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August 27, 2013 @ 1:55 pm
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Tough Decision Looms For Who Backs Up Martin

Written by Gil
Gil Arcia


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A position battle that has been worth watching has been the backup running back spot. All have performed well this preseason and head coach Greg Schiano acknowledges the tough decision that lies ahead.
The backup running back spot has been an interesting one to watch. For now it's crowded with players like Brian Leonard, Peyton Hillis, and Mike James. It is uncertain who will stay and who will go. However, players fighting for the spot have respect for each other and have helped on another this offseason.

2012 Pro Bowl running back Doug Martin ran for 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns his rookie season. With his success, Martin is a leader among the running backs and says that those fighting to back him up have done well to this point. 

“We have Peyton (Hillis), We got Mike James, Brian Leonard, those guys have come a long way since they got here,” Martin said. “Just getting the playbook and learning fast and being able to produce on the field, they've all done that so well. They've all shown a little bit of something throughout the preseason.”

Hillis and James both have averaged just under 10 carries per game and just under four yards per carry with 114 yards (Hillis) and 113 yards (James) rushing. The other guy in the mix, who sat out the game against New England, also has comparable numbers this preseason — Brian Leonard. He has carried the ball 16 times for 61 yards with an average of 3.8 yards per carry. What may separate him from the others is his two touchdowns and the confidence he has in his abilities with the help of Martin.

“You have to be consistent,” Leonard said. “You've got to be able to run routes well. You have to be able to catch the ball. I feel like I can do all that. Maybe some not as good as Doug. Doug can do all that stuff too. But he's one of the best backs in the league. Hopefully I can be his backup.

“He's helped me out a lot to be honest even though I'm an older guy — I'm a vet — with this offense, which is pretty tough to learn. But I got it down pat now and Doug has helped me out a lot.”

The success that each back has had to this point in the preseason has been one the coaching staff has kept a close eye on. Each has his own abilities and it's the reason why the coaching staff has been monitoring that position battle closely. 

Head coach Greg Schiano explains that their knowledge of what Martin can do allowed them to sit him out last week which paved the way for more reps and more looks at the other running backs. He adds that it will be a difficult time for the staff when they have to decide who stays and who goes.

“I think the No. 1 reason is, we want to see those other kids run,” Schiano said. “And I’m glad we did. We got to see them and we know better now what we have. One of the questions you guys ask is, what are you going to do at running back, are you going to keep three or four, what are you going to do. That’s something that’s a real decision for us as well. And the whole deal is, yeah keep that, but it has to come from somewhere. That 53 is a non negotiable number so it’s a hard decision to make.”

Thursday night's preseason finale against the Redskins will go along way in determining who stays and who goes. With two days to go it is still anyone's job.
Last modified on Tuesday, 27 August 2013 16:34

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    I dont think Hillis plays special teams, so he is the most likely cut.
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    Based on what I have seen, I think we should keep Hillis and Leonard on the active roster. I think James should be put on practice squad. However te questions is, can they play special teams? We need to cover kicks and return some punts and kick-offs. I think there is too many questions this year: Can Freeman be consistantly good, at least not loose the game? Will our O-line be the same as last year possibly without Nicks? When will our recievers create separation? Will Darrelle Revis live up to expectation and the entire secondary for that matter? Is Sheridan capable of creating a straegy to stop the passing game in the NFC South? I don't know, I just don't know.
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    I agree that we should keep all 3 of them. As said, this would give us great depth for both now and the future. I certainly wouldn't keep one less lber though as they are great for special teams. They are probably the best mix of speed and size on a football team.
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    4 backs with that kind of versatility could be very interesting in terms of teams defending.
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    We keep them all like Pinkstob said; I 'd keep one less LB.
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    I say we keep all of 'em and only go with 5 WR's on the roster. Who would you rather have, P. Hillis or D. Douglas? M. James or C. Owusu? Page can be the 5th WR since he's a returner.
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    Thoughts on whether we can sneak Mike James onto the Practice Squad?
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