Doug Martin, the second of two first-round picks for the Buccaneers, has rebounded from an offseason hamstring string and is ready to compete for the starting running back job in Tampa Bay. Martin's pass protection skills are as good as advertised, according to running backs coach Earnest Byner.
Although veteran LeGarrette Blount is listed as the starting running back and took most of the first-team reps this offseason, rookie Doug Martin, the Buccaneers’ second of two first-round picks in 2012, is definitely in the mix for the starting job in Tampa Bay.
“They are competing right now, that’s probably the best thing they can do,” said Buccaneers running back Earnest Byner. “Each guy is trying to stake a claim on what he can do to help this football team and what he can do to make us all better.”
Martin was battling a nagging hamstring strain during the OTAs (organized team activities) that hampered his ability to take part in all of the snaps, but was able to fully participate in the Bucs’ mandatory mini-camp.
“Yes, I was able to go full go and open up a little bit and get that speed going,” Martin said. “I feel like I have a good grasp of the playbook. Just coming from the classroom onto the field is what everyone is working on right now, and I’m doing a pretty good job at that.
“Camp was just for us to review the stuff that we have learned in the past OTAs and just crystallize the plays.”
Martin was viewed by most NFL teams as the second-best running back in the 2012 NFL Draft behind Alabama’s Trent Richardson, who was drafted fourth overall by the Cleveland Browns, who picked one spot ahead of Tampa Bay. After trading down from the fifth spot to the seventh overall pick and selecting Alabama safety Mark Barron, Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik traded the team’s second-round pick and a fourth-rounder to Denver to move up into the first round and select Martin with the 31st overall selection.
What drew the Buccaneers’ attention to the 5-foot-9, 223-pound Martin is the fact that he could not only run the ball, but that he was a complete back that could also catch the ball and pass protect at Boise State. Martin rushed for 3,431 yards and 43 touchdowns for the Broncos, including 1,299 yards and 16 scores as a senior, but also caught 67 passes for 715 yards and four TDs during his college career.
Byner said Martin’s ability to pick up the blitz is as good as advertised.
“The thing that they struggle with most of the time is pass protection and especially nickel pass protection, but I don’t think that’s going to be an issue with him,” Byner said. “He has done some good things. He has some quickness. Doug is really smart, and eager to grab some of the concepts that we are teaching. He is excited to come out here and play for the Buccaneers.”
Martin is also excited to compete for playing time now that he is 100 percent healthy.
“It’s a dream come true,” Martin said. “It took me a while to really take it all in and get on cloud nine. It hit me a little bit ago, that this is a dream come true. I am very happy to be in this position. It is an excellent opportunity. ”
New Bucs head coach Greg Schiano is a big proponent of running the football and although there should be plenty of carries of both Martin and Blount, he has expressed the desire to have whoever emerges as the starter become a workhorse back the way Ray Rice was for Schiano at Rutgers. Coming out in the 2012 NFL Draft, Martin has been compared to Rice perhaps more than any other NFL player.
The success of the Buccaneers running the football will not just depend on Martin or Blount, but also the mammoth offensive line the team has assembled, including Pro Bowl left guard Carl Nicks, who was signed away from New Orleans in free agency.
“It is a very good unit,” Martin said. “Those guys bring a lot of confidence to the running game. Running behind them – I wouldn’t have anybody else.”
In less than two months Martin has picked up Tampa Bay’s offense during the OTAs and mini-camp. With training camp being less than six weeks away, the rookie rusher will get the chance to make enough of an impression to possibly unseat Blount and become Schiano’s workhorse back as long as he keeps one thing top of mind.
“Ball security,” Martin said. “[Keep the] ball to the chin. You just have to protect that thing.”
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