Doug Martin has been a minor disaster this season. Aside from being injured, the third-year back just hasn't been productive. He's averaged just 2.5 yards per carry after averaging 3.6 yards per carry last season. His longest run this year is 16 yards, and he hasn't had a single explosive play.
That naturally leads to some question about his future as a back both on the field, and in fantasy football.
"I don't think he's a good runner right now," Greg Cosell told Justin Pawlowski of 98.7 The Fan. I think he's stiff. I don't think he has the same lateral agility and explosion that he had his first year in the league. I don't think that he gets more yards than what are there, and to me that's a problem with a running back."
So the question is, is this a situation where Martin's going to get better, or where this is just how he is? Was his one amazing season just a blip, as great as it was?
I can't answer that question. I do agree with Cosell that Martin hasn't looked good as a runner, and that he's struggled to find space where in his first season he would find that space. He hasn't looked good as a runner since the start of the 2013 season. He seems to have lost some of the patience and decisiveness that made him special as a rookie, and he has lost the ability to sneak through small holes.
For now, the question is somewhat immaterial in terms of his playing time. I don't think Bobby Rainey really is any better than Doug Martin -- when he's played in the same game as Martin, he hasn't really produced more. And Mike James has apparently fallen by the wayside completely, so Martin will at least get the next couple of games to prove himself -- something Lovie Smith confirmed yesterday, when he said that Martin would continue to start -- and that in time, he'll break out. But that won't make Martin any more productive.
One player could change that situation: Charles Sims. He's the Bucs' third-round pick, who was placed on injured reserve designated to return. He'll be able to start practicing with the team in week eight, and can return to the field in week nine. And when he does, I would not be surprised to see him slowly take over as the team's lead running back.
Editor's Note: FanDuel is hosting a private fantasy football League for SBNation readers this week. It's $10 to join, the top 200 teams win money, and first place wins $1,000. League starts Sunday 1 PM ET and ends on Monday. Here's the link.