“Just A Matter Of Waiting My Time”

August 6th, 2018

Ira talked to GM Jason Licht, Peyton Barber and more for his Monday column.


Peyton Barber has heard all the hype surrounding rookies Ronald Jones and Shaun Wilson.

Jones, a second-round pick out of Southern Cal, is described as a home-run run hitter who adds juice to a wilted run game. Dirk Koetter is gushing over Wilson, an undrafted free agent from Duke who has picked up the playbook quickly.

Barber’s response?

Put your head down and keep grinding for that extra yard.

Tampa Bay’s leading rusher last season has dropped weight and added speed to a sturdy 5-foot-11, 225-pound frame. His disappearance from the 2017 offense for long stretches remains an enduring mystery.

After carrying 10 times for 47 yards against Chicago in the season opener, Barber was buried deeper than the Alaskan pipeline. In the ensuing six weeks, Barber had only two carries and the Bucs ground game went nowhere.

Finally, given a chance in December, Barber provided Koetter with a tantalizing view of his skills by averaging 4.3 yards per carry in the final five games.

“I came in at 222 this year and I’m back up to 225,” says Barber, who can be a restricted free agent in 2019. “I think I’m exactly where I need to be. The way I played late last season definitely helped my confidence a lot. I always knew if I got the opportunity, I could show what I could do. It was just a matter of waiting my time.”

For Barber, the time is now.

Peyton Barber

“Peyton looks really springy,” says Jason Licht. “He’s lost some weight and looks more explosive. We love what he’s doing so far. Back in December, we were really impressed with how he hits the hole. He’s got good feet and a great mindset for a running back.”

Toward the end of last season, I asked Donovan Smith and Joe Hawley what it was like to block for Barber. While avoiding any potshots of Doug Martin’s running style, they both praised Barber for hitting the right hole forcefully and always leaning forward.

“He gets what’s there … and a little more,” Hawley said.

Throwback Look

Koetter craves more big plays from his running game and Jones has the speed and quickness to fulfill that task. But make no mistake — Barber has won this coaching staff over with his dedication and his toughness.

It’s not a stretch to envision Barber developing into the second coming of Earnest Graham, the former Gator standout who joined Tampa Bay as an undrafted free agent in 2003. Graham was such a perennial preseason standout, he earned a “Mr. August” label from Jon Gruden that had to hurt.

But when Graham got his opportunity in 2007 due to injuries, he rushed for 898 yards and 10 touchdowns while helping the Bucs to an NFC South title. And in the opening playoff round, Graham ran wild in the first quarter as Tampa Bay assumed a 7-0 lead against the wild-card Giants before Gruden inexplicably abandoned the ground game in an eventual 24-14 setback.

“Peyton has great lean and a skill set that makes for a good running back in this league,” Licht says. “Whether he’s going to be a top back or not, I guess we’ll see, He’s going to get his chances.”

That’s all Barber ever wanted.

Despite productive seasons with Auburn, Barber was passed over in the 2016 draft.

“My goal is to be an every-down back, someone who can block and catch as well as run,” Barber says. “Le’Veon Bell is a perfect example.”

Outsider Mentality

The Bucs have rushed for only eight touchdowns in each of the past two seasons. They have averaged 3.7 and 3.6 yards per carry in the two years since Koetter was promoted to head coach — in stark contrast to the 4.8 average they brandished in 2015 while Koetter served as offensive coordinator.

“I try to run like it’s my last,” Barber says. “I think we’ve got a talented group of running backs in camp. They’re really pushing me. I still feel like I haven’t secured anything because there’s always somebody coming to take your spot.”

The Bucs haven’t been getting much national love, with most pundits projecting another last-place finish in the division.

“That don’t bother me,” Barber says. “I’m used to being the underdog.”

Now in his 40th year covering the NFL, Ira Kaufman is the most revered sports personality and writer in the Tampa Bay area. He scored a full-time seat at JoeBucsFan.com world headquarters in July of 2016. Tampa Bay’s only Pro Football Hall of Fame voter, Ira busts out columns here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and his award winning podcasts fire Tuesdays and Thursdays. You can also hear Ira on SiriusXM Mad Dog Radio Wednesdays at 5 p.m. during football season. Also a TV star, see Ira now on Mondays at 10:30 p.m. on Spectrum Sports 360 (aka BayNews 9). Ira also is part of the FOX-13 Tailgate Sunday NFL show and enjoys beet salads, Riesling, tennis, Chiefs victories and needling Joe.

13 Responses to ““Just A Matter Of Waiting My Time””

  1. Dewey Selmon Says:

    Problem is barber isn’t allowed to put is head down. 15 yard penalty.

  2. Destinjohnny Says:

    Why does it feel like to me we have a pedestrian back field?

  3. Bucsfanman Says:

    The kid’s going to get his shot and we need a hard-nosed runner. EVERY backfield should have that type of runner. He’s had limited playing time so he should have some tread on those tires. Coupled with an “improved” o-line, this will be the group to watch IMO.
    Our run-game HAS to be successful if we are to eye the playoffs.

  4. Pickgrin Says:

    “Our run-game HAS to be successful if we are to eye the playoffs.”

    True That!

    Really hoping Barber and Rojo can be this year’s version of “Thunder and Lightning”. “Smash and Dash” has a nice ring to it.

  5. Alanbucs Says:

    @destinjohnny. What’s pedestrian about it?

  6. unbelievable Says:

    Well said bucsfanman and pickgrin. I hope so too. We all know Jameis can absolutely shine with a good running game.

  7. Buccaneer Bonzai Says:

    Ira, I have about had it with your lazy self!

    You should have 4 podcasts a week, not 2!!!!!

  8. Buccaneer Bonzai Says:

    I think our run game will be better, but I don’t think its a must to make the playoffs. I think if the defense can maintain our leads and reduce the number of times opposing teams score by a TD, we win the division.

    And we’ll beat NO in our first game 😛

  9. 813bucboi Says:

    if this staff wants to be employed by the bucs in 2019, THE PLAYOFFS ARE A MUST!!!!


  10. Bucsfanman Says:

    Bonzai- I just don’t like the thought of Jameis throwing more than 35 times a game. The defense is a MUST, true, but we also need to balance the offense, IMO.

  11. destinjohnny Says:

    @Alanbucs Says:
    I dunno if we cut every back we had would any of them get picked up??

  12. Alanbucs Says:


    Honestly we don’t know the answer to that question before we see these guys play. It just feels like you are coming to this conclusion before they play a down of football in preseason.

  13. Destinjohnny Says:

    Mate jones would get picked up and that’s it
    You really think sims or Rodgers would get picked up?