Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Does the Team Have Enough at RB Behind Doug Martin?
James Wilder is the only running back in team history with more rushing yards in a season than Martin's 2012 rookie year, totaling 1,544 yards in 1984.
Martin put his name up there with the best running backs in the league, not only because of his ability to run the ball, but he was very effective catching passes out of the backfield as well. His 49 receptions were good for third most on the team.
Martin will obviously be on the field as much as possible in 2013 as the Bucs look to respond from a 7-9 season, but who else does the team have to turn to if Martin needs to come off the field for a play or two?
The team selected Mike James out of Miami after trading up in the sixth round.
He ran for 1,340 yards and 17 touchdowns in four years with the Hurricanes. He is a versatile back who can catch the ball as well, but he will have to shine in training camp if he is to win the backup job.
The Bucs also have a trio of relatively unknown players in Michael Smith, Jeff Demps and Matt Brown.
Smith stands at just 5'9", but he has the speed that could put him on the roster. He may be able to help the team as a third-down option.
Brown is just 5'5" and 170 pounds, and his best chance to make the team is likely returning kicks, which he did well in college at Temple. He did run for more than 200 yards and four touchdowns in a game against Army as a sophomore, but he'll still have long odds of making the roster.
Demps has blazing speed, but he is showing that in his track and field career at the moment. He won't even be able to join the team until August because of his schedule, and at that point, there's no guarantee there will be a role for him.
The Bucs' answer for a complement to Martin may lie within veteran Brian Leonard. The team signed him in April after he spent the past four seasons in Cincinnati.
Leonard only has 646 career rushing yards and has averaged just 29 carries a season during his six-year career. However, he is very effective in short-yardage situations. Whether it be 3rd-and-1 or even 4th-and-1, Leonard is great at moving the chains.
He is also a solid receiver out of the backfield.
In fact, that is the strength of his game. He has good hands and, with the build of a fullback, is able to carry defenders for extra yardage. He has 148 career receptions, 42 of which have resulted in a first down.
As long as Martin stays healthy, he should get 20 to 25 carries just about every game and be able to approach the numbers he posted as a rookie. But the team will need to rely on other guys to be a change of pace or to make a play in crunch time.
The Bucs traded LeGarrette Blount to New England this offseason, landing Demps in the exchange. In three seasons in Tampa, Blount ran for 1,939 yards. Though his playing time diminished in 2012, he was still a proven player and could spell Martin.
For the Bucs, they will now have to hope guys like Leonard, James and Smith don't make them regret the transaction with the Patriots. Finding a solid backup for Martin should be one of the most interesting stories of training camp this summer.
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