The Buccaneers are blessed to have one of the best running backs in the game in Doug Martin. But what about Charles Sims? Should his role increase?
In today’s pass first league, there aren’t too many “bell-cow” running backs, but the Buccaneers have one in Doug Martin. Back to full health, Martin placed second in the NFL with 1,402 rushing yards. He is a dynamic running back who at times, can put the team on his back. Martin and Adrian Peterson led the NFL, and Todd Gurley was nearly 300 yards behind in third place.
The Bucs are also in a unique position, in that they have two dynamic backs. When Martin needs a rest, in walks Charles Sims. Sims posted the best season of his young career in 2015 with 529 rushing yards and a 4.9 yards per carry average, the same average that Martin posted.
Now, I have predicted that Martin will lead the league in rushing. I do believe that, but what about Sims? Should the Bucs increase his touches?
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They shouldn’t alternate drives, as James Yarcho touched on in his over/under article. But, there is an argument to be made to equalize their touches somewhat. Martin touched the ball 321 times to Sims’ 158. Those numbers could meet in the middle a bit more.
Why? I’ll tell you.
Let’s not forget about Martin’s injuries. He did miss time in both 2013 and 2014. In and around those injuries, Martin simply wasn’t very good. Over those two seasons, his peak average yards per carry was 3.7, far from his career norm of over 4.5 yards per carry. He’s healthy now, but the facts can’t be forgotten. He was recently signed to a contract extension that according to Spotrac, will pay him $15 million over the next two years, and $33.75 million over the life of the contract.
Wouldn’t it make sense to protect the investment when the opportunity presents itself?
What can also not be ignored is the influence Charles Sims’ has on the passing attack. In addition to being the second leading rusher on the team, Sims was also the second-leading pass receiver in 2015. Granted, that was in part due to the lack of production on the outside, but it was also due to the prowess of Sims. He was targeted 70 times and caught 51 passes.
Martin has never been this type of influence in the passing game. He caught 49 passes as a rookie, but hasn’t caught more than 33 passes since. That simply isn’t Martin’s game. Sims is the pass receiver of the two of them. It’s not a judgement, it’s a statement of fact. That fact tells us that there will be passing situations that lend toward Sims’ skill set more than Martin’s. Why not give him more of a chance? He is a capable player.
A player that Sims reminds me of is from up in New York. Bilal Powell is a guy that is a solid running back and a solid pass catcher. He isn’t an elite player, but he is a jack of many trades. In 2013, he posted his high mark of touches in his career with 212. A number like that for Sims’, who is a better runner than Powell, would still give Martin a number in the high 200’s, giving him more than his chance to lead the league in rushing, but still be protected.
The Bucs should definitely not go to a “Running Back by Committee” approach, far from it. But protecting Doug with Charles Sims is not a bad idea. In the long run, it’s probably a good idea.