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Doug Martin may be ready to bounce back after two down seasons

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafted Doug Martin in the first round of the 2012 NFL draft to be their lead back, the guy who could carry an offense as much as any running back can. And in his first season he was exactly that, as he put up nearly 2,000 yards from scrimmage even after a slow start to the year.

That Doug Martin has been nowhere in sight over the past two years. The Muscle Hamster put up fewer than 500 rushing yards in each of his past two seasons, which were hampered by injuries. He averaged 3.6 and 3.7 yards per carry in 2013 and 2014 respectively, and he rarely looked comfortable, elusive or explosive. In short: it seemed like he was done.

That may have seemed the case, but there are some who question that. Martin has supposedly lost some weight and looked more explosive this offseason, and the Bucs once again have expressed their belief that he can be the lead back -- or at least the nominal starter. And now RotoViz gives us some reason to actually believe them, as they pull out some historical comparisons of players with similar career arcs.

The main comparisons for Doug Martin's sudden fall off the map after his rookie season are Steve Slaton, Mike Anderson, Marshall Faulk, Curtis Martin, Jerome Bettis and Jamaal Lewis. All of these players had terrific rookie seasons, followed by a downturn before bouncing back -- except for Slaton, who never bounced back. Of these players, Faulk, Martin and Bettis are in the Hall of Fame so we're not exactly talking about scrubs, here.

Of course, things would have to be pretty special for Martin to make it that far. As a rookie in 2012, Martin had a lot of help from his offensive line -- the one year in the past, what, ever that the Buccaneers had a well-oiled machine in the offensive trenches. This team is far from having that, with question marks at right guard and left tackle, and a possibly declining Logan Mankins at left guard. It seems likely that Martin's simply a back who needs a good offensive line to excel, and not the kind of back who can help his offensive line be better -- which is what the truly special backs do.

But that's okay. If the Bucs can get their offensive line functioning well, there's precedent for Martin to up his production and get back to being an important part of a productive offense. And that's all the Bucs really need out of him.