DETROIT — There are few things more elementary in the game of football than a play insiders call “power.’’ That’s the title given to the run play in which the tailback follows a lead blocking back and runs behind a line muscling its way forward.
It is also the type of play that made Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Bobby Rainey a sensation at Western Kentucky University, something the Bucs have taken note of since plugging Rainey into their lineup.
Running mostly off “power,’’ Rainey has carried the ball 51 times for 242 yards and three touchdowns the past two games. And the Bucs think their emphasis on those simple “power’’ plays is one of the reasons for Rainey’s success.
“Power, inside zone — those are the kind of plays that we run here, and he’s very comfortable seeing them, feeling them,’’ Bucs coach Greg Schiano said of Rainey. “Obviously, we’re very proud of him and what he’s doing.’’
So is Willie Taggart.
Now in his first season at the University of South Florida, Taggart was Rainey’s coach at WKU. Once he saw the Bucs running all those “power’’ plays, he had an inkling Rainey would have some success with the Bucs.
“When I saw (running back) Mike James go down (in the Miami) game, I was excited because I knew Bobby was going to get to play,” Taggart said, “But I was even more excited when I saw his (31-yard run in that game) because that was power.
“That was a play we ran all the time at Western, and I started to tweet, ‘Keep running the power, he knows how to run that play.’ He’ll bust a few on you with that, so they need to keep running that power. He knows how to do that.’’
From a statistical standpoint, Bucs punter Mike Koenen has not had a very good year. He ranks 30th in the league in gross punting average (43.0), 28th in net punting average (37.3) and 26th in punts downed inside the 20-yard line (14).
The Bucs, though, don’t much care about those numbers. What they’ve asked Koenen to do is sacrifice stats for the better of the team by angling his punts toward the sideline, which can be used as an extra defender by the coverage unit. For the most part, that strategy has worked.
Tampa Bay has allowed just 16 returns this year, tied for sixth-fewest in the league. And if you erase the 105 yards Seattle and Miami chewed up on two botched coverage efforts, the Bucs are allowing just 7.5 yards per return, which would be 12th best in the league.
“He’s a good example to use with our football team about unselfishness and selflessness, because we’ve asked him to do some things that, without a doubt, decrease his gross punting numbers,’’ Schiano said. “When you directional punt, you certainly lose distance, but it really helps your coverage units.’’
Not every move made during the course of a season is designed to help a team during that season. Case in point: the signing this past week of former Florida State fullback/running back Lonnie Pryor.
With Erik Lorig and Spencer Larsen on the roster, the Bucs don’t have a pressing need right now at fullback, the position for which the 5-foot-11, 227-pound Pryor is best suited.
But Lorig and Larsen are slated to become free agents after this season and the Bucs viewed Pryor as one of the best overall talents on an opponent’s practice squad (in this case, the Packers), so they grabbed him.
The move doesn’t mean the Bucs are done with Lorig or Larsen, but it gives them some insurance should they lose one or both. It also adds a bit more of a running threat to their fullback corps.
“He can carry the football and he’s a good blocker,’’ Schiano said of Pryor. “We just need to get him acclimated to what we’re doing on special teams and see if it stacks up to the other guys on the roster.’’