FOXBOROUGH – For someone who has just 18 games under his NFL belt, Tampa Bay running back Doug Martin sure is getting a lot of attention from the Patriots.
The rookie was near the top of the list in a number of offensive categories last year: fifth in rushing yards (1,454) and rushing touchdowns (11), third in yards from scrimmage (1,926). His 251-yard game against the Raiders is the 10th-most in NFL history.
Martin has remained a large part of the Buccaneers’ offense in his sophomore season. Through two games he has 55 touches (53 rushes, two receptions), and is second in the league with 209 rushing yards.
Consider the Patriots impressed.
“Good challenge for us to keep him contained and not let him run all over the place, because he is fast,” defensive lineman Rob Ninkovich said after Thursday’s practice. “Similar to [Bills running back C.J.] Spiller, quick guy in space, so you want to keep him bottled up.”
The Patriots did a decent job on Spiller in a 23-21 season-opening win, limiting the running back to 41 yards on 17 carries. The challenge in slowing the swift back from Boise State will be just as difficult.
“He’s one of them,” said Vince Wilfork, when asked if Martin is a focal point. “He’s a good, good football player, a great back who can run, block, catch. We have our hands full with him and Vincent Jackson.”
Running back LeGarrette Blount saw Martin’s skill first-hand and up-close, spending last season with the Buccaneers before joining the Patriots in an April trade.
“I played with him, he’s a really good running back. He did a lot of things last year that a lot of rookies didn’t do,” Blount said. “He’s a really good player, tough runner, downhill, and has really good balance. He’s definitely one of their best weapons, so it’s going to be hard to contain him.”