News & Info/Headlines
And it's a story of interest to fantasy football owners.
All this after head coach Lovie Smith confirmed on Monday that Martin is the lead back of the Buccaneers.
"We talked about being able to establish the run. Doug will be the lead guy doing that, so it's very important that we open up some holes and let him do his thing," Smith said.
That wasn't what we expected in the wake of the 2014 season.
But perhaps aware that he was running out of chances, Martin stepped up with a huge offseason. In fact, Tampa Tribune staffer Roy Cummings advised readers late in June that Martin "had his best offseason in three years."
Cummings went on to stress that Charles Sims, who was drafted by the new regime upon arrival in Tampa last year, is good enough to start and he’ll push Martin hard for the bell-cow role.
But Cummings believes the Bucs might be better with Martin in the lead, Sims filling a third-down pass catcher’s role and Bobby Rainey backing up both.
Of course, Martin will have to deliver -- something he hasn't done with great consistency to this point.
After rushing for 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns on 319 carries as a rookie, Martin has struggled to perform and stay on the field the past two seasons. He has earned fewer than 500 yards rushing each of the past two years and averaged less than 3.8 yards per carry.
The 5-9 running back has seen his ability to break tackles diminish, his burst hindered by injury and he has struggled in pass protection. But even when Martin has been healthy, he hasn't looked like the same back he was in 2012.
It hasn't all been on Martin (the offensive line play hasn't been great), but the struggle.
Indeed, the coaching staff seemed infatuated with Sims -- except for incoming offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, who apparently lobbied hard for the team to keep Martin instead of trading him this offseason.
That dynamic -- along with Martin's impressive offseason -- have worked in the running back's favor.
Still, as Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones suggested, Martin's career is at a crossroads.
"No longer a kid, the 26-year-old enters his fourth season and, frankly," Jones wrote this week, "the Bucs have no idea if the former first-round pick still has what it takes to be an effective back in this league. It's why they declined a fifth-year option on his contract."
Can Martin be an elite back again?
"I already feel that way; I've always felt that way," Martin said. "I've had to deal with nagging injuries. That's not an excuse. I need to keep my body in shape and do the things out here that the coaches want me to do and play my role, and things will fall into place."
We'll have to wait to see what Koetter has in mind, but he already knows what Martin wants.
"A couple of years ago, he was getting a lot of touches," Koetter said. "All the great running backs I've been around -- Fred Taylor, Maurice Jones-Drew, Steven Jackson and Michael Turner -- you know what they said to me? Give me the rock and I'll make yards. I'm sure that's what Doug is saying, too."
According to Jones, Martin is ready for more work.
He spent the offseason in California with a new workout routine that has lowered his weight and body fat and increased his stamina. Right around 220 pounds, Martin knows it's time to put up or shut up. .
"Contract year, (but) I've got to put that behind me," Martin said. "I've got to grind, just play. I've worked my butt off in the offseason and I can't wait to get back on the field. ... I just want to get back out there and show the world that I can be the Doug Martin that I was in 2012."
Should fantasy owners bet on him being that guy?
With a current ADP of RB 36, Martin is not an unreasonable price. And if he can regain that 2012 form we all appreciated so much, the gamble would be well worth it.
Meanwhile, the coaching staff remains “very high” on Sims, according to ESPN.com’s Pat Yasinskas. Similarly, the Pewter Report has noted that the Bucs have “big plans” for Sims and hope to feature him in their attack this season.
Still, as a rookie, Sims managed just 2.8 yards per carry in eight games. Among the issues were sub-par vision, burst and tackle-breaking ability. As NFL.com’s Chris Wesseling put, Sims’ “film called to mind a slow-motion C.J. Spiller, lacking the explosive lateral agility and breakaway speed while showing nothing between the tackles.”
That said, Sims was battling a severe case of rust after missing most of August and the first half of the season with an ankle injury. He was just starting to hit his stride by the season finale, when he totaled a season-high 75 yards on 19 touches. Sims also demonstrated obvious instincts and skills as a receiving back, averaging 10.0 yards on 19 catches.
The passing-down role is the one to which he’s ideally suited. And now it seems like that's the role he'll be relegated to if Martin delivers.