So far this season, Doug Martin has run into brick walls of defenders who have a singular focus. That focus is stopping Martin, the only consistent and reliable player on offense for the Buccaneers this season.
How can the Buccaneers get him going? Check out this statistic from Pro Football Focus and consider what it means.
When Doug Martin is facing a defense with four or fewer defensive backs on the field, he has just 147 yards on 64 attempts. When he is facing a defense with five or more defensive backs, he has 195 yards on 36 carries. He averages 3.1 yards per carry more with more defensive backs, which is the fifth-biggest difference in the league.
And as we saw against the Arizona Cardinals, those same defenders who stack up against Martin to stop the run can also get in the face of the not-so-nimble Mike Glennon and disrupt the passing game, thus ruining the entire Tampa Bay offense by simply keeping linebackers on the field and sending them after the running back and quarterback in the backfield.
So how do the Buccaneers fix this? The answer is pretty obvious. They have to spread the field.
Against Arizona, fourth and fifth receivers Eric Page and Russell Shepard played on a total of three combined plays. That means for most of the afternoon, the Buccaneers had a a tighter formation with Tim Wright, Nate Byham, Erik Lorig, or Spencer Larsen on the field, players who do not dictate matchups to the defense.
So rather than moving offensive players around and bringing in wide receivers who must be covered out wide, the Buccaneers telegraphed their intentions to run the football and kept the box stacked against Doug Martin based on their offensive formations.
And it’s not like this commitment to running game helped Mike Glennon, as he was worse on play action passing than he was on non-play action passing, according to Pro Football Focus. The consistently stacked box simply took Glennon off his spot in the pocket, and forced him into inaccurate and errant throws.
There may be bigger problems off the field that need addressed in Tampa Bay, but it’s clear that one on-the-field adjustment could really help the Tampa Bay offense. Put more receivers on the field, dictate matchups and alignments to the defense, and show some creativity to get Doug Martin free in open space.