On Wednesday, Doug Martin talked to the media for eleven minutes and among many topics, addressed a popular criticism that was tossed his way during free agency. In the days and weeks leading up to Martin’s new deal with the Bucs, many fans and media were concerned that Martin’s dominant 2015 season was primarily the result of him playing in a contract year with a sizable payday looming in the near future. While this theory could apply to many professional athletes – many of which have played for the Bucs – Doug has never been the type of person that would cash out and coast. Martin had the following to say about the subject:
“People like to say that it was because of my contract year and that’s why I did the things that I did. But there was a lot of things that happened to me. We got Dirk in, we drafted two rookies on the offensive line…we drafted Jameis. It was all those tangibles that were the reason for my success”.
Martin hit the nail on the head. There are a lot of moving parts in a functional running game, and in Martin’s two down years those moving parts were broken. Whether it be the offensive scheme (or lack thereof), the rotating door of quarterbacks, or the complete nonexistence of offensive line, the Bucs did a less than satisfactory job of building a capable rushing attack on offense. That changed in 2015, and Doug Martin promptly exploded, finishing as the second leading rusher in the NFL.
This isn’t to say that Martin doesn’t share some of the blame for his failures. Injuries suck, but they’re a part of sports and it’s ultimately the players responsibility to stay healthy. But assuming that Martin stays healthy, a new contract shouldn’t deter him from repeating his 2015 success. The same parts of the engine that helped him go remain largely intact, with the exception of Logan Mankins, who was replaced by a run-blocking specialist in J.R. Sweezy. The sky should continue to be the limit for Doug Martin – and the Bucs offense as a whole – in the 2016 season.