Doug Martin's time in Tampa is coming to a particularly silent end. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been more productive without the Muscle Hamster than they have been with him this season. His absence due to injury the past two games was barely noticed, and people cared more about the debut of Charles Sims than the possible return of Martin.
"I don't think we need to say [we have a featured back]," quarterbacks coach Marcus Arroyo said yesterday. "There's no need for that. You've got three good ones and you get guys in third-and-one situations who can carry the flag and you've got a guy who can carry it in certain situations, it's a great thing to have."
Of course, that proclamation was immediately undercut by Lovie Smith. "There will be a starter in that group, and we're going to play multiple guys," Smith said. It's notable that he didn't back Doug Martin there, as he's done throughout the offseason and the season. Someone will be a starter, others will also get touches and playing time, and Doug Martin may not be in the top two there.
Part of the problem is that Doug Martin isn't a great fit for the team's running scheme. He's been most productive in downhill, power-based running schemes, where he can hit a designated gap and make someone miss in the hole. He's struggled more with zone schemes, where he has to stretch the defense, make one cut and go. That's mainly what the Bucs run now, and Bobby Rainey and Charles Sims are better fits for that style of running.
But there's more to Martin's decline. He's turned into a static runner with little vision: there's no patience in letting the blocking scheme develop, pressing the hole and cutting back. There's no evidence of any ability to make someone miss. There's no evidence of the ability to squeeze through small holes. There's not even any evidence of being productive on checkdowns. Everything that made him a productive back as a rookie has disappeared.
Which means Martin's time in Tampa is probably over. Bobby Rainey is both more productive and more explosive. Charles Sims has the potential to turn into a quality back, or at least a nice change-of-pace back. Everything Martin can do, Mike James can do too. There's really no need for the Muscle Hamster in Tampa.
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