This just in: the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have found an identity. In a league full of teams with offensive identity crises, the Buccaneers have figured out that feeding Doug Martin the ball will pay dividends. Thursday night, the Buccaneers established their run game early against the Minnesota Vikings, and the rest of the game plan fell right into place. What a novel concept: get the ground game going and the passing game is made 10 times easier for your young quarterback.
On Thursday night, Doug Martin ran for 135 yards with one touchdown, and caught three balls for 79 yards and another touchdown. Martin was compared to Ray Rice in the preseason by head coach, Greg Schiano. Although Martin got off to a slow start, the comparison has been dead on since the Bucs returned from their bye week. Martin resembles a bowling ball, as he is a down hill runner with a low pad level, and deceptive speed. In the last three games, the Buccaneers have increased his role and in return, he has increased his production.
The focus on the run game has taken pressure off quarterback, Josh Freeman, and allowed him to be more comfortable in the pocket. Since the bye week, Freeman has posted 23 or more points for fantasy owners, and three touchdowns in each game. Count em’ folks, three each game. Could this be credited to defenses having to stack the box to try to slow down Martin? You can bet your bottom dollar it is.
Next week, the Bucs face a middle of the pack Oakland Raiders defense that holds defenses to 102.2 yards per game, which is 12th in the league. The Raiders are in the bottom half of the league as far as allowing rushing touchdowns, giving up six this year. Given the offensive mentality that Tampa Bay has shown over the last three weeks, Martin is a must start here.
However, Week 10 poses a matchup that drops Martin to a RB2 or a flex play, as he lines up against the San Diego Chargers. The Chargers only allow 71 rushing yards a game and have only seen two rushing touchdowns get by them. With that said, you can’t keep Martin out of your starting line up, due to workload and offensive scheme. This will be the case going forward each week, barring an injury. Play Martin with confidence, as the rookie running back seems to have come into his own.
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