At the risk of creating some buzz kill about Doug Martin, consider the fact that eight games does not a career make.
Martin is as complete a rookie ball carrier as there has been in many years, a player with a varied skill set who can run inside and out, catch passes, block and play on any down and in any situation.
His club records of 251 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns in a win at Oakland last week was remarkable, especially coming on the heels of his 214 yards from scrimmage (135 rushing, 79 receiving) 10 days earlier at Minnesota.
At 5 feet 9, 215 pounds, Martin also is the perfect size and has the perfect strength for an NFL feature back. But already, he is at risk of being overworked.
At the current pace, Martin would finish the season with 308 carries. That would have been second in the league last season, 40 fewer than Jacksonville's Maurice Jones-Drew. Add 50 or so touches as a receiver, and the wear and tear on his body could be considerable.
Even coach Greg Schiano, who says he is keeping close track of Martin's touches, seems concerned.
"We're going to need to use LeGarrette (Blount) in a role that is clearly defined," Schiano said of the running back. "And we just need to keep track and make sure (Martin) doesn't get too far out of whack as far as reps go. He's a guy, I think, gains strength during a game the more touches he gets. Probably a lot of tailbacks will tell you that … 'The more touches I get, the more I feel it.'
"I think (Martin) is physically trained to be a back that can do that. So now we just got to make sure we don't go too far with it."
TFL PATROL: The Bucs rank first in the league in rushing defense primarily because they have an NFL-best 52 tackles-for-loss. Linebackers Lavonte David (11) and Mason Foster (nine) account for 38.5 percent of them.
Also credit the scheme of coordinator Bill Sheridan, who uses movement to create confusion at the line of scrimmage.
"You can get caught moving as well," Schiano said. "But you can get penetration into the backfield, and that's where you make TFLs.
"The guys are doing it better and better. They are executing the finer details. It is all about cumulative reps. You're building equity in the defense. And you do it over and over again, and they get better."
OPEN MIND: Schiano has a well-earned reputation as a taskmaster, a disciplined coach who works his players hard and tosses NFL etiquette out the window.
Recently, a Sporting News poll of players named Schiano the coach players would least like to play for, just ahead of the Patriots' Bill Belichick.
But former Steelers coach Bill Cowher, who was in Tampa on Friday to report a story about the Bucs for CBS, said he is impressed with Schiano.
"I started coaching young in the National Football League," Cowher said. "(Schiano) was an assistant for two years in Chicago before he came here. But you know — as I think he'll tell you — the first eight games, there's a transition. But he's been very open-minded.
"I was very impressed in talking with him with his understanding where he's at and the process you go through as a head coach."
Rick Stroud can be reached at [email protected] and can be heard from 6 to 9 a.m. weekdays on WDAE-620.