Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson fell nine yards short of breaking the NFL’s single-season rushing record on Sunday and might very well have put himself at the top of the league’s MVP list. Detroit Calvin Johnson broke Jerry Rice’s single-season record for receiving yards and came incredibly close to breaking the 2,000 barrier. Peterson and Johnson had 2012 seasons that will be remembered for a very, very long time.
Here’s a list of the three top yardage gainers in the entire NFL in 2012:
1. Adrian Peterson: 2,314
2. Calvin Johnson: 1,964
3. Doug Martin: 1,926
Martin’s Buccaneers aren’t headed to the playoffs, and he didn’t set any NFL records in 2012 (though he obliterated several Buccaneer team marks). He nearly joined Eric Dickerson and Edgerrin James as the only rookies ever to eclipse 2,000 yards from scrimmage, but his total of 1,926 didn’t round off into anything eye-catching at first glance. It’s somewhat understandable, then, that Martin’s debut campaign isn’t being widely celebrated outside of Tampa…but perhaps it should be.
Or perhaps, and more likely, he will be celebrated in the near future, because the Buccaneers believe Martin is only going to go up from here.
“Here’s a young player who’s just shy of 2,000 yards from scrimmage, and almost caught Calvin Johnson,” said Buccaneers General Manager Mark Dominik. “When you think about Doug Martin, you say, ‘There are only two players in the league that had more yards from scrimmage – it’s Adrian Peterson, Calvin Johnson…and Doug Martin.’ It’s very exciting when you [realize] he didn’t quite have as many touches and catches as he could have. Alfred Morris, who played very well last night and helped the Redskins get over the top, he had more carries than Doug Martin this season. I’m not worried about him in terms of durability. Here’s a guy that’s 215, 218 pounds and runs low to the ground and knows how to avoid hits. He’s really a punishing runner.”
Head Coach Greg Schiano had to answer questions several times during the season about how the team was making sure it didn’t overwork its rookie back. In the end, it wasn’t much of an issue. Martin started all 16 games, never seemed to be fatigued and finished the season with one of his best games of the year, a 160-yard, one-touchdown performance at Atlanta. On a 40-yard touchdown run in the third quarter he simply ran away from the entire defense after breaking into the clear.
Martin felt just fine on Monday after a rookie season in which he touched the ball 368 times on handoffs or receptions. That said, he thinks he can be even more physically ready for the NFL grind in 2013.
“No, I didn’t hit the rookie wall at all,” said Martin. “I felt strong throughout the season and I played to the best of my abilities. I felt strong at the end of the season. I felt good. I’ve got a coach back where I train. I have had a good feel of the game, so I have a good idea of what I need to work on and what to improve on.”
There are reasons for optimism beyond Martin’s obvious talents. Before the NFL training camps convened in late July, it seemed as if the Buccaneers would have one of the league’s most effective offensive lines, thanks in large part to the presence of 2011 Pro Bowl guards Davin Joseph and Carl Nicks. Joseph tore up his knee in the preseason and Nicks was lost seven games into the regular-season to a toe injury, and the plan changed drastically. The Bucs were pleased with the fill-in play of such linemen as Jamon Meredith and Ted Larsen, but they’ll be even more pleased to get Joseph and Nicks back in 2013.
“Doug Martin, I think he was third in the National Football League in yards from scrimmage,” said Head Coach Greg Schiano. “You’re talking about a rookie without his two pro bowl guards in front of him doing that. That is exciting to me going forward.”
Dominik, who engineered the draft-weekend deals that allowed the team to snare Martin, S Mark Barron and LB Lavonte David within the first two rounds last April, was particularly pleased to see the Bucs’ young back end his rookie season on such a high note. All three of those high picks were instrumental in the Bucs’ season-capping victory, and Dominik is particularly eager to see what Martin can accomplish in Year Two.
“Doug Martin’s got a chance to be a really special back here for a long time,” he said. “I’m really excited about what he’s done and what he’s started, but I also know that at the end of the day he’s just a rookie. It’s exciting and encouraging for everybody as to what he’s going to be for this football team.”