When Doug Martin left the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' first game against the Carolina Panthers, a report surfaced that he was benched for his issues in pass protection. Lovie Smith swiftly denied that report, but Martin's pass protection was disastrous enough for the report to be realistic.
When Martin returned to play against the Pittsburgh Steelers, though, his issues were gone. He had several quality blocks and didn't get beat once, at least not that I saw.
It's not just that he's succeeding, it's that his technique is good, his reactions are outstanding and he's re-directing the linebacker to the right place.
Pass protection is crucial for any running back, including the Muscle Hamster. Combine that with his improved running against the Steelers and Rainey's struggles, Doug Martin is likely to see an increased number of snaps going forward.
Martin led the Bucs' running backs in carries with 14, as Bobby Rainey and Jorvorskie Lane combined for just five. He also led the group in snaps, taking 60% vs. Rainey's 40%. That's still a sizable workload for Rainey, who mostly played on passing downs late in the game, but Martin is clearly lead the back. And his rediscovered competence as a pass-blocker will help him keep it that way.
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