When Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin was diagnosed with a hamstring injury after Week 2’s loss at Arizona, it was originally believed that he would be out for three weeks. Well, we’re coming up on Week 8, and Martin still hasn’t made his return. Although Bucs fans were concerned about the team’s running game since QB Jameis Winston was losing a valuable weapon, Jacquizz Rodgers has stepped up and exceeded expectations in Martin’s place. Which brings us to this week’s question on Tampa 2sDay: Is there a RB controversy in Tampa Bay?
At the moment, yes. Especially if Rodgers keeps playing well.
By Brooks Roland
Throughout his career, Doug Martin has proven to be either spectacular or injury-prone. There hasn’t been a lot of middle ground. He’s either blowing up for 1,400+ yards or he’s ending the year on the shelf with some sort of injury. After cashing in with a new contract during the offseason, it has been the latter once again during the first seven weeks of the season, as Martin hasn’t seen the field since Week 2 due to an ongoing hamstring injury. Since then, Charles Sims took over the lead back role, but soon found himself on IR. This left the Bucs to rely on the recently-signed Jacquizz Rodgers and Antone Smith, as well as Peyton Barber, to carry the load in Bucs’ backfield, with Rodgers shouldering most of the responsibility.
Before Rodgers came on board, he hadn’t made much of an impact in the NFL, toiling with the Falcons for four seasons and with the Bears for five games in 2015. Since taking over the starting role as Tampa Bay’s lead running back, Rodgers has run for 324 yards in five games, averaging 4.7 yards a carry in the process. In fact, he’s only 38 yards shy of matching his career-high for rushing yards in a season. In five games! Watching him run is like watching a slightly shorter version of Martin at work. Both are short in stature, but run with violence and authority, breaking off chunks of yardage and proving difficult to take down due to their power, speed, and shiftiness. And when Rodgers has needed a breather, Barber has picked up the slack.
When Martin went down, it wasn’t a promising sign for the Bucs, as Sims was more of a receiving back who provided a nice change of pace but hasn’t proven to be a feature-type back. So far, Rodgers has shown that he can handle the workload, and he’s basically looked like the same back as Martin, only a few inches shorter. As long as he keeps running hard, stays healthy, and the offensive line continues to open holes for him, there’s really no need to rush Martin back into the lineup right now. Given Martin’s injury history, can you really trust him to be able to maintain his hold on the role of lead back? Should Rodgers still be playing at a high level by the time Martin comes back, I believe the Bucs should strongly consider going with a two-headed monster at the running back position and keep riding the hot hand. Compare it to the situation in Kansas City. Although Jamaal Charles suffered a more serious injury than Martin, the Chiefs have not just handed Charles his starting job back due to the fact that Spencer Ware has played so well in his place. I think the Bucs should do the same and ease Martin back into their lineup without feeling the need to put so much on his plate after the injury.
No, there’s not a running back controversy
By Trevor Grout
Doug Martin is still the number one back on this team, especially after signing his big deal in the offseason, a five-year, $35 million dollar contract. While he has had more injury-shortened seasons than not, he has proven to be a number-one guy in the NFL.
Jacquizz Rodgers has NEVER been a number-one guy in the NFL, but is a serviceable number two/change-of-pace back. With Charles Sims out potentially the rest of the season, a healthy Doug Martin will be the featured back for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers once he makes his return to the lineup.
Rodgers has filled in nicely during Martin’s time away due to injury, but once again the Glazers and Jason Licht didn’t pay Martin to be a number-two or to split carries in a committee role, even though Rodgers has rushed for consecutive 100-yard games for the first time in his career.
Now there have been situations where featured backs have lost jobs in the past due to injuries, but this isn’t one of those situations. The Buccaneers have invested in Doug Martin and will continue to showcase him as their featured back.
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