TAMPA – There was a time not many months ago when it seemed highly unlikely that running back Doug Martin would still be a part of the Buccaneers once training camp rolled around.
He had let the Buccaneers down, after all, earning himself a four-game suspension for a PED violation right in the middle of a playoff push while admitting he also needed help beating a drug-dependency issue.
Unreliable was the adjective most used to describe Martin at the time, and players who are deemed unreliable are usually deemed expendable shortly thereafter.
But unbelievable is the adjective that best describes Martin’s situation now.
Martin came back to the Bucs in the spring looking as fit as he ever has, according to Bucs general manager Jason Licht and coach Dirk Koetter, and his work through the first 10 days of training camp reflect that.
Outside of defensive tackle Gerald McCoy perhaps, no Buccaneers has been more consistent in camp workouts than Martin, who has easily been the Bucs back who has flashed the most during those sessions.
What Martin has done is prove that, when he’s healthy, motivated and focused on football, he’s easily the best back on the Bucs roster, and the way the Bucs have been using him in camp reflects that.
Though they won’t have him for the first three games of regular season (Martin still has three games left to serve on his suspension), the Bucs have been giving Martin the bulk of the first-team reps.
Martin usually gets two first-team reps to one for Jacquizz Rodgers, who is the favorite to replace Martin as the Bucs lead back during those first three games of the season.
It’s a role Rodgers performed well in a year ago, when he ran 129 times for 560 yards (4.3 per carry) but it’s hard to imagine the Bucs keeping Rodgers in that role once Martin returns.
Sure, Rodgers could retain the job for an extended period if he comes out of the gate hot and stays that way, but the way the Bucs have been working Martin suggests he will once again be the team’s primary ball carrier.
The Bucs are definitely deeper at the running back spot than they have been in years past, deep enough in fact to take a committee approach to running the ball should they deem that necessary.
The Bucs, though, still prefer to use a bell cow back and right now Martin is the best bell cow they have. And he proves it every day with just about every touch he gets in training camp.
From a skill standpoint, Martin’s burst, lateral quickness and agility put him well ahead of every other back in the Bucs backfield and until that changes he’ll get the nod over all those other backs as well.
Report- Bucs have extended GM Jason Licht’s contract
Hoping to practice some form of continuity, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have reportedly extended the contract of GM Jason Licht.
This after a report Saturday morning from Bucs beat writer for the Tampa Bay Times, Rick Stroud, that Licht has been given a five-year contract extension to remain with the team:
Bucs signed general manager Jason Licht to a new five year deal https://t.co/g8fswc0gyJ
— Rick Stroud (@NFLSTROUD) August 17, 2019
A big part of the reason why the Glazer family, which owns the team, wanted to keep Licht is: his ability to lure former Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians to come out of retirement and join them this past January.
Further, Stroud reports that Arians made it a condition of his coming out of retirement that Licht remain with the team long-term and that the Bucs keep embattled starting QB Jameis Winston.
Licht had been given a one-year extension for 2019 before this offseason, and the Buccaneers had already committed to keep quarterback Jameis Winston for the fifth year option of his rookie contract. Then, once former coach Dirk Koetter was fired in January, Licht’s previous relationship with Arians helped the Bucs get their new coach.
Licht was the assistant general manager with the Cardinals, when Arians was hired in 2013 and led them eventually to the NFC Championship Game in 2014.
Licht became the Buccaneers general manager at that the start of that same season, but has had a rocky tenure of results. This includes only one winning season out of five and several free agent moves and draft picks that have backfired.
None bigger than when Licht traded up in the 2016 draft for FSU kicker Roberto Aguayo in the second round, only to have Aguayo falter and be released the following year in training camp.
Licht has also had free agent busts like former Redskins defensive tackle Chris Baker and last year, Eagles defensive end Vinny Curry. Both of whom we’re paid heavily but did nothing in their one season before being released.
Licht and his staff do deserve some credit for finding unheralded players like tight end Cameron Brate, running back Peyton Barber and former wide receiver Adam Humphries. All of whom were undrafted and have been quality contributors over the last couple of seasons.
The team had no official comment on Stroud’s report of the extension.
Bucs rookie PK Gay likely won job with clutch Friday night boot
It’s not over, but it’s almost over. For all intents and purposes, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicking competition ended Friday night with :06 remaining in their second preseason game against the Miami Dolphins. That’s when rookie Matt Gay hammered a 48-yard game winning field goal that almost certainly confirmed that he will be the Bucs opening-day placekicker.
Relive the moment here, as the Utah rookie put it through the uprights and gave Tampa Bay a 16-14 win over the Dolphins:
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) August 17, 2019
“I owe it all to those game situations that we practice every day in practice. Bruce [Arians] does them for a reason and when you get out there in the game, it just feels like the practice situation because you’ve done it. So, you’re able to have the nerves calm to be able to go out there and do what you need to do,” Gay said to the media post game.
The Bucs were seemingly beaten when Dolphins backup quarterback Jake Rudock led Miami into the endzone in the final :45 and the Fins also got the two-point conversion for a 14 – 13 lead.
However, Buccaneers backup quarterback Ryan Griffin returned the favor, moving Tampa Bay into field-goal range quickly with a 27-yard completion to backup tight end Tanner Hudson that set up Gay’s game-winning attempt.
The rookie, who had made a Heinz Field record 55-yarder to end the first half in Pittsburgh in the preseason opener Last Friday Night, responded with a booming kick the curled perfectly down the middle. And, it gave Coach Bruce Arians a victory in his second preseason game as new Bucs head coach.
“We’ve done that 34-second one with two timeouts before and I thought Griff executed it to perfection and obviously Matty hit the field goal so it was a big win,” Arians told the media post game.
Gay, whom the Buccaneers drafted in April with 5th round pick, has been expected to win the kicking job from veteran Cairo Santos, who finished 2018 on the Buccaneers roster. Gay has the much stronger leg and Santos’ best hope to make the team was: if he continued to accurately knock field goals and extra points through and have Gay repeatedly misfire.
That has not happened.
And, it seems at this point academic that the rookie will be the Bucs opening day kicker.
However, what happens after the regular season begins is a whole other discussion.
As we have written repeatedly, the Bucs have been a revolving door of kickers over the course of the last five years. This includes, Tampa Bay infamously picking Florida State kicker Roberto Aguayo in the second round in 2016 only to have Aguayo falter badly in his rookie year.
And, he was cut after the first preseason game of his second year in 2017.
Gay does not lack for confidence, as he’s talked throughout the build-up to preseason that he embraces the pressure that comes with trying to solidify the Buccaneers kicking woes. Now, it appears that the only thing that would prevent him from having the chance in the regular-season to do that is, if he were to somehow get injured at the start of the year.
But, after Friday night’s finish, Gay looks like everything the Bucs and GM Jason Licht hoped he would be- a stone-cold clutch performer who can deliver, when is team needs him the most.