It seems the stellar success of Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ running back Doug Martin, who showed sustained greatness over his rookie campaign, led the Bucs to believe him the Iron Man of the NFC South. The Muscle Hamster toted the rock 319 times, an average of 20 times per game. Bucs’ fans could be forgiven for thinking it was 1987 all over again with a running back focused offense. More impressive than Martin’s number of carries was how he made the most of them. He churned out 1,454 yards on the ground and scored 11 TDs. When you add to this Martin’s 49 catches for 472 yards and a score, you have the ultimate three-down back.
Coach Schiano seems intent to ride Martin’s legs as long and as far as he will carry them. Martin’s presence adds tremendous balance to the offense and gives QB Josh Freeman a nice security blanket, both in rushing and as a safety valve in the passing game. So comfortable are the Bucs with Martin, that they traded away former RB steal LeGarette “One Punch” Blount to the New England Patriots for Olympic relay member and former Florida Gator Jeff Demps, who went undrafted in 2012. Demps spent the 2012 season on injured reserve and so has not played a snap in the NFL. He is small – at 5’ 7” and 175 lbs he will remind some Pewter fans of Warrick Dunn, who, although an NFL munchkin at 5’ 9” and 185 lbs rushed for more than 10,000 yards over his career. It’s hard to believe that they come much smaller than Dunn, who wowed fans and players with his ability to stick his head in the pile and surprising power for his size. Demps is a much different beast – an outside runner with truly world-class speed in an age when the term is overused. But it’s hard to get excited about a guy who may not make the squad.
Who else is there? RB Brian Leonard, the most experienced back on the roster, is a journeyman and a serviceable player. He was an exciting dual threat in college but has been a special teams player and backup in the NFL. Mike Brown, a rookie from Temple, is tiny at 5’ 5’’ and is a return-man only, if he sticks. Rookie sixth-round pick Mike James (Miami) was little-used in college and is a borderline talent whose versatility and size may afford him the opportunity to land a backup spot. Michael Smith has not a single carry in the NFL. This, folks is an RB corps as deep as the kiddy end of the pool. Should Bucs fans be worried? The smart money says yes – despite his thick build and durability, Martin could go down and there is zero backup help. The Bucs have a youth-movement mentality, and that is laudable, but some age and experience doesn’t hurt a thing, especially when the RB is someone like former Miami star Willis McGahee, who is rehabbing a medial collateral ligament injury. McGahee would bring a veteran presence to the Bucs RB corps that is presently lacking. He is a tough inside runner who still can produce. The Bucs need some insurance at the position – maybe it’s time to pick up the phone and give the Florida native a call.
So what do you think, Bucs fans? Should Mark Dominik give McGahee a call? Let us know in the comments.