Saturday, February 17, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs' Doug Martin develops his pass-catching skills

TAMPA — Though RB Doug Martin caught 49 passes as a rookie in 2012, the Bucs felt they could use another pair of hands in the backfield.

That's why in the third round this year they drafted West Virginia RB Charles Sims, who hauled in more than 200 passes in college. At 6 feet, 215 pounds, Sims is a bigger back — but he will miss at least half of his rookie season after tearing a tendon in his right ankle.

Martin is only 5-9 but he's proving he's not short on skills. He worked hard in the offseason on route-running to adapt to new coordinator Jeff Tedford's offense. Martin's pass-catching ability surprised coach Lovie Smith.

"We went into the draft because we thought that was an area we needed a little bit of help," Smith said. "But I think from watching practice, you've seen Doug has caught the ball a lot better.

"As I've said all along, Doug is a good football player. It's just that toughness he's going to bring. The first thing for our tailbacks is they need to get positive yards and be able to make guys miss or run over guys in the open field."

It's easy for some to forget Martin rushed for nearly 1,500 yards as a rookie and had just shy of 500 yards receiving. Martin likes it that way. "I like laying in the weeds," he said.

But Smith doesn't believe any team will forget about Martin.

"I think the league has a sharp memory," he said. "It comes back to them fairly quickly. If not, it's left up to us to let them see because he can sneak up on you."

Well stocked: Luke Stocker always looked the part of an NFL tight end, but looks have been deceiving. Hip injuries during his rookie year and last season prevented the former Tennessee star from realizing his promise as a fourth-round pick in 2011.

Stocker, 26, was injured in his inaugural training camp and missed the first two games. Then last year, he was placed on injured reserve after hurting his hip the second game and was lost for the year. But at 6-5, 253, Stocker is the Bucs' best blocking tight end and has decent hands. He has opened eyes in training camp and the first two preseason games.

"He performed well," Smith said. "As I came in, of course getting information, outside information and inside information on Luke, that's it, he looked the part. That's how you draw up a tight end. But he has been hurt throughout. But he really had a plan going in. Nobody tries to get hurt, but he showed up and he's made plays. He's had a good camp. It's kind of as simple as that."

Stocker still faces an uphill battle to claim a roster spot. He is competing against Austin Seferian-Jenkins, a second-round pick from Washington, Giants free agent Brandon Myers and second-year pro Tim Wright.

Play date: What does CB Alterraun Verner have in common with Darrelle Revis?

Aside from being Pro Bowl players at the same position, there's this: Like Revis with Tampa Bay last season, Verner was starting to look like he might not play in any preseason games.

The free agent from the Titans injured his hamstring on the third day of camp. Though he began individual drills last week, Verner will get some reps with the starting defense in practice this week in hopes of playing Saturday at Buffalo.

In 2013, Revis was recovering from a torn ACL and did not play in the preseason. Smith said it is important to get Verner some game time in the secondary.

"First off, the guys that line up with the first group, there's a reason why they're there," Smith said. "It's not like we're going to do an awful lot that last preseason game. So, for our players, if they're going to play against Carolina (in the regular-season opener), we need to see them right now. Alterraun Verner, it's important that he get out there and starts playing our defense and seeing his role and getting comfortable."

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