Doug Martin is not heading for a sophomore slump.
Though raised as a possibility in an NFL.com article, the likelihood of the Tampa Bay Buccaneersrunning back regressing in his second season as a pro is so extraordinarily small that we can say with confidence that Doug Martin is not heading for a sophomore slump.
Yes, Martin had a large number of touches (a touch being either a rush or a reception) in 2012, and yes, players with 368 touches in a season often take backslides the next year, but the Muscle Hamster has more than enough fortitude to sustain his current pace.
For comparison's sake, let's look at Martin's rookie season in relation to Ray Rice's 2010 season.
The two are pretty similar running backs (they're built similarly, both are around 5'9'', weigh around 215 pounds and have birthdays that occur within nine days of each other), so this comparison should work well. Rice had 370 touches in 2010 and gained 1,776 total yards. The year after, the Raven had 367 touches and gained 2068 yards. His yard per carry and his yards per reception improved considerably.
Rice did not regress after his 370-touch season.
Now let's look at Martin's numbers. He ran the ball 319 times and gained 1,454 rushing yards, which was good for 4.6 yards per carry. That is a very good number for a RB with that many carries. His 1,926 total yards exceeds Rice's 2010 figure.
Martin's 2012 compares favorably to Rice's 2010, and since Rice improved the year after, it would not be a stretch to say that the Muscle Hamster may do so as well.
With Pro Bowl guards Carl Nicks and Davin Joseph returning to the field after missing significant time last year, the offensive line will get exponentially better. This will be extremely beneficial to Martin's stat sheet. Without Nicks and Joseph, the offensive line often struggled to create running lanes and push the defensive line back, making Martin's job a whole lot harder. Once Nicks and Joseph are back, the Bucs will have an O-line that can pretty much part the Red Seas. Martin won't have to worry about breaking tackles or evading defenders until he's already gained a few yards, whereas, in 2012, he'd practically have to dodge linebackers at the line of scrimmage.
What should be noted is that the team's weak passing game could hurt him.
When defenses realized how to exploit quarterback Josh Freeman's inconsistency and Tampa Bay's lack of a receiving threat in the middle of the field, they were then able to focusing on containing Martin. The Bucs relied on their receivers' abilities to stretch the field as outside targets; once other teams saw this, they began shutting down the passing game. Then, after the outside threats were removed, Martin was much easier to stop.
Should the Bucs passing game stay so one-dimensional, it'll be very hard for the Dougernaut to beat his rookie season, though he may still be able to match it.
The passing game should improve, though. 2012 was the Bucs' first year in Mike Sullivan's offense, so given another offseason with him at the reins, the team should only get better at throwing the ball. Maybe it'll even have a presence in the middle of the field. A stronger passing attack will free things up for Martin, as defenses will have to focus on coverage rather than on containing runners, which allow him to increase his yardage.
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