The anointment of Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III as Offensive Rookie of the Year (OROY) may have to be put on hold as Doug Martin continues to race towards the honor.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back known as "The Muscle Hamster" and "The Dougernaut" has picked up the pace considerably after stumbling to start the season. In the first five games Martin had zero games of 100 yards rushing and only one touchdown.
There were questions raised about whether Martin was worth a first-round selection when LeGarrette Blount was already on the depth chart. However, Martin has proved his worth and potential as of late, rushing for seven touchdowns since Week 7.
Martin's small, but stocky 5'9" 215-pound frame and ability to both elude and run through defenders has benefited him well as he adapts to complicated defensive schemes and blitz packages. He is seeing the field better and learning where the holes are and how to wait for his blocks to develop.
Martin is only the sixth player ever to rush for over 1,000 yards in his first 10 career games and is quickly chasing Carnell "Cadillac" Williams for the best season by a Buccaneers rookie:
Doug Martin now has 2nd-most rushing yards by rookie in TB franchise history. He trails only Cadillac Williams (1178, '05) #ATLvsTB— Michael Signora (@NFLfootballinfo) November 25, 2012
The OROY award has not been given to a running back since Adrian Peterson in 2007, but is it not fair to argue that Martin has been every bit as impressive as front-runners Luck and RG3?
Obviously both of those young signal-callers are playing at levels worthy of the award. Luck has led the Colts to an improbable 6-4 record while throwing for 2,965 yards and 12 touchdowns. RG3 has thrown 16 touchdowns compared to just four interceptions and accounted for over 3,000 yards of total offense.
Martin, however, is averaging over five yards per carry and has been as reliable a ground threat as even the most experienced veterans the league has to offer. It is hard to be noticed when guys like Luck and RG3 are members of the rookie class, but Martin has done just that.
He is a key reason for Tampa Bay being firmly in the NFC playoff hunt and will be of utmost importance if the Buccaneers want to have any hope of postseason success. Martin's versatility as a between-the-tackles runner and a quality receiving option means that defenses cannot treat him as a typical rusher.
Martin can handle runs to the outside of the field or become a lethal weapon on short passing routes, screen passes, etc...
"The Muscle Hamster" is getting better as the season wears on, and after he rushed for 251 yards and four touchdowns against the Oakland Raiders in Week 9, everyone took notice of his ability and potential of winning OROY.
Keep watching—Martin has only just started to showcase his talent.