The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are shaking up their roster after an 0-4 start, and it could have major fantasy football implications for owners who count on running back Doug Martin and wide receiver Vincent Jackson on a regular basis.
Spoiler alert: Both players are still worth a spot on your roster.
Tampa Bay released quarterback Josh Freeman on Thursday afternoon, as reported by ESPN's Adam Schefter and NFL.com's Ian Rapoport:
Filed to ESPN: Bucs have released QB Josh Freeman. Bucs tried to trade him but couldn't.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) October 3, 2013
The #Bucs are releasing QB Josh Freeman, source says. Called all 31 teams, no takers on a trade— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) October 3, 2013
Freeman was recently listed in a curious report from ESPN's Chris Mortensen connecting him to "stage one" of the NFL's drug program for a prescription medication he takes on a temporary-use exemption basis.
He had a 24-35 record as a starter for the Buccaneers, and was also recently demoted down the depth chart in favor of rookie Mike Glennon. Based on Freeman's release, the Bucs will now move forward with Glennon as the starter and Dan Orlovsky as his backup.
Martin and Jackson, easily the two best players head coach Greg Schiano and offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan still have to work with on offense, are the stars who will potentially be affected the most long-term by this decision.
Judging from Tampa Bay's offensive strategy against Arizona in Week 4, it might be a change for the better.
Based on stats alone, it would be panic time for Martin and Jackson owners.
But digging deeper, one can see that the Buccaneers leaned heavily on Martin and Jackson against the Cardinals, even though the latter was dealing with a serious rib injury and was a game-time decision to play. As noted by Rapoport, Jackson showed major toughness to even be on the field:
As I said on #NFLGameday: Vincent Jackson's injury to 2 ribs is considered a 5-week injury to fully heal. Bucs being cautious with him.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 29, 2013
But he was, and got the most looks in the passing game to boot. Glennon threw the ball 43 times against Arizona, and Jackson was the recipient of a team-high 11 targets. He finished with two catches for 27 yards and no touchdowns.
With a rookie quarterback in place, there's two sides to the Jackson coin.
On one hand, you would expect Glennon to live and die by his top target's production each week. ESPN's Stats & Info notes that one way the Buccaneers might try to revive their offense moving forward is by trusting Jackson as a down-the-field threat:
Josh Freeman completed 50% of his passes to Vincent Jackson 20+ yds downfield in 1st 10 games together; only 22.2% since then.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 25, 2013
If the overall talent is evidence enough, the 11 targets during their first game together should help show that Glennon is going to lean heavily on Jackson when he drops back to pass.
On the flip side, Glennon is a rookie. He will make mistakes, and it's reasonable to expect him to struggle with accuracy, pocket presence and situational passing over Tampa Bay's final 12 games. Those factors affect production from receivers and can lead to an unfavorable situation for fantasy owners.
At worst, Jackson is a viable flex option the rest of the way. If things continue to trend in the direction they did against Arizona, I would consider him a WR2 in virtually all formats. The rib injury figures to limit Jackson for at least one more game, but when he's 100 percent, Jackson could finish the year as a borderline WR1.
Martin finished with only 61 yards of total offense against Arizona, but it wasn't for lack of trying. He had 27 carries, caught three passes out of the backfield and was targeted four times by Glennon en route to 30 total touches.
Owners of the former Boise State star have little to complain about through four weeks, as this tweet from NFL.com's Jeff Darlington suggests:
Current @NFL rushing leaders: LeSean McCoy (468 yards), Adrian Peterson (421 yards), DeMarco Murray (356 yards), Doug Martin (342 yards).— Jeff Darlington (@JeffDarlington) October 2, 2013
One valid complaint is his lack of touchdowns, though, a situation that Anwar Richardson of Yahoo! Sports discusses here on Twitter:
While teams might take an Adrian Peterson approach to Tampa Bay's offense by stacking more defenders in the box and forcing Glennon to beat them, Martin is clearly still going to get his touches.
Only a second-year pro, he's still figuring out how to handle extra pressure of carrying an offense, but the Buccaneers clearly trust him to do just that based on his high usage rate in a close game against the Cardinals.
Despite obvious struggles and internal turmoil concerning his QB, Martin had double-digit scoring outputs in ESPN standard leagues in each of his first three games. He also leads the NFL in carries with 100—eight more than fantasy all-star Peterson.
How many games will Tampa Bay win this year?
Martin is still an above-average RB2. As the offense adjusts to Glennon and Martin continues to adapt to opposing defenses, there's a great chance his fantasy production will start to match the workload he's currently receiving.
Tampa Bay has a bye in Week 5. Don't forget to put Martin and Jackson on your bench over the weekend, but promptly reinsert them into your starting lineup in Week 6 against the Philadelphia Eagles—currently the NFL's worst team in total defense.
There will be an adjustment period before Jackson and Martin return to fantasy stardom, but don't forsake the duo just yet.
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