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NFL Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2013 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Will Rise or Fall With RB Doug Martin

Daniel Shirey-USA Today Sports

Doug Martin is the best runner in the NFC South not named Cam Newton. He’s also a huge reason the Tampa Bay Buccaneers improved as much as they did in 2012. Tampa Bay will need Martin even more this season, as the Buccaneers success will depend largely on Martin and his ability to keep Tampa Bay productive on the ground.

Tampa Bay went 7-9 in 2012, which might not sound like a record to cheer about for some, but considering the 4-12 record in the previous season, picking up three more wins was huge. One telling stat about the nine Tampa Bay losses is that in only one of them did Doug Martin rush for over 90 yards, and that was in a 23-21 last second loss to the Philadelphia Eagles where Martin ran for 128 yards.

On the flip side, in nearly every Buccaneers win, Martin ran for over 90 yards. So the trend has begun, and will continue into 2013. As goes Doug Martin, so goes the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. His Pro Bowl rookie season was a catalyst for the Bucs resurgence.

Martin was also largely responsible for the re-birth of quarterback Josh Freeman, who after a sensational season in 2010 fell on hard times and massive criticism during the Bucs disappointing 2011 campaign. With Martin in the backfield, Freeman felt a sense of comfort knowing the game didn’t rest completely on his shoulders.

The Boise State product has everything you could want in a modern-day running back. He’s powerful yet extremely fast (just ask Atlanta Falcons safety Thomas DeCoud), he’s durable (carrying the ball 319 times and catching 49 passes), and despite his smaller than usual 5’9 stature, he has tremendous ability to pick up blitzes and block in the backfield.

The only thing Martin is missing is a good nickname, as apparently his given one–”The Muscle Hamster”–isn’t to his liking. Martin has said that he’d prefer “Dougernaut, Dougernator, Muscle & Hustle…or just Doug is fine”

Don’t worry Doug. I’m sure that if you perform in 2013 as well as you did in your rookie season, Chris Berman will come up with something for you.

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Michael Collins is a Rant Sports Senior NFL Writer, and Atlanta sports columnist. Follow him @GaSportsCraze on Twitter and here on Facebook