Doug Martin Is Not The Problem

Dec 18, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin (22) runs the ball against Dallas Cowboys strong safety Barry Church (42) in the first quarter at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 18, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin (22) runs the ball against Dallas Cowboys strong safety Barry Church (42) in the first quarter at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports /

Yet again, we’ve seen a slew of Buccaneers fans, media, and others on social media calling for Doug Martin to be benched or cut. The thing is, Doug Martin isn’t the problem.

Buccaneers running back Doug Martin seems to be a go-to punching bag for fan frustrations. Yet again, he is being ridiculed, criticized, and bashed. Like so many other narratives that float around, this one is downright silly. Our own Alan Schechter recently asked what’s been going on with #22.

I tweeted during Sunday’s game when Charles Sims was seeing a lot of work that Martin had been running well, running effectively, and I didn’t understand why he wasn’t out there. The responses I received were things like “What game are you watching?!!”, “He’s a bum! Bring in Jacquizz!”, and “Your a idiot” (Yes, always the wrong use of ‘your’ and always an ‘a’ rather than ‘an’ when being called an idiot on social media. I giggle at the irony every time).

See, here’s the thing; Doug Martin has been running almost as effectively as he did last season. A lot – not all – of his ineffectiveness has come at the hands of the offensive line or tight ends missing assignments or getting flat out blown up. It’s rare you hear things from the Martin hater crowd when he’s busting off five, six, seven yard chunks at a time. It’s only when he gets blasted four yards behind the line – yet manages to get at least get back to the line of scrimmage – that they come crawling out to scream what a worthless signing he was, how overpaid he is, or how he isn’t producing and got injured because it isn’t a contract year.

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Yeah. That’s the kind of nonsense that gets spewed.

While working yesterday, I happened to be listening our good friends The PewterCast. As he always does, host Brent Allen had a guest on, then he pulled out a “surprise” guest. Chris Fisher, who many of you know from his days of running the BucsBrief Podcast, does a great job of breaking down and analyzing film. He often appears on the What the Buc? Podcast now that BucsBrief is (unfortunately) no more to discuss what he saw when he took a look at the all-22 coaches film.

Chris and Brent got into a great conversation about this very topic that I’ve been stewing over for the last few days and it was music to my ears. Now, I’m not going to transcribe their conversation for you, but you can find the link to the show below and the Martin conversation begins at the one hour mark. I highly encourage you listen to the whole thing as this was an outstanding episode, but if you just want to hear some jaw-dropping analysis, hit the one hour mark and enjoy.

What it all boils down to is this is the false narrative du jour that has been cooked up on social media and exacerbated by other outlets without truly doing the work to look at what happened. There’s the stat line warriors who look at yards per carry and derive their narrative from there.

I took a look at the coaches film myself from this past Sunday’s game to really focus in on what Doug was or wasn’t doing. Here are a few moments that stood out – both in the first half.

On the Bucs’ first possession, Doug ran for eight yards on this play. Take a look at the blocking here;

Martin was responsible for making one guy miss. Every other defender was accounted for and blocked well. As I said, the result was eight yards.

Let’s take a look at the flip side of that. Same drive, Doug gets a carry inside the red zone;

Ali Marpet pulled to the left and had no chance. Sean Lee and Anthony Hitchens are unaccounted for.

Brandon Myers (circled) appears to be blocking Hitchens there, but in actuality he fell down after whiffing on Lee, who stuffed Martin for no gain. There was absolutely nothing Martin could do. The play was doomed from the snap.

In the second quarter, Martin again ripped off a nice run;

The line created a beautiful hole and sealed off the defensive line and linebackers, freeing up Martin for a six yard gain. Martin read the blocks well, made a nice cut and had a solid initial burst. Not great, but solid.

Later in the same drive, we have the infamous Winston penalty following this play;

As you can see, the entire left side of the line was beat – with ease – at the snap. Winston hasn’t even handed the ball off and there are already three defenders ready to make a play. As a result, Martin is wrapped up and stopped for a five yard loss.

Nowhere to go, no play to be made, but it’s all Martin’s fault, right?

Of course, we all know Martin was slammed to the turf, leading to Winston headbutting a defender, a 15-yard penalty, and a field goal attempted.

These are the kinds of things going on. It doesn’t matter if it’s Jacquizz Rodgers, Doug Martin, Charles Sims, or a Barry Sanders brought here from the past. When the line gets blown up like that, there is nothing a running back can do. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to look and see what was happening in a play to determine whether blame should fall on the running back or the men in charge of creating holes for him to run through.

Next: Five Game Changers For Bucs vs. Saints II

Doug Martin may have lost a step – maybe even a half step – but all the running game woes are not solely on him. Not by a long shot. This team still has some glaring holes that will be addressed this off-season, but for now, the Buccaneers are doing pretty darn well considering the circumstances. Everyone just take a deep breath and relax.

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