The Buccaneers will play a crucial game for playoff-contention purposes later today and do so without starting running back Doug Martin, whom the team made a healthy scratch, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.
No reason has been provided by the team, but Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times points out (Twitter link) the Bucs’ usual starter has been woefully ineffective since returning from the hamstring injury that largely defined his 2016 season. Martin is averaging a career-worst 2.9 yards per carry this season, and as Auman notes, that’s the worst mark in the league among the 35 ball-carriers who have seen at least 100 handoffs this season.
The team, though, has supported Martin during what’s marked his third down year in his past four seasons, with Auman pointing out the Bucs have said the cornerstone back needs better blocking. During the 2013 and ’14 seasons in which the Boise State product gained fewer than 500 yards on the ground in injury-limited campaigns, Martin still averaged more than 3.5 yards per rush.
Martin has not averaged more than four yards per carry in any of the eight games he’s played this season, but this is still a surprise with the 8-6 Bucs contending for their first NFC South title since 2007. Charles Sims, Peyton Barber and Jacquizz Rodgers are active for Tampa Bay today in New Orleans. Martin rushed 23 times for 66 yards and a touchdown against the Saints two weeks ago.
The Bucs re-signed their 2012 first-round pick to a five-year, $35.75MM extension this offseason. He missed six games with the hamstring malady, which has him at just 421 yards in his fifth season.
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