The NFL is no longer a league where teams rely on one running back to be the bull for their offense. In the last decade we have seen more teams than not utilize a two or even three running back system. One guy being the main runner while the other two offering a “Change of pace” style to throw off opposing defenses. One early indication that the league was heading in this general direction is Tiki Barber and Ron Dayne for the New York Giants. One could look at 2002 when both Barber and Dayne accounted for nearly 2,000 rushing yards together (Barber 1,386 and Dayne 428). That same season Tiki added almost 600 yards receiving as well while Dayne only had 49.
Last season Doug Martin returned to his rookie form for the first time in four seasons. Not since 2012 had Martin rushed for more than 1,000 yards. In the two years between Martin failed to hit 500 yards rushing due to various injuries. A contract year can at times be very misleading to player stats especially for running backs. More times than we all care to admit players do tend to step it up in years where they could be due a huge contract in that offseason. In the first season under then offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, Doug ran for over 1,400 yards while catching passes equaling 271 yards.
Second year pro Charles Sims III was the “Change of pace” back for Koetter’s offense and relished in the increase in playing time for the season before where he as well battled injuries. During the 2015 Buccaneers season Sims ran for 529 yards while averaging 4.9 yards a carry the same per carry average as Doug Martin, but where Sims was incredibly helpful to rookie quarterback Jameis Winston was in the passing game. Sims caught passes totaling 561 yards with a per game average of 35.1 yards and per catch average of 11.1 yards.
Both men totaled seven fumbles for the 2015 season, Adrian Peterson alone accounted for that many in Minnesota. While Todd Gurley in St Louis only accounted for three by himself. Darren McFadden and Chris Ivory who rounded out the top five last season each dropped the ball a few times (McFadden 3 and Ivory 4). This upcoming season Ivory moves to the sunny confines of Jacksonville while McFadden will battle rookie sensation Ezekiel Elliott for playing time.
It’s not out of the realm of possibility to say Martin and Sims could become the best 1-2 punch in all the NFL for years to come, but right now I will say without a shadow of a doubt they are the top pairing heading into the 2016 season.
I won’t dispute that Doug Martin and Charles Sims III were a formidable one-two punch for Tampa Bay. After all, the numbers that Trevor previously stated do speak for themselves. And, much like our editor-in-chief, I do feel that the Martin/Sims tandem will make a lot of noise for the 2016 season, but to label them as the top duo is pushing it just a little bit. There are a few teams in the NFL that also have good running back corps, not to mention contributing to their respective team’s playoff runs. In order for our Tampa Twosome to stand out, they’ll have to outshine some top-tier talent.
In Dallas, Darren McFadden had a career resurgence behind arguably the best offensive line in the league. He cracked 1000 yards for the first time in five years, and tallied 328 yards receiving out of the backfield. This season he might be taking a backseat to rookie Ezekiel Elliot. However, if Elliot turns out to be the stud he’s projected to be, and Tony Romo stays healthy, I’d look for the Elliot/McFadden duo to make a lot of noise in the Big D. Plus, as an insurance policy, in case one of them need a breather, Alfred Morris could be a difference maker as well.
Then there’s that duo that’s literally running the offense in Pittsburgh. With Le’Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams, you have arguably the best tandem of backs in the league. Williams filled in quite nicely while Bell was either injured or suspended last season, rushing for 907 yards and 11 TD’s. Bell, for the six games he played had 692 total yards and three scores. Right now, Bell is currently facing a four-game suspension for 2016, but once he’s on the field along with Williams, the Pittsburgh offense will wreak havoc in the AFC North.
For another example, let’s go to the NFC North and the Green Bay Packers. Eddie Lacy had packed on the pounds last season, and it greatly diminished his play with 946 total yards and just five TD’s. But backup James Starks proved to be a breakout star for Aaron Rodgers and the crew, rushing for 601 yards and leading the team with 993 yards from scrimmage. With Lacy shedding the excess weight and looking good during OTA’s, he could be giving defenses fits yet again. Couple that with James Starks coming in as an added hand, this tandem could make a run as one of league’s best.
Look, in time, Doug Martin and Charles Sims III could grow into the cream of the crop when the discussion opens on running back duos. It does help that they are essentially running the same type of offense from last year when Dirk Koetter was the offensive coordinator. Anything is possible, but with the aforementioned teams and others like Kansas City, Arizona, and division rival Carolina, the running back committees are stocked and deep. For right now, the Buccaneers duo are in the top ten, but to say they’ll be the standard for 2016, it’s a stretch.
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