Bucs' Smith likes Martin, but needs depth at RB
Bucs offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford's comments last week about relying on multiple running backs have fans wondering about the role Doug Martin will play with the Bucs this fall. Head coach Lovie Smith said Tuesday that he continues to have a very high opinion of the third-year back, but also understands the need to use more than one back, especially over the physical grind of an NFL season.
"What I've said is I like Doug a lot. Doug's a good football player," Smith said. "Everywhere I've ever been, if you look at my history, our history, we've played more than one running back. We had a great running back in Thomas Jones, and we drafted Cedric Benson and played them both. One running back just can't make it through the season."
Smith's history as Bears head coach works both for and against his argument -- in nine seasons in Chicago, his leading rusher started all 16 games four times, averaging 14.5 starts. Smith's leading rusher each year accounted for 60.4 percent of his team's total rushing yards in Chicago, averaging 1,055 yards per season.
That statistic comes in contrast to what Martin has known in his short Bucs career -- as a rookie in 2012, he rushed for 1,454 yards, or 79.2 percent of the Bucs' team total; in five games in 2013 before his shoulder injury, he rushed for 82.5 percent of the team's total rushing yards.
Smith dismissed talk of a lesser role for Martin on Tuesday as "chatter," maintaining that he'll still have a central role for the Bucs, even if it's part of a group effort from the running backs.
"That chatter, that's that baseball chatter before a guy gets to bat: 'Hey, batter, batter, swing' stuff," Smith said. "Don't pay any attention to that. Doug's a good football player. He knows that. You don't see Doug complaining. He knows what our plans are for him."