Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Charles Sims a legit X-Factor

Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Charles Sims came into the NFL with plenty of hype, comparisons to Matt Forte, and praise from Lovie Smith and the Bucs coaching staff. After averaging just 2.8 yards per carry as a rookie following a trip to the short-term injured reserve to start the season, Sims was an early disappointment and failed to take advantage of Doug Martin‘s continued struggles in 2014.

ALSO ON SPIN ZONE: Who are the greatest wide receivers in NFL history?

With Dirk Koetter running the offense and Jameis Winston giving the Buccaneers legitimacy at the quarterback position, the Buccaneers running game is on the rise. As we all know, Martin is back to his old, elite 2012 self, as he’s bounced-back to his rookie form with 80.4 rushing yards per game. Martin has been one of the NFL’s most consistent ball-carriers this season, reeling off 4.5 yards per pop with plenty of that yardage coming after first contact.

But while Martin has deservingly earned plenty of plaudits and league-wide recognition for making good on the Koetter-driven offseason hype, Sims has quietly been a solid handcuff behind him. With 4.7 yards per carry, Sims has enjoyed an efficient sophomore season in a limited capacity, earning 15 touches in a game on just one occasion. He turned those 16 Week 5 opportunities against the Jacksonville Jaguars into 136 yards from scrimmage, following that up with 49 yards on ten carries in Week 7 against the Washington Redskins after the bye week.

There’s no doubt that Martin is the star of the Buccaneers offense and has been one of the league’s best backs this season, but the Buccaneers do have quite the dynamic duo on their hands if Sims can keep running the ball effectively. He’s looked like a pretty darn good change-of-pace back here in his second season out of West Virginia, as the 25-year-old has also chipped in with 20 receptions and two receiving touchdowns.

He also showed the ability to overcome in-game adversity, because in yesterday’s loss against the New York Giants, he had a jump-out-of-your-seat 59-yard run after committing a reproachable fumble earlier in the game. Fumbling can’t continue to be an issue for Sims going forward, but big plays like that will prevent the coaching staff from punishing him, since those make up for the occasional miscue or turnover.

After starting the season with an eight-carry, 38-yard day against the New Orleans Saints as his only effective performance in the first four weeks of the season, Sims has been in a bit of a hot streak in his last four games with 36 carries for an even 200 rushing yards, which is an average of 5.6 yards per carry.

Oct 25, 2015; Landover, MD, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Charles Sims (34) carries the ball against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Winston’s recent success throwing the football has certainly helped, as has playing behind Martin.

But Sims deserves plenty of credit for making defenders miss with regularity, most namely on that aforementioned 59-yard scamper yesterday against the Giants, and for doing a better job of absorbing first contact than his frame would indicate.

Sims is clearly best off as a change-of-pace option, but he could be on the way to becoming a high-end No. 2 running back if he can keep it up.

Progress has been quiet and consistent on the Sims front, but the well-rounded RB  with three-down ability has looked like a much-improved player after putting up a sub-3.0 YPC average as a member of a dysfunctional 2014 Buccaneers offense.

As the team’s backup running back, Sims has become a legitimate X-Factor in this offense behind the rejuvenated Martin, and the Bucs offense has a strong, young nucleus in place with Winston, Martin, Mike Evans, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, and now Sims breaking into that mix.

Is Sims a star player? Not even close. He still has some work to do before he can even be considered a starting-caliber running back in this league (even if he’ll remain Martin’s backup for the foreseeable future), but he has indeed become an asset for the Buccaneers, forming a top-notch backfield duo in Tampa Bay with the NFL’s fifth-leading rusher.