Bucs look to Doug Martin as “lead guy” in backfield

AP

When the Buccaneers opted not to exercise the fifth-year option on running back Doug Martin’s contract, it seemed like the natural progression of things for a player who hasn’t impressed since his rookie season.

Martin ran the ball 319 times for 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns as a rookie in 2012, but injuries and ineffectiveness have limited him to just 261 carries over the last two seasons. Bobby Rainey looked better last year, the team drafted Charles Sims in the third round last year and brought in a new offensive coordinator this season, so the time seemed ripe to move on from Martin as the main man in the backfield.

That’s not how things are playing out, however. Martin’s offseason work garnered good reviews and coach Lovie Smith says he’s the top man in the backfield again this year.

“Definitely a key for us,” Lovie Smith said, via the Tampa Bay Times. “We talked about being able to establish the run. Doug will be the lead guy doing that, so it’s very important that we open up some holes and let him do his thing. I don’t know about 2012 and, last year, none of us performed the way we needed to. I just know Doug has been great through the offseason program. Seems like he is running hard out there right now. No complaints. Again, he, like the rest of us, plans on performing a lot better this year and he’ll get an opportunity to.”

The lack of the option makes this a contract year for Martin, so there’s much to be gained if he can turn the clock back to his rookie season and a very uncertain future in the NFL if the trends of the last two seasons continue in 2015.