Doug Martin or LeGarrette Blount?
Who will start at running back for the Tampa Bay Buccneers?
It seems like a pretty even fight. Blount has elite strength, can break a tackle with the best of them and has some experience. We may not have even scratched the surface of his potential.
Or Blount may have hit his ceiling. But running for 1,000-plus yards is certainly not a low ceiling. Blount could easily become a feature back or a quality No.2.
However, Blount does not control his own fate. His future depends on how well Boise State man Doug Martin does in training camp.
The first-round draft pick possibly is the only Muscle Hamster in the known universe and is a very good running back too. Like Ray Rice, Martin can do virtually everything one could ever ask a running back to do, and like Rice, Martin will do it very well. The Muscle Hamster may not have elite speed, strength or hands, but it is the overall package that defines him as a player.
Using 2011 game tape, I have taken notes on Martin's abilities.
Here are my findings.
Martin isn't the fastest runner out there, but he's above-average. At the combine, the former Bronco ran the 40-yard dash in a very solid 4.55 seconds. He's not Chris Johnson, but then again, who is (excluding Chris Johnson)?
Great power for a guy who's only 5'8''. Seen carrying multiple defenders for several yards before finally going down. If there's a feasible chance of getting a first down on a play, Martin will push through brick walls to get past the yellow line. Check out 0:58 on this YouTube clip and just admire how strong the Muscle Hamster is. It's got to be that low center of gravity.
Makes his cuts as well as most. Can strafe to force defenders to miss. Has surprising balance. Go to 2:05 of this YouTube clip to see the Muscle Hamster fly in the air and land on his feet. Whether spinning or juking, Martin stays upright and inbounds.
Very nice burst. Give him one cut and he'll floor the gas pedal. Martin often reaches his top speed within five seconds of getting the handoff, even when he must run laterally and diagonally. Switches direction like a champ. Give him momentum; he won't lose it.
Martin's vision is way up there in the stratosphere. If a hole closes on the inside, he'll bounce to the outside. Seems to overrate blockers from time to time, as he does not always anticipate his blockers getting beat before he runs through the hole. Can see from the inside and break out for a big gain. But as with all running backs, vision can only bring you as far as your offensive line and/or physical skills can.
Would often line up as a wideout. Draws defenders into coverage and can be lethal if not respected. Catches ball away from body, a big plus. Great for a quarterback looking for a quick check down, as he can pick up yards after the catch.
Not often asked to block, but when he is, Martin has an impact. Gets his pad level low, and bam! Imagine Maurice Jones-Drew laying out Shawne Merriman on repeat...forever. Yes, that is a hyperbole, but Martin is a capable pass blocker.
So there you have it.
Doug Martin has all the tools to succeed in the NFL, from speed to blocking. He may not be the best in any one category, but the overall package makes for a great football player.