Cover 3 is a weekly feature column written by PewterReport.com’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat writer Trevor Sikkema published every Tuesday. The column, as its name suggests, comes in three phases: a statistical observation, an in-depth film breakdown, and a “this or that” segment where the writer asks the reader to chose between two options.

Sikkema’s Stat of the Week

Here’s the thing about Doug Martin.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers aren’t going to give up on him as easily as you’d think, regardless of the shelf life of the position, and, to be honest, they shouldn’t. In fact, we – myself included – were wrong to think otherwise during the offseason.

In his rookie season, Martin was fifth in the entire NFL in rushing yards with 1,454. At the time, that was the eighth-best rookie season ever for any running back in NFL history, a pretty rare feat, if you ask me. In 2015, he was second to only Adrian Peterson in yards on the ground with 1,402. Martin also had the highest yards per carry average of any running back that season who recorded over 1,000 yards.

“But, Trevor, what about him missing three of his five seasons due to injury?”

A valid question, one that Martin cannot outrun, even in his finest seasons. But, here are some things to chew on when bringing that up. Even with three seasons where he failed to recorded at least 500 yards on the ground (injuries), all of which involved a yards-per-carry average of less than 4.0, Martin is not only the fourth-leading rusher in franchise history, but he’s also still tied for the highest YPC average of any player in the Top 10 of that group. That tells us what? That when he’s healthy, Martin has been one of, if not the, most talented Buccaneers running back in the history of the franchise considering he’s 28 years old and missed a good amount of time. If you give Martin the 563 carries he’s short of franchise leader, James Wilder, Martin’s average (and even slightly below) easily eclipses Wilder’s mark, and would make Martin the only Buccaneer to ever rush for over 6,000 yards. That’s something that could happen in the next two or three years.

Bucs RB Doug Martin - Photo by Cliff Welch/PRAnother point I couldn’t help but notice when looking up Martin’s stats was this: Look around at the list of top running backs in the years Martin had success. In it, you’ll see names like Alfred Morris, Stevan Ridley, Shone Greene, etc. The next year you have players like Darren McFadden and Chris Ivory. These are players who are long gone in terms of top relevancy, and this is just a few years ago. You know who isn’t? Martin. Playing football is hard; running the football is hard. If you find something that works, keep it. Don’t let yourself become a revolving door at running back with one-year wonders. When Martin plays, he works.

My final point with Martin is this, and it’s going to get real down-to-business. If  Martin would have been healthy for the entire season, would the Buccaneers have made the payoffs last year? Yes.

If Martin would have been healthy for the entire season, would the Buccaneers have made a playoff run longer than the first round? No.

The Buccaneers were close, but they weren’t near ready for a deep playoff run. So, knowing that, Martin getting hurt for extended time, and getting popped with a suspension might have actually been the best thing for the Buccaneers in hindsight.

Now, don’t take this the wrong way, please.

I am not saying that Martin going through the personal battles and inner demons he went through was “good.” I don’t wish it upon someone, and above all, I hoped that his well being would be what was worked out most from that situation. But, now that things appear to be on the right track, here’s what the Buccaneers are looking at and have been looking at all offseason.

The Bucs know the talent they have in Martin, as I stated above. Because of that, they paid him a five-year, $35.75 million deal that made him the second-highest paid running back in the NFL a year ago. That’s not good for business. I don’t care how you spin it. Running backs get hurt, and we’re seeing more rushing attacks be used with multiple parts as opposed to feature systems. It’s a bad investment, even if it’s something they “had” to do because of the market and Martin’s recent success. But with Martin’s suspension, now the guaranteed money from that contract is no longer guaranteed. Throughout the offseason, the media has asked, and asked, and asked about what would be done with Martin and Bucs general manager Jason Licht has sort of smiled and said, “Guys, we’re not going to rush this. We don’t have to. We have the time to be patient and that’s what we’ll be.”

Tampa Bay hopes to avoid abandoning Doug Martin and the run Sunday in New Orleans.

What that patience meant was that if Martin was to return (or, be worth it) it was most likely going to come with a desire for redemption. He would, you’d think, play harder than he ever has, and be more focused than he ever has, too. Then the Buccaneers were going to restructure his deal. They were going to get out of the bad contract they gave him due to the timing of the market, and be able to give him a contract better suited for the value of the running back. If he gets hurt, if he relapses or if he’s just plain bad, they’re no longer on the hook.

So, if that is the case, if that was the master plan, look what the Buccaneers will have out of it. They will have a proven, successful running back who is playing on a non-guaranteed contract (no risk, all reward) who should be focused and driven to be the best he’s ever been, and, not only that, but Martin will have been long rested from an easy 2016 season in terms a wear-and-tear, a season that wasn’t going to end in a championship anyways.

Plus, now there’s a plan B – or C or D. The Bucs now know what they have in Jacquizz Rodgers as a dependable power back from Martin’s absence. Charles Sims is healthy and on the last year of his contract, so he’ll be motivated to get a new deal, too. And that’s not to mention the new guy in town, Jeremy McNichols, who shows complete back traits to work in a committee early on. My point is, if Martin performs, he’ll be a steal, so long as they rework his contract. If he doesn’t, the Bucs don’t lose anything by moving on, and already have a jump on the future.

This is the time. That’s been the plan all along. We were all just too impatient to wait for it to happen.

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Trevor Sikkema is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat reporter and NFL Draft analyst for PewterReport.com. Sikkema, an alumnus of the University of Florida, has covered both college and professional football for much of his career. As a native of the Sunshine State, when he's not buried in social media, Sikkema can be found out and active, attempting to be the best athlete he never was. Sikkema can be reached at: [email protected]
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billbyrne

ALL good points and well taken Trevor. I am and have been a big Doug Martin fan and supporter and I pray he can overcome his personal problems and have a productive year for the Bucs. From a business standpoint, I think the Bucs have made a mistake and should have drafted or traded for a big, down hill running back for 2017. Running back by committee never works and that is one area the Bucs have not addressed. All the successful running games in the NFL are built around “big backs” not scatbacks. The Tennessee Titans are a perfect… Read more »

toofamiliar17

I’m going to say what trevor is too constrained due to his position to say – this is a rough comment, man. As Trevor said, there are many examples of successful RB by committee approaches. In addition to the ones he named, I’d add that the Bengals have had some success with Hill+Bernard and the Chargers would have been dynamic with Gordon+Woodhead had the latter not gotten hurt early last year. On a lower level, the Chiefs with West and Ware, and the Browns with Crowell and Duke have both gotten good production out of the position. As for smaller… Read more »

toofamiliar17

And anyways, I’m not sure what your scat back point is about even if it was true, since Doug is an incredibly stout 223 pounds, which puts him at essentially the same weight of guys like Le’Veon Bell, David Johnson, Zeke Elliott, and many, many other RBs in the league right now. He’s built very much as a power back, which goes perfectly with the fact that he led the league in all of broken tackles, yards after contact, and yards after contact per rush in 2015. When he’s right, Doug is an absolute tackle breaking machine. Rate this item:Thumb… Read more »

chetthevette

I have been a Doug fan since he has been in Tampa. When others were calling for his head I called for giving him another shot. It may seem that we are mollycoddling some players, not true. Trevor said it, playing running back is hard duty. I’m amazed these guys last as long as they do. He gives his all every time he touches the ball, sure he gets hurt. That’s where back ups come in. Is Simms going to make the squad? I personally don’t think so. I see Quizz and Barber and McNichols handling duties until Martin comes… Read more »

California Buc

I think McNichols should start the first 3 games, the ones that Doug Martin cant. Then split the carries between the two for a while, whoever performs better gets the keys to the car, and Rodgers as the occasional 3rd down guy. I would honestly rather have McNichols starting for his blocking, but whoever performs better. If there is no fine print leader between the two, then continue to split carries. The Falcons are doing just fine with Freeman and Coleman in a similar system, could work out well for us. Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00 No votes yet.… Read more »

Bschucher

How can you call for this guy to start before he has even practiced as a buc yet?

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David DeLeon

I hope Rodgers starts weeks 1-3 Sims and mcnichols can rotate, after that Dougie starts and Sims gets the shirt stick.
Good article

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nitey

Good article as always Trev. Until camp starts, there really isn’t any way to figure out who should be where and how many carries they should get. I’m hoping that McNichols shines in camp and can start the season as the co-number 1 with Rodgers and get some valuable experience for when Doug gets back. And speaking of Doug, I’ve been behind him as well, but I do think the Bucs need to renegotiate his current contract. As to Sims, I’ve honestly never liked him as a running back so I really don’t know what to say about him other… Read more »

cobraboy

I’m not sure there is anything to “rework” in his contract. Generally, when contracts are redone, money is shifted around for salary cap reasons. Martin has nothing left to restructure because he got his $$$ up front and what is left isn’t guaranteed. If “reworked” means less money, I’m pretty sure the Bucs would have to put him on waivers first to void his current deal, and he’d be an unrestricted Free Agent. I doubt he would clear waivers, but if he did there is nothing that says he’d be a Buc. Additionally, such shenanigans would not go over well… Read more »

BucWild02

Exactly right Cobra

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Jordan Chavez

Weeks 1-3 1. Rodgers 2. McNichols and 3rd down back Simms Weeks 4+ 1. Martin 2. McNichols 3. Rodgers and 3rd down back Simms I think once Martin gets back you should play him as the lead (15 touches a game) and play McNichols and Rodgers based on defensive scheme and whoever has the hot hand. But I think Simms will do great this year as the third down back. Just think back to that TD play he had against ATL week 1 last year… With all the weapons this year Simms is going to be matched up with the… Read more »

macabee

I would do nothing to the Doug Martin contract this year. Now hold on before you start rushing to the idiot button – let me explain. The Doug Martin contract is in force (a legal term of art). The contract has not been voided – by virtue of Doug’s drug suspension, the guaranteed money is just no longer guaranteed which means the contract can be terminated at any time without cause and no further compensation is owed. They should cut him or keep him! If he has a good camp and preseason, they should keep him! Doug Martin signed a… Read more »

Horse

Should’ve, could’ve, would’ve, means zero at this point. Coaches will decide who will be the starter and who’s the next man up. There it is.

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yuccaneers

From a business perspective the organization is in a win/win situation and one of the best they possibly could be. 1. Doug Martin is fighting to keep himself relaxant and in the big money contract conversation 2. Charles Sims is fight for a second contract in the league, if not with the Bucs than some other NFL team 3. Peyton Barber and Jeremy McNichols are fighting for a roster spot and playing time 4. Jacquizz Rodgers is an insurance policy taken out against the first three Think the Bucs carry Rodgers, Sims, Barber & McNichols to start the season with… Read more »

scubog

We all seem to have forgotten about Russel Hansbrough, Blake Sims and fullbacks Austin Johnson and Quayvon Hicks. I guess these guys should just seek other employment now and avoid the rigors of Training Camp. Heck, Peyton Barber might as well hit the exit with them. Who knows if one of these players will surprise? There’s little doubt in my mind that the Bucs will take a cautious approach and go with who the team feels is more of a known entity. That means Rodgers will likely start the season while Martin is suspended and then ease #22 back in… Read more »

martinii

This is why I enjoy Pewter Report over all other Buc related sites. There is not only quality, well written articles but excellent debate and insights from the comment section. It has been my opinion so far this offseason that the Buc’s are really in a no lose situation with Martin. There is a 40% chance we get the Pro Bowl Doug Martin back, a 20% chance we get a top rated rotational player, a 20% chance we get an average back-up player and a 20% chance he gets cut. Please be advised this is just my opinion and there… Read more »

cobraboy

Just from the clips above it’s clear why Martin was a #1 and McNichols a #5 round pick.

Martin, even in college, was the superior running back.

The Bucs can grind with Martin. McNichols won’t be a grinder.

And while Trevor describes McNichols as “patient” in the Bell mode, the difference is when Bell makes his cut he blasts. I don’t see that with McNichols.

McNichols skillset much more like Simms that Martin.

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plopes808

As always, great in-depth analysis. I wasn’t too sure about this pick but feel much better about it now. The Dougernaught has to still be the guy holding the keys as of week 4 (unless someone has a big break out in games 1-3.) His deal will be restructured at a more financially feasibly rate, and I think he will come to earn it. After him, I’d say Mcnichols and Sims should be splitting the carries until one stands out above the other. Rodgers will no doubt be Martin’s place keeper for the first 3 games and performed admirably last… Read more »

Mr. Incredible

Just glad to see Doug back online mentally. He’s a monster when he’s on. Many of us were knuckleheads in our 20s. I’m glad the bucs are giving him a chance to make good. The jury is out on mcnichols.

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scubog

Nice looking family Mr. Incredible

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drdneast

As usual macabee,, you use reason over emotion to make your decisions and your point, And unlike Trevor, you aren’t concerned about what billionaires pay millionaires. As I have said before, the Bucs are way under the cap so why worry about how much money he is making. It’s not like the Bucs are going to cut season ticket prices if they cut his contract by a million or two. I have no idea how McNichols is going to perform at the NFL level so why would I even start a depth chart with him. It is apparent that Martin… Read more »

Alldaway 2.0

I don’t see it as a negative if McNichols and Sims keep their leg churning to turn a guaranteed TFL situation to a possible gain. An analogy I like to use is with QB’s that don’t give up on plays and keep plays alive ala Favre. Winston falls into that category where sometimes it can lead to bad situations but more often than not it is a positive. What I like about McNichols is his patience as a runner which is similar to what Barber does. Difference is McNichols has real break away speed. Also, McNichols shows more YAC within… Read more »

magoobee

I would have renegotiated the contract long ago. Low base with lots of incentives. Now that Martin looks good, he has more leverage.

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fredster

Rodgers will carry load when Doug is out. Knows offense,Koetter, and is trusted vet that never loses yards. I suspect Sims will be no.2 and share some carries/pass plays too. When Doug comes back he will be starter of course. At that point will be interesting to see if Sims is still the guy that gets some carries/pass plays or they go different route. Sims is very specialized. Doesn’t do lot of things well. Plus he gets hurt and isn’t very physical IMO. We have lot options and RB’s. Good posistion for Bucs to be in. Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb… Read more »