“Doug Martin is an every-down back and we don’t have many in the NFL. With Vincent Jackson and Josh Freeman, they have their triplets.”
- Marshall Faulk, NFL GameDay
Tampa Bay’s offense – the league’s most productive group over the past five weeks in terms of both yards and points – is much more than three players. WR Mike Williams is having a superb season, RBs LeGarrette Blount and D.J. Ware have defined roles, TE Dallas Clark is becoming more integrated into the attack, Tiquan Underwood has been a very useful third receiver and the offensive line has excelled despite a rash of injuries.
So any reference to a new set of “triplets” in Tampa Bay – Josh Freeman, Doug Martin and Vincent Jackson – should not detract from the work of the rest of their teammates.
Still, that term has had tremendous cachet since it was first used prominently to refer to the trio of Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin on the multiple-Super-Bowl-winning Dallas teams of the first half of the ’90s. That Cowboy team had plenty of other contributors, too, but there’s no denying that the triplets were special. All three are now in the Hall of Fame.
Such an eventuality is a long way for any current Buccaneers (save for Ronde Barber, potentially), but it’s fair to say that Marshall Faulk has correctly identified one of the most dynamic trios in Buccaneer history. Here is what Freeman, Martin and Jackson are on pace for this season, respectively:
- Freeman: 4,012 passing yards, 32 touchdowns, nine interceptions and a 98.2 passer rating.
- Martin: 1,532 rushing yards, 5.0 yards per carry, 2,059 yards from scrimmage, 14 total touchdowns.
- Jackson: 64 receptions, 1,367 yards, 21.4 yards per catch, 11 touchdown receptions.
The bolded numbers are totals that would set or tie Buccaneer single-season records. Most of Martin’s totals would be the second-best marks in team history, as would Jackson’s yards and yards per catch. But Freeman would be breaking records from 2003, while Martin is chasing mostly 1984 numbers and Jackson is tilting at standards from all up and down team history. What’s impressive is that they are all doing it at the same time.
In fact, that’s beyond impressive; it’s almost unprecedented…not in Buccaneer history but in NFL history.
Freeman is on pace for roughly 4,000 passing yards, Martin for roughly 1,500 rushing yards and Jackson for roughly 1,400 receiving yards. In fact, Freeman and Martin would shoot past those marks at their current rate, while Jackson would only need to pick up the pace a little to get to the next even hundred. How rare would 4,000/1,500/1,400 triplets be? Very.
That trio of yardage totals has only been produced by teammates in the same year three times in league history, and two were by the same group. Here are the only such occurrences:
1. 1995 Detroit Lions
Passing: Scott Mitchell, 4,338 yards
Rushing: Barry Sanders, 1,500 yards
Receiving: Herman Moore, 1,686 yards and Brett Perriman, 1,488 yards*
2. 1999 Indianapolis Colts
Passing: Peyton Manning, 4,135 yards
Rushing: Edgerrin James, 1,553 yards
Receiving: Marvin Harrison, 1,663 yards
3. 2000 Indianapolis Colts
Passing: Peyton Manning, 4,267 yards
Rushing: Edgerrin James, 1,709 yards
Receiving: Marvin Harrison, 1,413 yards
* Since both Moore and Perriman finished a qualifying set of triplets that year, one could say it has been done four times, technically.
Of course, projections are just that, and any one of the Bucs’ three triplets could trend higher or lower than their current targets down the stretch. Still, those three have already established themselves as a combined weapon unlike any in Buccaneer history, and they could find themselves in exclusive NFL company by the end of the year.