Doug Martin insists he has not experienced a rookie wall. The Buccaneers don’t plan to erect one in front of him, either.
In news that will please Buccaneer fans and any Doug Martin fantasy football owners who happen to be in their league finals, Head Coach Greg Schiano said on Monday that he does not intend to reduce the load on his rookie back during the final two weeks. While conceding that his team is now out of the playoff race, Schiano still sees value in playing the last two games with a full deck, and Martin is definitely one of his aces.
“You know one of the things we talked about when we arrived here was establishing a new culture, a different culture,” said Schiano. “Although we’ve made strides, we’re not anywhere close to where we need to be and I think Doug Martin is part of establishing that new culture. I think it would not be a good time in our program’s development to say, ‘Hey Doug why don’t you just cool off here for next year?’ I don’t think that’s where we are as a program.”
After inserting themselves in the thick of the playoff race with four straight wins in October and November, the Bucs have fallen out of the running with a quartet of losses. Opponents have found a way to cut into Martin’s incredible production, too, although much of that has had to do with game situations. Either way, Schiano wants his team to find a way to battle back from that downturn, and that includes getting the most out of Martin.
“Part of building anything is it’s never [completely uphill],” said Schiano. “There are always setbacks, there’s always adversity, so how do we handle adversity. If [Martin] was on a veteran-laden team that for whatever reason didn’t make it to the playoffs this year [after] being in it for the last five or six years, maybe we’d want to rest him. But that’s not the case.”
There’s this, too: Most of the time when a coaching staff looks at other options after its team’s playoff hopes have been extinguished, it’s a matter of finding out what the younger players on the roster can do. Martin, of course, is one of those young players, as is defensive standout Lavonte David, and even breakout defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who is only in his third NFL year and is on the verge of his first 16-game season. The Bucs are already leaning heavily on young players in the secondary and at several other spots, so there’s not too much deeper into the well they need to dip.
“We’re in the early phases of the development of this program and part of that is learning how to win and win consistently, so that’s my number-one and only goal Sunday,” said Schiano. “We’re playing a lot of young guys already with all the injuries and stuff we’ve had, there’s a lot of guys in there that weren’t even on the roster [at the start of the season]. We’ll see [but] that’s not my main focus at all. My main focus is trying to build a culture of winning, and more importantly the things it takes to win.”
Martin’s continued involvement will allow him to build on what has already been the greatest season ever by a Buccaneers rookie running back. His 1,250 rushing yards is already a Buccaneer rookie record, as are his 10 rushing touchdowns. His 11 total touchdowns is tied with Mike Williams’ 2010 output for the best by a Tampa Bay rookie, and his 1,647 combined rushing and receiving yards are the second most in a single season by a Buc player of any kind. Martin is on pace for 1,428 rushing yards, 1,882 total yards from scrimmage and between 12 and 13 touchdowns.