Friday, June 22, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs try to make room so Doug Martin can break out

TAMPA — Doug Martin can spin. He can juke. He can grind out yard after yard.

But the Bucs rookie running back has fallen a little short when it comes to producing long runs.

Martin ranks 17th in the NFL in rushing yards per game (61.8) with 71 carries, 247 yards and one touchdown. Only the Jets' Shonn Greene has a smaller yards per carry average (2.7) than Martin (3.5) among backs with at least 60 rushing attempts this season.

What's missing from Martin's game? His most explosive run this season is 17 yards. Sunday against the Redskins, a 20-yarder was called back because of a holding penalty.

"He's had a few (long runs)," coach Greg Schiano said. "Would I like it to be more? Yeah. But I'd give it a little more time until the offensive line gets settled down a little, because he's got that kind of ability."

Schiano declared the Bucs would be a physical running team before the season began, but those plans were greatly derailed by the season-ending knee injury suffered by Pro Bowl right guard Davin Joseph. What's more, Demar Dotson has replaced Jeremy Trueblood at right tackle because he is a better pass protector.

The result has been fewer gaping holes for Martin to run through. Many of his yards have come after contact near the line of scrimmage and teams are walking safeties into the tackle box.

This puts a lot more pressure on the 5-foot-9, 215-pound Martin to make defenders miss when he does get to the second level.

"I can run through a hole," Schiano said. "It's about what you do after the initial play. Can I make someone miss? Can I run over someone? If it's all blocked up, an average back can make yardage. What are you making on your own? What are you creating as a running back? That's where I'd like to see us continue to grow.

"The front part, let's make sure the guys we have people for, let's cover them up. Let's move them, create some daylight. The people we don't have people for, that's where the back has got to do his job."

Martin, who had more than 20 rushing attempts in only about a third of his starts at Boise State, is stiff-arming his critics by preaching patience.

"I feel fine. It's not what my expectations would be," Martin said. "But it's a work in progress, it's a process throughout the season, and it'll get better.

"As a running back, you've got to be patient. They'll come. They'll come. We've got a lot of the season left, and we'll just keep talking to the line, keep practicing and they'll come. … It's really just a matter of guys staying on blocks, me hitting the hole and all of us following the details."

Martin is in good company. While Alabama rookie Trent Richardson has a 32-yard breakout run for the Browns this season, he also is averaging 3.5 yards per carry (62 rushes, 222 yards, three touchdowns).

The team's offensive game plan hasn't helped Martin, either. Most of the rookie's carries have been inside runs. He rarely has had a chance to press the perimeter on toss sweeps.

Only recently have the Bucs begun to make teams pay in the passing game. It's the ultimate Catch 22 when determining why defenders are catching No. 22. Will the running game become more explosive when the passing game opens up, or will the passing game present more opportunities when the rushing attack clicks?

"He has the ability to be special," running backs coach Earnest Byner said of Martin. "He's probably been limited in some of the opportunities.

"I think those type of things are going to happen. Has he had the opportunities? You all have seen the games. He's had a couple runs that have shown his explosion and abilities. One this past Sunday happened to get called back. We've seen what he's capable of doing and what's on the horizon."

Rick Stroud can be reached at [email protected] and can be heard from 6 to 9 a.m. weekdays on WDAE-620. View his blog at tampabay.com/blogs/bucs. Follow him on Twitter at @NFLStroud.

Comments
Ronald Darby’s friend: Jameis Winston got into second Uber ride alone

Ronald Darby’s friend: Jameis Winston got into second Uber ride alone

New details emerged Friday night about the Uber ride in Arizona in March 2016 that led to Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston's three-game suspension to start the upcoming season, including the fact that Winston was in a car that night with a former Vand...
Updated: 24 minutes ago
Chris Godwin on SiriusXM: Bucs have confidence in backup QBs

Chris Godwin on SiriusXM: Bucs have confidence in backup QBs

Bucs receiver Chris Godwin, who has had as good an offseason as any Tampa Bay player, was on SiriusXM NFL radio for a scheduled interview on Thursday night, talking about a range of subjects, including the news of Jameis Winston's suspension to start...
Updated: 8 hours ago
With Winston suspension, how might Bucs split QB reps in preseason?

With Winston suspension, how might Bucs split QB reps in preseason?

With news that Jameis Winston will be suspended for the first three games of 2018, Bucs coach Dirk Koetter has an interesting decision to make for training camp and especially in preseason games: How does he split reps between Winston and backup Ryan...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Bucs QB Jameis Winston’s suspension: What they’re saying

Bucs QB Jameis Winston’s suspension: What they’re saying

There are so many sides to the Jameis Winston suspension, and it will continue to be a major Bucs story line through September and beyond. Here's some of the reactions and notes that have already emerged in the first 24 hours since news broke Thursda...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Welcome back to the dark side, Bucs fans

Welcome back to the dark side, Bucs fans

TAMPA — Thursday was not the end of Jameis Winston in Tampa Bay, but it is in sight.Me? I was sitting at home. I was tired of the NBA draft, even with Tampa's Kevin Knox going to the New York Knicks.So I switched to the NFL Network. An episode ...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Winston aftermath: Report says Darby wasn’t in car for whole ride

Winston aftermath: Report says Darby wasn’t in car for whole ride

There's no telling how much detail will be disclosed in what the NFL learned in its investigation that led to Jameis Winston being suspended for the first three games of the upcoming season, but some have already been reported in the first 24 hours s...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Kwon Alexander to Jameis Winston: ‘We gotcha back’

Kwon Alexander to Jameis Winston: ‘We gotcha back’

There are many questions in the aftermath of Thursday's news that Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston will be suspended for the first three games of the 2018 season, but even before the suspension is officially announced, he is drawing support on social ...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Jameis Winston to receive three-game suspension

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Jameis Winston to receive three-game suspension

Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston will be suspended by the NFL for three games according to reports, and that number could go up if he doesn't meet certain criteria.Rick Stroud explains that the suspension is not for a failure to report the 2016 i...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Timeline of investigations, suspensions and allegations involving Jameis Winston

Timeline of investigations, suspensions and allegations involving Jameis Winston

The NFL will suspend Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston three games without pay to start the regular season for violating the league's personal conduct policy. The suspension could be increased if he fails to meet certain undisclosed requirements expect...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Jameis Winston suspension means Bucs will turn to Ryan Fitzpatrick at QB

Jameis Winston suspension means Bucs will turn to Ryan Fitzpatrick at QB

TAMPA — The news of Jameis Winston's suspension to start this season likely means the Bucs will have veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick stepping in at quarterback for the first three games of the regular season.Fitzpatrick took over as the starter for th...
Published: 06/21/18