TAMPA – The true value of a good running back such as two-time Pro Bowl Buccaneers back Doug Martin cannot be measured solely by the number of yards he gains on the ground.
Martin proved as much during his season debut in the Bucs 19-14 loss to the Patriots last Thursday night.
Despite not having played in a month as he served out the final three games of the four-game suspension he earned for violating the NFL’s PED policy, Martin ran 13 times for 74 yards in that game.
That’s impressive all on its own, but there were some more or less hidden passing yards that Martin helped to accrue simply by being in the lineup that he didn’t automatically get credit for.
With Martin back and running the ball so well that the Patriots had to respect him as a ground threat, Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston was near perfect when throwing off play-action.
Winston picked up an extra 96 yards and fashioned a very impressive 118.8 passer rating by completing six of the seven passes he threw off play-action, according to Pro Football Focus.
That worked out to an average of 13.7 yards per pass attempt, which was more than double the 6.1 yards per pass attempt Winston averaged on all of his other throws.
Of course, one of the reasons Martin can have such an impact on the passing game is because opponents almost have to devote extra personnel to stopping him in the running game.
When he’s been healthy and on his game, Martin has been as good as any back in the league not just at gaining rushing yards overall but particularly at gaining them after contact.
Martin did a superb job of that as well in his season debut, picking up an extra 42 yards after contact, according to PFF, as well as 55 yards on nine runs between the tackles.
If Martin can continue to churn out yards like that, he will indeed be the difference maker the Bucs were counting on him to be when they opted (wisely) to hold on to him through his recent tribulations.