Doug Martin is Healthy, but the Buccaneers Should Find Roles for Other Running Backs
By Nick John
Dec 29, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Bobby Rainey (43) runs against the New Orleans Saints during the first half of a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
In Doug Martin’s rookie season, he saw himself in a rare role in today’s NFL: the team’s workhorse running back.
The workhorse is supposed to do it all; run inside and outside, pass protect, catch passes, and run routes out wide on occasion. They’re supposed to do all of that, all of the time.
They are the sole occupants of their backfield…when healthy.
Unless your name is Adrian Peterson, you’ll probably need a break from the action every once and a while. In 2013, Doug Martin found that out the hard way.
Martin is now entering his 3rd season in the NFL, after spending much of his 2nd campaign on injured reserve with a torn labrum in his shoulder. Prior to his injury, the former Boise St. product had been taking a beating behind an underperforming offensive line, and not getting much of a break to allow his fellow running backs to take some of the load off.
The workhorse lifestyle was taking its toll on the Muscle Hamster, who’s production dropped greatly from year one to year two.
Luckily for him, he shouldn’t be asked to do it all anymore.
Nov 11, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Mike James (25) runs with the all against the Miami Dolphins during the first quarter at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Martin’s injury may have proved to be a blessing in disguise for the Buccaneers, who needed to see what their other backs were capable of. Rookie RB Mike James was the first to get his shot, and he did not disappoint. James averaged 4.9 yards per carry in 2013, which included an extremely impressive outing against the stingy Seattle Seahawks defense, and a great start the following week against the Miami Dolphins before succumbing to an injury of his own.
James recorded 156 yards on 28 carries against the Super Bowl champs, and was averaging 8.2 yards per carry on Monday Night Football against Miami before the injury bug bit him.
Next in line was Bobby Rainey, a rookie undrafted free agent out of Western Kentucky, who came flying out of the gates against the division rival Atlanta Falcons. In what was actually Brian Leonard’s first start of the season, it was Rainey who ran for 163 yards on 30 carries, and scored a total of 3 TDs. He logged another outstanding performance against the Buffalo Bills just a few weeks later, rushing for 127 yards on 22 carries, with one TD.
Behind these three are former Florida star Jeff Demps, and Utah State standout Michael Smith. Both players have yet to make their impact felt with the Buccaneers. They will get the chance to begin impressing the new regime once camp starts.
Clearly, Tampa Bay has some talent at running back behind Doug Martin, and they would be foolish not to get as much production as they can out of each of them. James ran well in limited action. Rainey showed that he has breakaway speed when given a hole to run through. We know Demps, being an olympic track star, has speed that could change the game. The Buccaneers would be smart to utilize their strengths, and not feel limited to giving the ball to Doug Martin on every down.
Sure, he’s the guy. There’s no questioning that. He should start every game for the Bucs in 2014 if he’s healthy (he’s been cleared to play already, so that should not be an issue). However, to feel as if they are pigeon-holed into having Martin carry the whole load would be naive.
You remember Cadillac Williams, don’t you? He’s the guy that Jon Gruden picked to be his workhorse back.
He’s the same guy who was used repeatedly until both of his knees literally gave out on him. He had all of the talent in the world, but never had anyone to give him a break once Mike Alstott hung it up. Even before A-Train called it quits, Gruden handed Williams the ball over 30 times a game.
No matter how much talent one guy has, he shouldn’t be the only back touching the ball.
The Buccaneers have too much talent and untapped potential in their other running backs to only use Doug Martin.