Doug Martin Deserves Offensive Rookie of the Year Consideration While Emerging as NFL’s Best Young Running Back

Doug Martin TrendsettersYet another dominant day from Buccaneers running back Doug Martin saw him run his way into the end zone four times as well as past Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck on the list of NFL rookies. But it’s the company that Martin joined Sunday that should really be raising eyebrows for the diminutive back.

Martin, a 5-foot-9 rookie from Boise State, rushed for a Tampa Bay-record 251 yards against the Raiders on Sunday. The outburst saw him accomplish not only his second consecutive 100-yard rushing day, and the second of his career, but also secure his place in the NFL history books with the 10th-best rushing performance of all time.

After a breakout performance of 135 yards on the ground, 79 through the air and a pair of touchdowns last Thursday, Martin had already established himself as the Bucs’ best rushing option. But Sunday’s showcase saw him jump into the conversation among the best backs in football.

In a season when running backs finally appear to be reestablishing themselves as viable offensive entities again in a passing-dominated league, Martin is right near the front of the pack.

Adrian Peterson, who leads the NFL with 957 rushing yards, and Arian Foster, who has scored a league-best 10 touchdowns, have set the standard for backs around the league. But Martin, who ranks third in rushing yards with 794 and second in touchdowns with seven, is hanging right there along with them.

Granted, much of Martin’s production — 386 yards and five touchdowns — has come over his past two games. But it’s been an impressive and noteworthy stretch nonetheless. So noteworthy, in fact, that Martin now shares stat lines with more than just Hall of Fame hopefuls. He’s drawing comparisons to actual Hall of Famers.

Martin’s 486 yards from scrimmage over the past two games put him on a list with Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton. Payton, who had 502 total yards in consecutive games in 1977, is the only back to have more yards in two games than Martin in NFL history. Even if it is just from a two-game sample, being talked about in the same breath as Payton is a feat, never mind as a rookie.

The comparisons between Martin and Payton may not go far beyond that unusual place in the history books, but the young speedster does showcase some similarities to Sweetness. Neither back was very tall, as Payton stood at a mere 5-foot-10, but both were heavier — each weighed close to 210 pounds — and more powerful runners. Martin has also shown off some of the elite explosion on his runs that Payton exhibited for so many years in Chicago.

Again, that’s not saying Martin is going to be Walter Payton, or that he even should be viewed in the same vein, but there are definitely some similarities beyond an impressive but meaningless record.

Payton-esque or not, Martin has already far exceeded any expectations set for him ahead of this season. In just eight games, Martin has already out-produced 2011 starter LeGarrette Blount, who managed just 781 yards and five touchdowns last season, and has provided Tampa Bay with its most potent rushing attack since Cadillac Williams‘ rookie season in 2005.

Martin may be small, but he’s also extremely talented. With so many questions still to be answered for the Buccaneers this season, it must be encouraging for Greg Schiano to know that he at least has a steady running back to rely on — especially one who is already being mentioned along with the likes of Peterson, Foster and others as among the best in football.

Have a question for Luke Hughes? Send it to him via Twitter at @LukeFHughes or send it here.

NFL Trendsetters
1
Doug Martin, RB, Buccaneers

You remember the “Yo Momma” jokes that people used to tell back in grade school? Well, Doug Martin’s reviving the idea. Over the last two weeks, I swear I’ve hear more Doug Martin comparisons than Wilmer Valderrama was able to conjure up in three seasons of the MTV show. “Doug Martin’s so fast….” “Doug Martin’s so explosive….” “Doug Martin’s more electric than an MGMT song.” The list goes on. But then again, Martin has deserved them all. When you’ve gained more yards from scrimmage — 486 — over a two-game span than anyone over the last 45 years but Walter Payton, you know you’re doing something right. Talk about a breakout stud. This kid is setting trends all over the NFL.

2
Andrew Luck, QB, Colts

Robert Griffin III was the talk of the NFL for the first few weeks of the season, overshadowing the only player picked ahead of him in April’s draft. But halfway through the season, Luck has finally quieted all the critics and emerged as the best young quarterback in football. Luck threw for 433 yards in the Colts’ 23-20 win over the Dolphins on Sunday, breaking the 422-yard record Cam Newton set last season. Luck is quickly becoming one of the best quarterbacks in football, and he’s doing it not only with statistics but also with his leadership both on and off the field. As a matter of fact, through eight games, the Colts’ new quarterback also boasts the exact same amount of passing yards (2,404) and record (5-3) as the Colts’ old quarterback, Peyton Manning. Coincidence? Definitely. But equally as eerie.

3
Carson Palmer, QB, Raiders

In a second half that saw Martin bust out for three 45-plus yard touchdown runs and the one-yard game clincher to boot, Carson Palmer matched him nearly the entire way. The operative word in that sentence being “nearly.” Palmer threw three fourth-quarter touchdown passes, marching the Raiders back from a 28-10 deficit all the way to the brink of an epic comeback. But a late fourth-quarter interception gave the Buccaneers the ball back and gave Martin the chance to punch in his fourth and final touchdown to seal the 42-32 win. Palmer had a tremendous day, throwing for 414 yards and four TDs, but ultimately he’ll go down as the goat that gave the game away.

4
Chicago Bears Defense

The Bears are back, and they may be even better than the 2010 team that lost in the NFC Championship game. Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall are finally figuring things out on offense, but it’s the defense that really has this team rolling toward potential championship glory. Brian Urlacher and the Bears defense forced five turnovers and scored a pair of touchdowns in Chicago’s 51-20 win over the Titans on Sunday. Chicago’s defense now not only leads the league in takeaways, but it has also scored more touchdowns through the air — off interceptions (seven) — than Carolina, Miami or Kansas City (six each). Talk about dominant.

5
Mike Shanahan, head coach, Redskins

Not only have the Redskins been on a three-game losing streak since starting the season with a promising 3-3 record, but now head coach Mike Shanahan is making questionable postgame comments. Shanahan sounded like a coach ready to toss in the towel and desperately trying to save his own butt. With RG3 under center, there is still hope in Washington. But if Shanahan continues to shift his focus beyond the next opponent, the Redskins could be in major trouble, and Shanahan could be out of a job.

6
Isaac Redman, RB, Steelers

The revolving door at running back in Pittsburgh just continues to produce 100-yard games. Since Rashard Mendenhall went back on the shelf with a leg injury, the Steelers have rebounded with strong running thanks to a deep roster. Jonathan Dwyer hit for 100 yards in back-to-back games, and then Isaac Redman, in his return to the field, managed 147 yards for Pittsburgh this weekend. Redman was just the most recent success story in the Steelers backfield, but his impact ultimately sealed the game against the Giants with the game-winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter.

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