Doug Martin was the second running back selected in the 2012 NFL Draft. Cleveland picked Alabama's Trent Richardson with the third pick in the first round. Tampa Bay grabbed Martin, a Boise State product colloquially known as Muscle Hamster, with the 31st pick. After Thursday's game, Martin looks like the draft's biggest bargain and a player leaving some teams to wonder how they missed him.
The Buccaneers now have a 3-4 record. Bad breaks here and there along with an early season scheduled heavy on NFC East opponents have all contributed that. Martin has not been a problem. In fact, Tampa Bay's offense came into this game scoring 24.7 points per game. Martin accounted for two touchdowns in Thursday's 36-17 win, and the Buccaneers' scoring total jumped again.
Martin finished the game with 135 rushing yards and a touchdown on 29 carries. He had 16 carries at the half, and head coach Greg Schiano told the sideline reporter that he planned to share the workload to keep some wear and tear off his rookie running back. Even tough guy and draft fan boy icon Mike Mayock wondered if Martin should carry a full load. For the Bucs, it's probably a good thing he did.
That was the first 100-yard rushing game of Martin's seven-game career. He also had his best night as a receiver, catching three passes for 79 yards, including a screen pass that he took 64 yards down the field for his first receiving touchdown of the season.
Take a look at his 64-yard touchdown again, watch him break the tackles to get into the open field.
It was enough to put him in the franchise history books.
Doug Martin just became the first Buc since Warrick Dunn on 10/14/01 (vs. TEN) to score on a run and a catch in the same game.— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@TBBuccaneers) October 26, 2012
Like Richardson, Martin was prized for his versatility. He ran well in college and could catch the ball out of the backfield, using his burst and speed as a weapon to turn screen passes into something more, see exhibit A above. As a runner, pundits had their doubts about certain parts of his game, namely in the power department.
He "couldn't push the pile" said the scouting reports. The scouts must not have been paying much attention to how strong his lower body is. Martin showed them on his rushing touchdown, pushing his way past Jared Allen, who tried his best to stop the running back with his ass.
They don't call him Muscle Hamster for nothing, huh?
Circumstances are different for each rookie. Richardson landed in the middle of a dysfunctional pile of brown stuff, where Cleveland head coach Pat Shurmur would prefer to throw three-yard passes to the flat or punt on fourth-and-one rather than run the ball. Richardson has also had to deal with injuries as a rookie, something Martin has escaped so far.
Martin also has talent around him, a balanced offense and a solid complement of blockers. There is probably a lesson in that on the value of running backs in the modern NFL. That's for another time. For now, just enjoy some Muscle Hamster.