Doug Martin and Bucs' running game starting to get in gear
You undoubtedly have noticed the huge passing numbers of Josh Freeman during the past two weeks.
After throwing for 748 yards in two games, Freeman and his receivers have grabbed most of the headlines about the offense in the past week-plus – and rightfully so.
But it’s easy to overlook something just as important: The Bucs have been running the ball better during this two-week span, too.
It’s not a coincidence that rookie running back Doug Martin’s best performances since opening day have come in the past two games.
“I think it’s all connected,” coach Greg Schiano said. “Part of it is we’re throwing the ball better. That loosens things up a little.”
Martin rushed for 76 and 85 yards, respectively, against the Chiefs and Saints in the past two games. While those aren’t staggering totals, the efficiency with which he amassed those numbers is important. Martin averaged 5.6 yards per carry in those games; through the first four games of the season, Martin averaged 3.5 yards.
The displays of Freeman and receivers Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams of the past two weeks were not just entertaining. They also showed another dimension of the Bucs’ evolving offense, so much so that defenses have had to re-evaluate their tactics.
“When they’re throwing eight (defenders) in the box because they think their corners can cover, we have to make big plays so they can start taking people out the box and we can run the ball,” Williams said.
“I think (teams) will do things to take certain strengths away,” Schiano said. “I think what Minnesota’s going to do defensively will do that to some degree. They’ll play Tampa 2 and force you to throw underneath and those kinds of things.”
The Tampa 2 scheme is designed to defend against the deep pass, and it’s a staple of the Vikings’ defense.
But if it has its intended effect, the Bucs have the ability to run the ball against seven-man fronts, the kind they gutted when Martin scored on a 36-yard touchdown on Sunday.
So, while you’ve probably enjoyed the aerial fireworks in recent weeks, remember there’s a potential trickle-down effect that could bode well for the Bucs in the coming weeks.
(Photo by Daniel Wallace, Times Staff)