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.
Bucs repeated blunders lead to London defeat
Despite traveling over 4000 miles to London, it was a day to forget for the Bucs in their rematch with the Panthers on Sunday. Tampa Bay and QB Jameis Winston had enough misuses for a month of football, including 7 turnovers, as they dropped a 37 – 26 defeat at the hands of Carolina.
Winston was the biggest culprit, as he threw five interceptions (a career high) and also lost a number fumble in what was one of his worst performances of his five year career. And, even though his final stat line showed a 400 yards passing, Winston, with shaky from the very beginning. He threw an interception on the first play of the game to Panthers DB James Bradberry. This while trying to hit WR Mike Evans (catchless last week) over the middle.
Carolina only got a field goal though to make the game 3-0. And, after two Bucs punts on the next two possessions, Carolina marched 99 yards and ended up with in a short Christian Mccaffery one yard TD and a 10 – 0 lead.
One of the few breaks the Bucs got at Tottenham Hotspurs Stadium Sunday came when Carolina punt returner Ray Ray McCloud fumbled early in the second and Tampa Bay recovered. A short time later, Ronald Jones got the Buccaneers on the board with a five yard score to close the Carolina lead to 10-7.
Little did the Bucs, Winston and coach Bruce Arians know that it would be the closest they would get the rest of the day.
Later in the second, Winston had his arm hit by the Panthers Bruce Irvin and his pass was picked, again. And, it set up McCaffery’s second TD, a 25 yard catch and run to make it 17-7 Carolina in the half.
Christian McCaffery is the most athletic white man in the world pic.twitter.com/DfYk6bHDUN
— NFL Humor (@NFLHumor) October 13, 2019
Then, after halftime, the Bucs punted on their first possession and then, after a Panthers field goal made it 20-7, Winston once again threw a bad pass over the middle for his third interception of the game. This one to Pro Bowl LB Luke Kuechley, who ran it down to the Bucs 8 yard line. Next, WR Curtis Samuel scored on a handoff and at 27-7, the issue was basically decided.
Yes, the Bucs continued to scrap and Winston actually got them in the endzone twice in the fourth quarter and finished with 400 yards passing, on the number. However, most of that was against softer coverage while Carolina led big in the second half.
Besides the five INTS, Winston also fumbled away another red zone scoring opportunity after he was hit and sacked. Then, a fourth quarter Bobo Wilson muffed punt led to Panthers field goal and the game back to an easy double digit lead. Again, -6 in the turnover margin was as horrific as it gets for Tampa Bay.
The Panthers are now rolling, including second year QB Kyle Allen getting his fourth straight win in relief of the injured Cam Newton. Plus, Carolina got their revenge from a loss a month ago in Charlotte by winning in their first ever trip to the U.K.
However, this day was more about a Bucs offense, and Winston specifically, that both looked so good in a 55-40 win two weeks ago in L.A. doing the exact opposite for most of this Sunday in a bad defeat.
Tampa Bay now stands 2-4 headed to their bye and knows that the turnovers must stop, or the year will get more sour and very quickly.
Bucs in London leads our Sunday NFL primer
For one of the rare times this season, all three state NFL teams are in action on Sunday early and one of them very early.
First stop, the Buccaneers rematch the Panthers. This time in London at the newly rebuilt Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
— Carmen Vitali (@CarmieV) October 13, 2019
The Bucs come off of a tough loss 31-24 in New Orleans last week, but do have a win in week two at Carolina 20-14.
In that game, Tampa Bay’s defense took advantage of an injured quarterback Cam Newton and also stuffed running back Christian McCaffrey on their way to a division road win. Newton has been replaced the last three weeks by backup Kyle Allen and he has lead them to three consecutive victories, including road wins at Arizona and Houston.
Meanwhile, Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston (photo above) will try to ignite his connection with receiver Mike Evans, the Pro Bowler was held without a catch in last week’s loss at the Superdome.
Next up, the Jaguars will host those Saints at TIAA Bank Field. Jacksonville has performed well with rookie 6th round pick quarterback Gardner Minshew leading them That includes a week ago in Charlotte, as Minshew threw for two more touchdowns in a narrow 34-27 loss to the Panthers. Minshew is 2-2 in his starts.
Also, third year running back Leonard Fournette has rounded into form with back-to-back good games including over 100 yards and his first touchdown of the season in a loss to the Panthers.
The Saints come in with three consecutive victories under backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who riddled the Buccaneers for four touchdowns last week. The Saints top target is wide receiver Michael Thomas and it’s unknown, whether Jaguars football defensive back Jalen Ramsey will be healthy enough/active to cover him in this game.
Finally, in Miami it’s a pair of winless teams, as the 0-5 Redskins visit the 0-4 Dolphins. Washington fired their coach Jay Gruden earlier in the week and replaced him with veteran assistant and former Raiders head coach, Bill Callahan.
Meanwhile, first-year coach Brian Flores and the Fins come out of a bye week with a chance at extra preparation in looking for their first win of the season. Flores maintained this week that second-year quarterback Josh Rosen has the starting job, not just for now, but for the foreseeable future.
In their last game two weeks ago, Rosen led a touchdown drive that actually gave Miami their first and only leader of the season at 10-6 against the Chargers However, L.A outplayed them in the second half to keep Miami without a victory.
Both of these teams have looked poor through much of the first part of the year, but one of them will get to celebrate, at least in the short term, with a Sunday win.
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