For the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the AFC West has been a cake walk. Prior to their final AFC West test in Denver this week, they’ve beat up on the Kansas City Chiefs 38-10, the Oakland Raiders 42-32, and the San Diego Chargers 34-24.
Leading the charge has been the Bucs’ steady run game which is headlined by rookie Doug Martin who has already eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark, and has 9 touchdowns on the year. In fact, against Oakland, Martin went off for 251 rushing yards and 4 touchdowns.
“Being a rookie, I haven’t seen a whole lot of him, but on that short look you turn on that Raider tape, he’s just efficient,” John Fox said Wednesday. “He’s got good vision, he’s got good power even at tight spots, and he can take it the distance when he gets into the secondary. He’s definitely on our radar.”
For the record, Oakland decided not to stuff the box.
Taken 31st overall in the draft, the Broncos had their chance to nab Martin. The team traded their 25th pick away to acquire the 31st pick with Martin still on the board. Then, they decided to trade down again. The Bucs quickly barged in, and found their treasure.
The Bucs saw that Martin had some of the same characteristics as Ray Rice.
“They both have some unique abilities,” Bucs’ head coach Greg Schiano said. “Vision, patience, balance, strength. Those kind of things that allow them to be really good running backs. Some of those things you can develop, and some of them are god given. That’s what makes those two special.”
With Martin on the team, the Bucs jumped from 30th in the league in rushing (91.1 yards per game) last season to 11th (121.7 yards per game) this year. Martin is the 4th most productive back in the NFL putting up 95.5 yards per game, and fumbling just once.
The Broncos, meanwhile, are 9th in stopping the run. However, they’ve had their fair share of trouble with talented backs. Jamaal Charles rushed for 107 yards on 23 carries just last week. The team also saw Arian Foster run for 105 yards on 25 carries, and Stevan Ridley go for 151 yards and a touchdown in losses to the Houston Texans and the New England Patriots respectively.
As Martin begins to warm up on Sunday, one can only hope that the thin air bothers his lungs a little more than the average back. That or we’ll be thinking back to last April when the Broncos had their shot at him.