Doug Martin has 247 rushing yards at the quarter pole of the season, which means he’s exactly three yards shy of a 1,000-yard pace as a rookie.
Now, with 16-game schedules and more explosive offenses, the 1,000-yard mark isn’t quite the automatic prestige number it used to be for running backs. There were 15 1,000-yard backs last year, meaning nearly half of the league had one. There were 17 in 2010, including Martin’s current teammate, LeGarrette Blount. Twenty-eight of the 32 NFL teams have had a 1,000-yard rusher within the last three seasons. Martin could still become just the fourth rookie in Buccaneers history to hit that milestone, joining Blount, Cadillac Williams and Errict Rhett. His own feelings about his first month in the NFL, however, basically fall in line with the general tenor of the above paragraph: It’s a nice start, but he wants more.
“I feel fine,” said the 2012 first-round pick out of Boise State. “It’s not what I my vision of it would be, but it’s a work in progress. It’s a process, and during the season we’re going to get better.”
Martin has an average of 3.5 yards per carry on his 71 totes, which is actually a bit more impressive than it looks. He has run hard between the tackles and generally managed to get positive yards, with a lot of three and four-yard gains. His average has simply not been spiked by long runs; his longest carry so far is 17 yards, though he’s had a 19 and a 20-yarder erased by penalty. Given his quick moves and his demonstrated tackle-breaking ability, one would expect Martin to eventually break out for some bigger gains. He believes that is right around the corner.
“As a running back, you’ve got to be patient,” he said. “It will come. It will come. We’ve got a lot of season left, and we’ll keep practicing and it will come. It comes with practice – staying up, hitting the hole. It’s all in the details. We need everybody as a whole on offense to stay on the details.”
Indeed, Martin’s ability to pick up his full-season pace from around 1,000 yards to 1,200 or 1,400 will depend largely on how well his teammates perform around him. Head Coach Greg Schiano says that means more than just blocking well on Martin’s runs; it means extending drives so there is more offense to go around for everyone. The Bucs are converting just 25.5% of their third downs at this point, tied for the worst mark in the league.
“We needed more plays to be able to run the ball more [against Washington] because it’s not like we didn’t run it effectively,” said Schiano, referring to the Bucs’ 80 yards on just 18 carries Sunday. “We ran it – I think we averaged 4.4 yards a carry with a 20-yard run taken back on a holding penalty – but you just need more shoots to do it. We need more plays to do it. We’ve got to convert on third down, it gives you more plays.”