NFL NEWS: Doug Martin
Doug Martin‘s slow start this season serves as another reminder of the Bucs’ struggles to retain a reliable feature back.
Martin, one of two first round selections the Bucs made in 2012, hasn’t shown the durability needed to help lead the team since his successful rookie season in 2012. He rushed for 1,454 yards in 319 carries and 11 touchdowns. Injuries shortened his 2013 season with 456 yards in 127 carries and one TD through six games. Through three games, he’s only rushed for nine yards in nine carries as injuries again is slowing his progress.Bobby Rainey has been taking over primary rushing duties in Martin’s absence. Through 12 games in two seasons, Rainey’s rushed for 729 yards and five TDs. His only TD this season came on a catch.
Martin’s not an isolated case. If you list the top 10 all-time leaders in rushing in Tampa Bay Buccaneers history, you will only find two who have had back-to-back 1,000+ rushing seasons, all-time franchise leading rusher James Wilder and Errict Rhett.
Wilder posted 1,544 and 1,300 rushing yards between the 1984-85 seasons for a combined 23 TDs. He amassed 5,957 rushing yards through nine seasons for the Bucs. Only Mike Alstott played for longer on the team at the position and ranks at no. 2 with 5,088 yards despite never surpassing 1,000 rushing yards in a single season. No one will presumably touch his franchise rushing TD record at 58.
Rhett remains the only Bucs player in franchise history to rush for over 1,000 yards in his first two years with the team. He amassed 1,011 and 1,207 rushing yards through the 1994-95 seasons scoring 18 TDs in the span. He remains eighth on the list all-time with 2,853 yards.
So why has it been so hard for the Bucs to find a reliable back year in and out? Rarely has the position ever warranted longevity given the volatile and frequent nature of injuries.
Martin’s in danger of being like another first round bust, Carnell “Cadillac” Williams. Williams won Rookie of the Year honors in 2005 rushing for 1,178 yards and six TDs, but was never able to replicate his success as injuries and poor offensive play limited his use. He would depart for the St. Louis Rams in 2011 where he finished his career. Williams finished with 4,038 rushing yards and 21 rushing TDs over his seven-year career. His 3,677 rushing yards with the team is fourth all-time with the Bucs.
Can the Bucs survive without a prominent feature back? Sure, given current offensive line play and injury concerns, you’re not likely to ever see Martin and Rainey produce like Warrick Dunn and Alstott did back during the Tony Dungy years. Dunn ranks right behind Alstott in career rushing yards with the team with 4,986 yards in two stints. He was able to top 1,000 yards twice, but not in consecutive years.
The Bucs most successful years under Dungy was due in part because of Dunn and Alstott, yet the team also won the Super Bowl with Michael Pittman running the ball. Pittman never topped 100 yards rushing during the 2002 season until Super Bowl XXXVII when he ran for 124 yards. He would play for five more years with the team, never topping 1,000 yards once in a single season and finished with 3,362 rushing yards with the franchise, which is good for fifth all-time.
Whether Martin will return as the primary feature back remains to be seen given his health and Rainey’s performance this year.