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NFL Training Camp Battle: Doug Martin vs. LeGarrette Blount

You could smell this battle brewing from miles away when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers traded back into the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft to snag Boise State running back Doug Martin.

Considered by many to be the most NFL-ready running back in the entire 2012 draft class, Martin was penciled in as a starter from the moment commissioner Roger Goodell read his name. But what about LeGarrette Blount?

For the past two seasons, Blount has proven himself to be a valuable asset for the Buccaneers. Sure, he comes with some off-field baggage and his fair share of issues on the field. But is Tampa Bay really ready to put Blount on the backburner?

To most, it may seem like Blount has been a pleasant surprise since going undrafted out of Oregon in 2010. During his rookie campaign, he racked up a surprising 1,007 yards and six touchdowns on 201 carries. He rattled off several big runs, displaying his brute strength and aggressive running style along the way. His inability to unhitch the trailer in the open field was a limiting factor, though.

But then his sophomore season rolled around and the slump hit him hard. Despite starting in 14 games for the Buccaneers, he managed only 781 yards and five touchdowns on 184 carries. His yards-per-carry average dropped from 5 to 4.2. Although he managed some solid efforts in 2011, his week-to-week inconsistency forced the Buccaneers to rely on their often-inefficient passing game. As you can tell by the end result of the season (4-12), that formula wasn’t working for the Buccaneers.

Lots of his struggles can be attributed to his lack of work ethic and poor attitude towards preparation, both of which are non-issues for Martin.

To make matters worse, the fumbling issues that hindered him in 2010 evolved into a plague in 2011. In only 385 career carries, Blount has fumbled nine times, losing six of them. In only two seasons, Blount managed to become one of the league’s worst fumblers.

As for Martin, the former Bronco brings a well-rounded runner to the Buccaneers ground attack. He possesses ideal size and speed for an every-down back and has the durability to be the workhorse for the Tampa Bay offense. On top of his abilities as a runner, he also displays the athleticism and hands to be a factor out of the backfield in the passing game.

Martin doesn’t have the speed to scorch the turf, but his vision and agility allow him to find creases in the defense.  Once in the open field, he combines a mix of strength and fleet-footedness to move the chains with ease. Down on the goalline, Martin displays the power to pick up the tough yards.

Like Blount, Martin has had some fumbling issues in the past that will need to be addressed as he acclimates to the NFL. His work ethic and relentless motor, though, should help him cut down on the ball security problems as well as improve on his unpolished abilities as a pass blocker.

Who wins it: Martin

It’s going to be a hard-fought battle for the Buccaneers’ No. 1 running back spot. In the end, though, I believe that Martin will come out on top. Blount has too many holes in his game and doesn’t have the off-field work ethic to outlast a player with the drive that Martin boasts.

There has been speculation that Blount will be released if Martin wins the starting job, but it seems too irrational for the Buccaneers to bet all of their chips on a rookie. They’ll hold on to Blount as an insurance policy and backup unless a desirable trade presents itself.

Follow Gil Alcaraz IV on Twitter.