Monday Column: Doug Martin is Runnin’ Wild

Let’s flash back to the offseason for a moment. The Buccaneers decided not to pick up the fifth-year option on Doug Martin’s contract. That essentially meant 2015 could be his last year in a Tampa Bay uniform.

Dear Jason Licht: please re-sign this guy.

Martin is back and better than ever, showing the brilliance we haven’t seen since his rookie year. After Sunday’s performance in Philadelphia in which he rushed for 235 yards, No. 22 is one of the top running backs in the NFL – second-best, in fact.  In ten games, he has 941 yards on the ground. Only the Vikings’ Adrian Peterson has more.

And while Martin has only found the end zone four times, I believe his success – and the effectiveness of the entire running game – is a factor in Jameis Winston’s recent success. What quarterback wouldn’t like to have a running game like the Bucs have right now? They’re averaging 142 yards per game on the ground – third best in the league.

Hopefully Martin can keep running wild for the rest of the year, and be rewarded in the offseason for doing so.

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This Diehard Bucs Fan is So Glad The Season is Over

Before this season began, there was hope – lots of it, in fact.

The hope was that Lovie Smith would come in, and the Buccaneers would turn things around, or at least start to head in the right direction. He and GM Jason Licht would start to right the ship. Some of the so-called pundits even predicted Tampa Bay would qualify for the playoffs.

Those self-proclaimed experts were wrong. Man, were they ever wrong. And we, the fans, paid the price.

None of us expected the Bucs to go 2-14. Remember back in the draft, when the Bucs used all of their picks to upgrade an offense that needed more than a few extra cylinders? The offensive line was overhauled via free agency. What did we end up with in return?

We got an offense that finished 30th in the league in total yards.

We got a journeyman quarterback that won only one of his eleven starts, completed only 56% of his passes, threw more INT’s (14) than TD’s (11) and was sacked 36 times.

We got a running game that averaged less than 100 yards per game on the ground. Think of how much worse it would’ve been had they not gone crazy on Sunday in the finale against the Saints.

We did, however, get a beast of a wide receiver. Mike Evans went for over 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns. Only Dez Bryant, Antonio Brown and Jordy Nelson found the end zone more often. When you consider who was throwing the ball to Evans this year, his stats are even more remarkable.

What did we get on defense? We got a unit that ranked 25th in the league, and more often than not, looked worse than that. Lovie Smith is supposed to be a defensive-minded coach. Plays that could’ve been made to seal games were not made. Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David are great, but the jury is still out on many others.

What’s the most painful part of this season, besides the obvious 2-14? If the Bucs had gone 8-8, they would’ve won the NFC South and would be hosting a playoff game at Raymond James Stadium this weekend.

I was going to hand out final grades, as I did at the midpoint of the season. But honestly, you could take everything I wrote eight weeks ago and just multiply it times two – including the number of wins, sadly.

How the heck did they beat Pittsburgh?

But hey – they’ve got the No. 1 pick in next year’s draft. Yeah! There is hope after all!

By the way, the photo at the top of this article is a shameless selfie, taken as the Bucs were losing to the Falcons at Ray-Jay in November.

 

So, If the Bucs End Up With the #1 Pick….

Here’s one thing about this painful-to-watch season for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They are in the running for the No. 1 overall pick in next year’s draft.

The Bucs are 2-11 right now, and are tied with the Jets, Titans, Jaguars and Raiders for the worst record in the NFL. As of this writing, Tampa Bay would own the top pick due to strength of schedule (or lack thereof.) Anyway, it’s some tiebreaker that could change between now and the end of the regular season.

The Buccaneers need a quarterback – badly. Oregon QB Marcus Mariota, who was named a finalist for the Heisman trophy on Monday night, is the name that keeps popping up. If he is still available whenever Tampa Bay is on the clock, the Bucs need to grab him. But taking Mariota will not solve the problems for an offense that has been painful that has trouble just scoring 20 points in a game.

Mariota won’t do well in Tampa if nobody can protect for him. The offensive line, which was overhauled before the season, needs to be revamped again. As bad as Josh McCown has been this year, I would argue that the guys in charge of protecting the quarterback have been the biggest disappointment in 2014. Players like Evan Dietrich-Smith, Anthony Collins, Oniel Cousins, Demar Dotson have not produced. And Logan Mankins – who was acquired before the season began – has only made headlines when he gets called for holding. They are also partly responsible for the abysmal running game. Tampa Bay is 31st in rushing yards, averaging only 78 yards per game.

So for all the fans (including me) who would love to see Mariota in a Bucs uniform, I say bring it on. But let’s hope Lovie Smith and Jason Licht also draft some guys who can do damage in the trenches.

Photo Courtesy: AP

 

Pro Bowler Mankins Coming To Tampa

The Bucs’ situation on the offensive line has gotten a lot of attention this week.

 

First, there was word that the team invited former Miami guard Richie Incognito to Tampa for a tryout.  That sent shivers down me.  Yes, they need help up front, but why would you do it with a player with a rap sheet that includes the Dolphins’ bullying scandal among other things?

 

Then on Tuesday, my nerves calmed down considerably when the Buccaneers acquired six-time Pro Bowler Logan Mankins from the Patriots in exchange for tight end Tim Wright and a 2015 draft pick.

 

Mankins was a beast in Foxboro.  Being from New England, I can say truthfully that he was well-liked and respected around these parts.  He will definitely bring stability to the Bucs offensive front, even if he is over 30 years old.  The Bucs needed to do something in their attempt to better protect Josh McCown, and this helps a lot.

 

A lot of Patriots fans up here are shocked by this move.  For New England, all is not lose.  Wright had a decent season on a horrendous team last year.  Now, he’s going to be catching balls from Tom Brady.

 

Still, I think this is an excellent move by the Bucs.  Don’t expect to see Mankins play in the final preseason game Thursday night.  But he should be ready to go for the season opener on September 7.

 

Oh, and a final memo to Love Smith and Jason Licht: don’t even think about signing Incognito.

 

Bucs Go All-Out on Offense in Draft

I guess we know what Lovie Smith and Jason Licht considered their biggest needs in this year’s draft. Every one of the Buccaneers’ picks was used on the offensive side of the ball. Apparently they’re satisfied with the moves they made on defense in free agency, or so we all hope.

Here are the newest Bucs, without any analysis, because I’m not Mel Kiper or Mike Mayock (not do I care to be.)

Mike Evans                                          WR                       Texas A&M
Austin Seferian-Jenkins                    TE                        Washington
Charles Sims                                        RB                        West Virginia
Kadeem Edwards                                OG                       Tennessee State
Kevin Pamphile                                   OT                        Purdue
Robert Herron                                     WR                      Wyoming

Photo Courtesy: Getty Images

 

Busy Week For Bucs

What a week it has been for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That’s not much of a surprising statement, given that the start of free agency always results in a lot of activity around the league. But I wasn’t expecting it to be quite like this.

It all started even before free agency began, when word leaked out that the Bucs were shopping Darrelle Revis. He ended up signing with New England. One year and $16 million later, he’s out of Tampa. That didn’t take long.

So who’s new? They picked up cornerback Alterraun Verner from Tennessee, and defensive end Michael Johnson from Cincinnati.  Verner had five picks for the Titans last season. And two years ago, Johnson had 11 1/2 sacks for the Bengals. Throw in former Seattle defensive tackle Clinton McDonald, and it’s clear Lovie Smith and Jason Licht are overhauling just about everything on the defensive side of the ball. A few extra sacks this season would be a nice return on this investment.

There is also a change on the offensive line. Donald Penn is gone, and Anthony Collins is now a Buc. Like Johnson, Collins spent the past few years in Cincinnati.

But the biggest surprise may have come at the quarterback position. Josh McCown signed a two-year, $10 million contract. Signing a QB may not be a shocker. What is surprising, is that Lovie Smith has pretty much named McCown the starter already. So there won’t even be any competition with Mike Glennon? Will the Bucs draft a rookie QB in the draft? Who knows if we’ve heard the last of this quarterback situation.

Photo Courtesy: tbo.com

Bucs Part Ways With Joseph

We have our first indication that the Buccaneers’ offensive line in 2014 is going to look much different from a year ago.

On Saturday, the team released right guard Davin Joseph, a former first-round pick out of Oklahoma.  Joseph spent eight seasons in Tampa, made 99 starts and went to the Pro Bowl twice.  But he missed the entire 2012 season due to a knee injury during the preseason, and never really regained his form.

There is a new GM calling the shots now (Jason Licht) so it was inevitable that we’d see some changes.

This move also clears up some cap space for Tampa Bay, as Joseph was due to earn $6 million next year.

Photo Courtesy: USA Today Sports