Running back Warrick Dunn is 33 years old and entering his 12th season as an NFL back. Dunn played his first five seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and his last six with the Atlanta Falcons. Now he’s headed back to the Buccaneers.

Does Dunn have enough wind left in his sails to contribute to the running game of a club whose lead back, Cadillac Williams, is questionable? Williams was knocked out of the 2007 season with a serious knee injury. Just how healthy he’ll be for the 2008 season is unknown.

RB Earnest Graham, now entering his fifth NFL season, will be the likely starter for the Bucs. Last season, he had 898 yards on 222 carries, averaging 4.1 yards per attempt. Graham scored 10 touchdowns. He also caught 49 passes for 324 yards, averaging 6.6 yards per catch. Graham is versatile and young and should be all set to go.

In 2007, Tampa Bay finished 11th in rushing offense and 18th in overall offense. Dunn could help the Bucs expand their running game, giving them a guy who can explode off the line. Last season with the Falcons, Dunn had 227 carries for 720 yards and 37 receptions for 238 yards. He made only four touchdowns, while averaging just 3.2 yards per carry and 6.4 yards per catch. Those stats aren’t stellar, but they aren’t bad either.

No one is going to say that Dunn isn’t tough. Despite being bothered by a season-long back injury last year, he played in all 16 games. Still, everyone has to question if he can keep up the pace that has allowed him to play in every game from 2004 to 2007.

One thing to be concerned about is the running back’s age. At 33, Dunn is at that point in his career where runners start to show their age and cracks begin to appear in their muscular veneer from the constant beatings that they’ve taken. The back trouble, although apparently healed, is also worrisome. Often, when an aging athlete has back problems one season, they suffer from them again in succeeding seasons.

Over the course of various seasons, Dunn has been affected by the wear and tear of a 16-game season. As he gets bruised and battered, he tends to lose a step or two. His small frame makes him susceptible to fatigue.

The pluses for Dunn are numerous. Along with possessing impressive power and a keen ability to rapidly accelerate, he knows how to use his blockers, find the open field and turn apparently short gains into long runs. Dunn’s balance is excellent, and he ably shifts and slides by would be tacklers. He’s got good hands, making him a reliable receiver.

Dunn can be a major player in John Gruden’s West Coast offense. Gruden likes to mix it up a lot, create numerous looks and use each payer in various ways. If Dunn can stay healthy, he’s a perfect match for the Bucs.

Paul mroczka
Sports Pundit member

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