He can break tackles. He can dodge linebackers. He can catch the ball out of the backfield.
Ah, but can Doug Martin sign his name?
For the Tampa Bay Bucs, that might be the next impressive play by Martin. To sign a new contract. To make sure he stays in a backfield where he has gained 941 yards this season.
That’s impressive, considering that Martin had only 950 yards combined for the Bucs in the previous two seasons. He was so pedestrian in those years, in fact, that the Bucs chose not to exercise the fifth year of his contract before this season. It may have been hard to blame the Bucs then, but now, coach Lovie Smith admits that keeping Martin in town is a priority for the team.
“He definitely is,” Smith said Monday. “I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I think it’s benefitted Doug. I don’t think he came in not thinking he was wanted. We put him in position to have the season he’s had.”
So far, Martin is second in the NFL in rushing, only 65 yards behind Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson. He’s had four games of more than 100, plus his 235-yard effort on Sunday.
“I told Doug that a lot of backs get 100 yards, but not that many get 200,” Smith said.
The problem with not re-signing Martin last year is twofold. First of all, the Bucs could have signed him to an inexpensive extension. Now, he’ll cost more money. And two, they could end up losing him. However, Martin probably appreciates running in this offense, with these teammates.
“I think he’s a complete running back,” Smith said. “His rushing yards say that. He can get third and short. He has enough power to get that. What I’ve been impressed with is him making guys miss in the open field. Sometimes, there are small holes. He knows how to get himself small to get through. He has vision, instincts. Vision. That’s what he’s been doing. We’ve seen him run over people and make people miss.”
Smith said he had not heard a thing from the league regarding the possible suspension of linebacker Kwon Alexander.
One of the Bucs’ biggest drives of the season happened at the beginning of the third period, when the Bucs drove the ball 80 yards on 15 plays, overcoming their own penalties to go ahead 35-14. On the drive, the Bucs overcame second-and-19, third-and-eight, third-and-four, third-and-16, second-and-20 and third-and-three.
“That’s a drive we’ll be talking about for a long time.”
The Bucs find themselves on the outskirts of playoff talk at 5-5, talk that would gain more substance if the team can win in Indianapolis this week.