The Tampa Bay Buccaneers found a pleasant surprise when they traded up back into the first round to draft Doug Martin out of Boise State. While his production has dipped a bit at the end of the season, he already holds multiple Buccaneers records and appears to be one of the most complete backs in the NFL already that can catch, run and pass protect.
When he’s on the field, the Buccaneers have the flexibility of calling anything in their playbook with the confidence that Martin can perform that job capably. The problem is when he checks out of the game they become very limited.
D.J. Ware has been an alright pickup from the New York Giants and has been the main back to replace Martin. He understands pass blocking and can catch the ball well out of the backfield, but the truth of the matter is he isn’t scaring any defense. He lacks explosiveness and is mostly just a journeyman running back at this stage in his career.
The biggest disappointment this season though has to be LeGarrette Blount. The former 1,000 yard rusher has seen limited action and really only had one good game on the season when the Buccaneers put the Kansas City Chiefs away early and he got to run against a tired defense in the end.
Blount, despite being one of the bigger backs in the league, is the worst at short yardage running that I have seen from a back of his size. He hesitates from the hand off and doesn’t have enough burst to get through the holes in time. If there aren’t wide open holes that allow Blount gets a head start, he usually gets minimal gains if he doesn’t just run into the back of one of his own lineman.
If you add in his inability to pick up blitzes, you have a running back that never sees the field to show off any of his talents. It’s a shame because the talent is there with Blount, but being a good running back has so much more to do then just running the football.
The Buccaneers will be in the market for a backup to Martin and the first place they should look is in their division at the New Orleans Saints. With Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles and Chris Ivory, any one of those could hit the market this off season. The most likely is Ivory who is a free agent.
Ivory’s running style matches up with coach Greg Schiano’s philosophy and could be the perfect complement to Martin. If they don’t make a run at him they could still think that seventh round pick Michael Smith could be that change of pace guy.
The former Utah State running back has speed to burn but been a scratch on most game days. From what I understand is they are trying to keep him under wraps until next season, but with one game left it would be nice to see what we have in him this last week. Whatever way the Buccaneers do it this off season it’s something that needs to be done before they wear Martin out.