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The Buccaneers' run-blocking has been a bigger problem than Doug Martin

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Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Last year, Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin was averaging 4.9 yards per rush for a total of 1,402 yards. Those stats helped him finish second for the rushing title. This year, Martin has managed to only play eight games, averaging 2.9 yards per rush. His season total this year is 421 yards, a far cry from last season's production.

Some have suggested that Doug Martin only ran hard last year because it was a contract year. Once he had his money, Martin simply stopped running hard. Rather than just by word of mouth or feeling that Martin is running terribly, and thus the cause for a terrible offensive line, let us use actual stats to see what is going on.

There was one difference to the starting line up between 2015 and 2016. Left guard Logan Mankins retired at the end of 2015 and 2014 fifth-rounder Kevin Pamphile was inserted into the starting line-up. Pamphile was not the original choice.  Initially, free agent pick up guard JR Sweezy was designated to be the starting left guard.

Every other player stayed the same, though right tackle Demar Dotson did miss most of last season with an injury, and hopefully we could see improved play from the youngsters LT Donovan Smith and RG Ali Marpet. I will be utilizing Football Outsider for the statistical recordings. Before introducing the run blocking stats, I would like to present the pass blocking stats between 2015 and 2016.

TB Bucs
Pass Protection
2015 v 2016 Current
Year Rank Sacks
2015 14 27
2016 13 27

With only two games left in the 2016 season, the pass blocking group is not that far off from its 2015 production. If we are to use this line production as a relative basis of what to expect for the run blocking, then we should expect not too much of a drop off in run blocking production as well. Thus, we can easily conclude that Doug Martin is not running similarly to 2015.

Before we continue, let us introduce you to the stats nomenclature for Football Outsiders.

RB yards:             Yards per carry by that team's RB, according to standard NFL numbers.

Power Success: Percentage of runs on third or fourth down, two yards or less to go, that achieved a first down or touchdown.  Also includes runs on first-and-goal or second-and-goal from the two-yard line or closer.  This is the only statistic that includes quarterbacks.

Stuffed:                  Percentage of runs where the RB is tackled at or behind the line of scrimmage.  Since being stuffed is bad, teams are ranked from stuffed least often (#1) to most often (#32).

Second Level Yards:        Yards which this team's RBs earn between 5 -€” 10 yards past the line of scrimmage, divided by total RB carries.

Open Field Yards:             yards which this team's RBs earn more than 10 yards past the line of scrimmage, divided by total RB carries.

TB Bucs
Run Blocking Rankings
2015 v 2016 Current
Year RB Yards Power Success Power Rank Stuffed Stuffed Rank 2nd level 2nd level Rank Open Field yards Open Field Rank
2015 4.86 71% 8 20% 13 1.20 13 1.40 1
2016 3.60 31% 31 23% 30 1.05 26 0.43 27

The pass blocking ranking and production are relative similar between the two seasons, but the run blocking is quite drastic.

Power ranking and stuffed ranking are parallel to one another such that if there is no offensive line push, then the running backs will be stuffed at or behind the line of scrimmage. The ability to get a push is the responsibility of the offensive line. Thus, the power rank is a segment of the stuffed ranking, but focused on short yardage situations.

When a team's power ranking and stuffed ranking rank next to the bottom of the entire league most running backs will not look all that great running behind such an abysmal production. There is only so much a running back can do behind such lack of production.

Now let us add some depth to this article.

TB Bucs
Run Game Starters
Game Team Rank Rush yards/G Allowed RB Rush Yards Avg
1 Atl 15 100.8 Martin 62 3.4
2 Ari 11 97.9 Martin 23 3.3
3 LA 21 114 Sims 55 4.2
4 Den 28 122.8 Sims 28 1.9
5 Car 8 92.8 Rodgers 101 3.4
6 SF 32 169.3 Rodgers 154 5.9
7 Oak 27 120.2 Rodgers 69 3.6
8 Atl 15 100.8 Barber 31 2.8
9 Chi 18 106.5 Martin 33 2.1
10 KC 29 122.9 Martin 63 2.6
11 Sea 14 99.3 Martin 81 3.8
12 SD 3 89.1 Martin 45 2.6
13 NO 11 97.9 Martin 66 2.9
14 Dal 2 82.3 Martin 42 2.6

There are not a lot of stats currently updated for broken tackles, but I do have a couple of articles that cite interesting information.

From  First three weeks of the 2016 season

Broken tackles percentage shows which backs have been the hardest to bring down on a per touch basis, and, interestingly, Buccaneers teammates Doug Martin (33 percent) and Charles Sims (34 percent) are both in the top five in that stat among backs with a minimum of 10 touches so far in 2016.

In that article, they cite 2015 top Broken Tackle Pct leaders with a minimum of 150 touches. Both Martin and Sims were in the top five. It shows a pattern of work by the running backs despite the change in offensive line. Yet the problem may exist of where exactly they are first made contact -€” behind the line of scrimmage or after the line of scrimmage? Therein lies the discrepancy of productions.

From Pro Football Focus:  TB vs KC game grades

Top offensive grades

RB Doug Martin, 87.5
WR Mike Evans, 85.4
RG Ali Marpet, 78.6
C Joe Hawley, 77.9
WR Russell Shepard, 75.5

Doug Martin stands out on offense

It's amazing how different this offense looks with Martin in there. He didn't have a run longer than 12 yards but what he constantly did was get good gains that put his team in manageable down and distances. 63 yards on 24 carries doesn't sound like a lot, but when one factors in that he had 69 yards after contact you get a better idea for how big his contribution was.

Despite some low numbers, Tampa Bay running backs are breaking a lot of tackles, but many fans will never notice these little nuances as net stats of average often propagate ideas without qualitative context. Hopefully, this sheds more light of just how terrible the Bucs' run blocking is for 2016. This should be addressed this coming offseason.