The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are entering a very exciting season for their fans, and there are very high expectations for the 2014 squad. They have a brand new quarterback in Josh McCown, and they also have a new coach in Lovie Smith that will be a major upgrade from last season. Tampa’s defense is extremely talented, and their offense has the ability to be dangerous as well if they can stay healthy.
One of the biggest questions surrounding the Buccaneers at this point in time, is will Doug Martin bounce back in 2014?
Martin is coming off of a season-ending shoulder injury last season that cut his season way short. He only played in six regular season games, carrying the football 127 times for just 456 yards and a touchdown. The lack of production was already a concern prior to his injury, and they are certainly a concern heading into this season as he comes back from his injury.
It is never considered good running for a back to average 3.6 yards per carry, and it is confusing especially after the rookie season that Martin had in 2012. He ran for 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns on 319 carries, which rounds out to being 4.6 yards per carry. There is no denying that he has the potential to get back to being the dominant running back that he was in his rookie year, but he has to be at full health and also be utilized in the right way by his coach.
There are quite a few negatives when looking at Martin as he heads into his third NFL season, and it does call for some concern. It is unknown whether or not having as serious of an injury as he had will have any lasting impact on his confidence. Another concern is that new offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford does not have a history of utilizing his running backs to the fullest of their skills. Tedford prefers to play with running backs who act more as receivers out of the backfield, and draft pick Charles Sims could actually see some decent playing time in his rookie season this year as he fits that mold.
All of that being said, it is hard to see the Buccaneers not giving Martin the football a decent amount. He might not see the 20+ carries per game that he has seen through the first couple seasons of his career, but if he proves to be consistently productive with his 15 carries per game, he might see an increase. Everything that Martin does this season is going to be from hard work and consistency, and it will also show the fans and coaching staff exactly what the “Muscle Hamster” is made of in the end.
This is going to be a very big season for Martin, and it could decide what his NFL future will be. On one hand, he could have another huge season and prove that he was not a fluke during his rookie year. If that happens, the Buccaneers will have found their franchise running back again and he will be used quite a bit in the offense. On the other hand, he could end up coming out and playing poor football, and seeing himself on the bench and not getting used all that much this season.
After seeing what Martin was capable of in 2012, it is extremely hard to bet against him coming back with a strong performance this season. He has a lot of heart and a great work ethic, and he is without a doubt a legitimate starting NFL running back. There isn’t as much hype surrounding him this offseason, and maybe that is exactly what he needs to get an extra edge to come out and prove himself. Expect to see Martin bounce back in a big way this season, and give the Buccaneers a dangerous rushing attack.