RB Doug Martin – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Often met by a defensive lineman as soon as he touched the ball, Bucs running back Doug Martin was only able to gain 42 yards on 16 carries last Sunday in Dallas.
The frustrating night largely summarized his season. Since returning from a strained hamstring in Week 10, the former Pro Bowler hasn’t eclipsed 90 yards in a game and is averaging 2.7 per attempt behind a patchwork offensive line. Last year he had seven 90-yard-plus efforts, averaging 4.9 yards a carry en route to finishing as the NFL’s second-leading rusher.
The recent trend, however, has been a reflection of the run game as a whole, not just the runner. Coach Dirk Koetter has defended Martin in recent weeks – saying he’s been running “hard” – and on Thursday Martin reminded reporters of the collective effort it takes to run the ball successfully.
“There are 11 guys on the field, and a run play takes all 11 guys to do their job,” Martin said. “We just have to come together, just everybody to be a little more detail-oriented, (starting) with myself, and then the linemen and receivers blocking downfield. If we do all that together, those (breakout) games will come.
“We didn’t get what we wanted to get done in the ground game (in Dallas). But we watched the tape and learned from it and now we’re moving on to the Saints.”
In the Saints, the Bucs will face the league’s 17th ranked run-defense, allowing 106 on the ground per game. Martin didn’t quite meet the opponents’ average when the teams last squared off two weeks ago – 23 carries for 66 yards and a TD – but a closer look at that game would show tough running against an underrated front seven.
As for this Saturday, Martin said it’s helpful to have familiarity with the defense.
“It allows you to play faster, react faster and not think as much during the game,” he said.
The Bucs will be without Demar Dotson (concussion) once again, as well as Gosder Cherilus, who suffered a groin strain in Dallas. So while Martin may not need to think as much, rookie Leonard Wester – or whoever gets the nod – will have to read and react to Cameron Jordan and Sheldon Rankins along the Saints defensive line.
If Tampa Bay can get the run game going, though, don’t expect it to stop. Along with keeping Drew Brees on the sideline, Koetter has made it clear that the Bucs intend to be a run-first offense. And Martin is on board with that plan.
“That’s something to take pride in, being the more physical team out there,” Martin said. “If we can do that, we can run the table.”
Zach is entering his 3rd year covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a writer for PewterReport.com. Since 2014, he's handled a large part of the beat reporting responsibilities at PR, attending all media gatherings and publishing and promoting content daily. Zach is a native of Sarasota, FL, and a graduate of the University of Tampa. He has also covered high school football for the Tampa Tribune and the NFL for Pro Player Insiders.
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Why is Jacquizz Rodgers not getting more carries? He has a full 1.5 more yards per carry than Martin and is still the team’s leading rusher despite not even being active last week. Salary shouldn’t dictate carries.
Dirk doesn’t pay any attention to salaries – he couldn’t care less what the front office pays any of his players. He pays attention to the players. He knows them far better than you or I do. If he thought Rodgers would produce better than Martin, he would give more carries to Rodgers. And at the end of the day and end of the season, Dirk Koetter will be held accountable for how he coaches and uses his players.
As for Rodgers, we don’t know how well he’s recovered the injury that put him on the bench. Maybe he’s 100%, maybe not. Dirk would know that, we don’t. Also, how good of a pass blocker is Rodgers compared to Winston? Winston is pretty good in that department. I don’t recall Rodgers’ performance in pass blocking. Given the injury depleted offensive line, and if Martin is the better blocker, that might explain why he gets the bulk of the snaps.
Oops – brain fart .. meant to say, on subject of pass blocking, Martin is good in that department, obviously not Winston. Darn lack of an edit button!
We all hope so. If the Buccaneers cannot run against the Saints it’s going to be very hard to win that game. All this talk about the playoffs is premature IMO. What matters, the ONLY thing that matters, is the game on Christmas Eve in New Orleans. And to win it, the Buccaneers are going to have to run the ball successfully. They will need to control the clock, keep the ball out of Brees’ hand and make play action viable.
It’s huge and if Doug can’t do it the Buccaneers need to have Rodgers active to be ready to contribute.
Garv, I hear you and agree; just not sure where they find another RT that will be effective. The Saints are going to play seven men up tight on the LOS. We surely are in trouble; hate to be negative, but somehow we have to find a way to win with our defense. Go Bucs!
I do think Doug Martin is “running hard” as Dirk notes. In spite of the effort, the desired results are nowhere near being accomplished. After being so effective running the football last season, even with a rookie QB, the only thing different, as Dr.D pointed out, is the insertion of Panphile for Mankins at LG. So, is that the source of the stymied running game?
As Naples said, we don’t know if Rodgers is still nursing an injury. I do think his pass protection skills are sufficient enough to remove that from the equation when evaluating the overall effectiveness of both RB’s. Teams seem to be more focused on stacking the line of scrimmage to stifle the run with our passing game so dependent on Mike Evans. No matter which back is in the line-up, the center and left side of the line is getting stuffed. When the back is getting hit before, or as soon as he hits the line of scrimmage, it would appear that the deficiency lies with the blockers and not the ball carrier.
This is no time to start shuffling the offensive line creating even more disarray. What’s being put on display must be getting Jason Licht thinking about drafting offensive linemen early and often unless he’s pinning his hopes on Benenoch to replace one of the weak links.
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