The Past, Present and Future of the Buccaneers’ Running Backs: Doug Martin’s Triumphant Return?

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Sep 29, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin (22) against the Arizona Cardinals during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Arizona Cardinals defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 13-10. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers finished with the worst offense in the NFL last season, but that was mainly due to an awful passing attack.

The running game, while inconsistent, finished in the mid-20′s in the league in both yards per game and yards per attempt. And while that’s certainly nothing to celebrate, it’s somewhat of an accomplishment for a team using a street free agent running back for nearly half of the season.

Let’s take a closer look at the Buccaneers’ runners, how they did in 2013, and what fans can look forward to in 2014.

Season Recap

Doug Martin’s “Struggles”

It’s easy to look at the final numbers for Doug Martin and say that he struggled in 2013 after a successful 2012 campaign. Some will likely call it a “sophomore slump” while others will thump their chests about how he was just a “big play back” in 2012 and set up for failure.

Ignore all of that. Doug Martin was fine.

Playing on a team with an abysmal passing attack, Martin managed 456 yards on 127 carries. And while that amounts to a pretty weak yards per carry average, it’s wise to consider his opponents.

Martin was the starter for the Buccaneers against the Cardinals and Jets, who were two of the three best run defenses in the NFL last season. In every other game, his YPC was over 4. In those two games, however, he came short of 2.5 yards per carry.

His struggles as a receiver were notable, and that’s something he’ll have to work on (especially as he returns from a shoulder injury). But as a runner, Doug Martin was in an awful situation, and still managed to produce a decent amount of yards despite no help from the rest of his offense.

The Emergence of James and Rainey

With the offseason trade to get rid of LeGarrette Blount, the Buccaneers seemed to be shallow at the running back position. Doug Martin was entrenched as the starter, but veterans Peyton Hillis and Brian Leonard represented the only other known commodities at running back.

But no one could possibly predict how the running back situation would pan out.

Hillis would disappoint, Leonard would take a backseat, and it would be sixth-round pick Mike James along with street free agent Bobby Rainey who would step in and provide depth for the Bucs.

Mike James was acquired using the pick from the Blount trade, and he would step in and make a huge impact when Doug Martin was sidelined. James exploded into the spotlight against a tough Seattle defense, but would suffer an injury of his own the next week.

James, like Martin, is a tough runner who more often than not bounces off of the first tackle. His vision is a bit inconsistent, and he doesn’t have a great top speed, but he’s a consistent option to pick up a few yards when allowed the space to get past the first level.

When James went down, it was the former Ravens and Browns backup Bobby Rainey who stepped into the role as starter, and he impressed from the start. Rainey is a smaller back, just like James and Martin, but is a bit quicker and less dependent on power than the other two Bucs’ backs.

He would carry the load for the team for the rest of the season, and perform admirably.

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Topics: Bobby Rainey, Doug Martin, Mike James, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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  • PINN

    “Martin wasn’t as bad as he seemed in 2013, he simply faced a mountain of adversity and was unable to post eye-popping numbers as a result“

    Same could be said for Glennon.

    • LeoTPP

      The one thing everyone praises about Glennon is his numbers. So that doesn’t make much sense.

      And I would say the atrocious run blocking from the now released Davin Joseph was a bigger drain on Martin than it was on Freeman or Glennon.

      • PINN

        That’s not the only Glennon gets praised on by the people that get paid to evaluate talent for real. Looking at numbers has never told the whole story of what a player brings to the table. While Glennon’s numbers have been cited in arguments both for and against him, they definitely don’t tell the entire story.

        Martin didn’t look the same in his play this past season as he did last season. Whether or not he would’ve continued his play or return to his Rookie form is another story. But to think the adversity that Glennon faced isn’t comparable to the adversity that Martin faced is crazy.

        • LeoTPP

          I watched Glennon and saw more bad than good. If you can get me an appointment to sit down with Greg Cossel and talk about Glennon, I’d love to. I honestly don’t know what they’re seeing.

          And I disagree that Martin didn’t look the same. I saw the same guy going up against tough run defenses with a bad line and no passing game. He just didn’t break a big run, and was going against tough competition.

          • PINN

            Yet, you didn’t see Glennon face some of the toughest pass defenses with a bad line and no running game?! Some of the toughest pass defenses the The BUCS have faced in the last 5 or 6 years.

            I think the majority of Glennon’s production issues stemmed from game planning. Just look at the pattern of his play as to how it relates to 1st Half vs 2nd half and having the lead vs playing catch up. I can appreciate most opinions given on any player, but when I read the “issues“ list of Glennon written by bloggers that follow the BUCS, it’s largely regurgitation that points to other amateur analysis as key evidence. Definitely not saying that’s your approach, but it’s worth pointing out.

            The people that have been right most often and have a long track record of film study have a different outlook on Glennon. In my own opinion, I don’t see the incompetent QB that others see. I don’t see the “career backup “ label that’s been bestowed upon him.

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