At 5 feet 9, Boise State rookie RB Doug Martin disappears behind his blockers. But his ability to play three downs also has stood out to Bucs coach Greg Schiano, who compares him to the Ravens' Ray Rice, his former workhorse at Rutgers.
Martin moved into the starting lineup Friday against the Patriots, and he won't be replaced any time soon.
With starters expected to rest in Wednesday's preseason finale at Washington, it appears Martin has won the tailback job over incumbent LeGarrette Blount.
Friday, Martin ran 13 times for 53 yards and a touchdown and caught three passes for 12 yards. Blount ran seven times for 22 yards and didn't catch a pass.
"That's why he moved in and started the game; because he has shown me that much," Schiano said.
"And I don't think he did anything (Friday) night that would say, 'Oh, that wasn't a good move.' I thought he ran the ball well and did some things well. So right now, he's got to continue on that course. He's learning every day. And he's a very open-minded guy. He wants to learn."
One other running back who might earn more carries is Michael Smith, the seventh-round pick from Utah State. In addition to looking explosive while handling all the kickoff return duties, Smith had six carries for 38 yards Friday and caught two passes for 16 yards.
Cooling OFF: QB Josh Freeman began Friday 5-of-6 for 61 yards, and the lone miss was a drop. From there, he went 5-of-13 for 41 yards.
Why the inconsistency? Freeman has to own some of it. He was late getting the ball out of his hands a few times and was off the mark on more than a couple of other occasions. But Schiano said receivers not running precise routes also are to blame.
"I think we got a little out of rhythm, and it wasn't all Josh," Schiano said. "The way our passing game is so detailed and the timing, if a receiver comes and breaks flat rather than breaking on a 45-degree angle, the ball is going to appear to be short. Well, it wasn't short. We just weren't where we were supposed to be.
"So we have some work to do still to get all the timing and precision."
TIGHT END ISSUES: Dallas Clark, 33, can help the Bucs as a pass catcher if he remains healthy. Luke Stocker, in his second season, is a better blocker but has had trouble staying out of the trainer's room. Danny Noble, an undrafted rookie out of Toledo, has done just enough catching and blocking to catch the Bucs' eyes.
Therefore, Schiano said, the Bucs will use a committee approach at tight end.
"When I say that by committee, what I mean there are certain guys that do different things well; better than the next guy," Schiano said. "So we'll try to play to their strengths."
BUCS BITS: DT Gerald McCoy (leg) and DE Adrian Clayborn (arm) are sore from sustaining injuries that forced them to leave Friday's game, but they will be ready for the season opener Sept. 9 against Carolina. Neither is slated to play Wednesday. … MLB Adam Hayward had a good showing Friday in place of Mason Foster, who has a slight hamstring strain. But Schiano said Foster has done a good job as well and Hayward likely will provide depth at all three linebacker spots.