The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have at least one area to focus on this offseason: getting Doug Martin the ball in the passing game. According to Dan Pompei of Bleacher Report, the Buccaneers will try to improve the running back's route running and "receiving skills" this offseason.
A point of emphasis in OTAs, minicamp and training camp for the Bucs is going to be improving Doug Martin's ability to impact the offense as a receiver, according to a source at One Buc Place. The Bucs would like to work Martin into the passing game more, but the third-year running back needs work on his route running and receiving skills.
Doug Martin had a surprisingly large amount of drops last year, after being a very productive receiving back in his rookie season. Then again, all of last season was a disaster on offense, and Martin had a poor season on the ground as well.
Martin's receiving work as a rookie was impressive, as he produced 49 catches for 472 yards and one touchdown, but most of that production came on dumpoffs and screen passes, not with him running routes down the field. The Bucs tried to incorporate that into their playbook a little more last year, targeting him on a couple of sideline routes with limited success. In fact, he suffered his season-ending shoulder injury on one of those sideline routes.
Because Doug Martin is so short, his catching radius is very small, which means that the quarterback's ball placement has to be outstanding for Martin to make the catch, especially on routes down the sideline, where there's less room to work with than in the middle of the field. Shocking opinion: accurate quarterbacks help receivers produce.
The fact that Jeff Tedford wants to get Martin involved in the passing game is no surprise, though. His offense revolves around "speed in space": getting the ball to your playmakers, and letting them do their thing. He was very creative in finding ways for his running backs to be productive over the years, with Jahvid Best being the most obvious example of that.
Tedford loves to toy with formations and alignments. You'll likely see Martin lined up at receiver positions more often, and he'll run more routes within the context of a downfield passing offense, rather than simply sitting down as a checkdown. To do that, though, Martin will have to improve his versatility -- and that's what the offseason is for.