One of the more frustrating moments in 2013 (and there were plenty to choose from) was the moment when Doug Martin stayed on the turf after taking a hard, awkward hit to his upper body. 2012’s rookie phenom became 2013’s injury disappointment, as the Buccaneers’ bell-cow running back was sidelined for the season.
Martin was wisely not rushed back to action in 2013, and as a result, he was able to have surgery to repair his labrum injury and is now medically cleared, according to the man himself.
CLEARED!!!! Excited to be back y'all!!
— Doug Martin (@DougMartin22) March 31, 2014
This news vaults Martin back to the top of the running back depth chart in Tampa Bay, with promising young runners Mike James and Bobby Rainey sliding down the ranks to make way for the 2012 first-round pick. But just what can Bucs fans (and fantasy football owners) expect from Martin moving forward?
According to Lovie Smith, you can expect more of what you saw in 2012.
Smith told Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times that the Bucs’ offense would “lean on one guy” but still use a rotation of backs. That “one guy” is almost certainly Martin (although the quote doesn’t specify), which means Martin will return to his 2012 situation with incumbent starter LeGarrette Blount sitting behind him and picking up a few carries.
Unlike 2012, the Buccaneers will have Jeff Tedford in charge of the offense rather than Mike Sullivan. And rather than Donald Penn, Jamon Meredith and Ted Larsen leading the way, Martin will have Anthony Collins, Evan Dietrich-Smith, and (hopefully) Carl Nicks for his third season in the league. So will that lead to a return to his 2012 form, or even an improvement?
Martin’s 2012 play always seemed based on opponent and based on how the offense was doing in general. When Josh Freeman was moving the offense, Martin was taking advantage of a defense on its heels, but when Freeman struggled, Martin wasn’t able to find enough room behind a makeshift line to carry the whole offense.
The same was true in 2013, as Martin never got a fair chance to produce in a decent offense, and faced some very tough defenses before being sidelined with his injury. The hope for 2014 is that a Tedford-led, Licht-rebuilt offense will open up more lanes for the Boise State product.
Martin has what Tedford wants. He’s a juke or a spin away from going the distance every time he touches the ball. So expect to see Martin involved in the offense in multiple ways, much like Marshawn Lynch, Shane Vereen and Jahvid Best were at Cal under Tedford.
Martin also has what every good running back needs: Backup. Only Adrian Peterson possesses the talent and durability to handle an insane workload on a weekly basis, and even the great “All Day” occasionally shows signs of wear and tear. Having Rainey and James (along with Jeff Demps and Michael Smith as wild-cards) to spell Martin from time to time will only make him better.
However, as was the case in 2012 and 2013, Martin can only do so much if the team can’t pass the ball. A shift in scheme and the addition of a capable veteran or a promising rookie should give the Bucs a fighting chance through the air, and provide running lanes for Martin on the ground.