offense.
"It gives us great flexibility as far as run-pass options, and the play-action game should be better when we're running the ball that well," Bruce Arians told reporters on Tuesday. "He's an excellent receiver. Once he got his opportunity last year, he's not giving it up."
Fournette's numbers are some of the league's best among his position over the last three weeks. Per SIS, he has the eighth-most rushing yards (239), the second-most broken tackles (7), and the fifth-most touchdowns (3) and first downs (14). He has the 10th-most yards per game (79.7) and the fifth-highest EPA/attempt (0.11) among running backs with at least 28 carries.
His average of 4.4 yards per carry is the only pedestrian number when it comes to his production on the ground. Otherwise, Fournette is a top-10 back when it comes to the majority of all the other major statistical categories.
The former LSU Tiger is also being used a lot in the passing game. He has the fourth-most receptions (13), and the third-most yards (136) over the last three weeks. Overall, Fournette has the third-most yards from scrimmage among all running backs since Week 4.
The Bucs are already lethal through the air, but an efficient and productive ground attack will only make the offense that more dangerous, which is certainly something the rest of the NFL doesn't want to deal with.
Stay tuned to AllBucs for further coverage of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and other NFL news and analysis. Follow along on social media at @SIBuccaneers on Twitter and Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sports Illustrated on Facebook.