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First Down: Tampa’s Martin has a whole lot of ‘Curtis’ in him

Brad Evans
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Handoffs to Martin could be aplenty in Tampa this year. (USP)

Merely days into training camp and it appears one backfield battle may already have a winner.

If you're a self-proclaimed LeGarrette Blount enthusiast, turn away.

According to those walking the Bucs beat, first-round pick Doug Martin has staked his claim as the favorite for the starting RB job. He carried the rock with the first team when camp opened last week and hasn't stopped impressing since. Nothing is official yet, but Martin looks to have a firm grip, for now.  From Pro Football Talk:

Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano said he isn't playing favorites in the tailback battle between incumbent starter  Blount and rookie Martin.

That might be the case, but the first few days of Bucs practice paint a picture that has Martin sitting in the driver's seat. Tom Krasniqi of WDAE calls Martin "clearly the top dog so far" and several other Bucs beat reporters have painted a similar picture this weekend. Martin got the first snaps at the first practice of training camp and has continued to be in front of Blount through Sunday's first padded practice.

Considering Blount's pugilistic past, losing ground to a back from Boise State, in a way, is poetic justice. Karma is indeed a (expletive).

Still, even before the first snap of camp, his fate was already sealed.

Last week a Tampa Times report disclosed Raheem Morris provided car service for "Lazy" LeGarette for large portions of 2010 and 2011 because of the back's excessive tardiness to team meetings, a stunning revelation since he lived just three miles away from team headquarters. As a result, new head honcho Greg Schiano scribbled the writing on the wall. The former Rutgers coach, who was brought in to clean up a club insiders believed lost control under Morris last year, isn't one to tolerate such incompetence. Blount's repeat violations and fumbling problems probably did him in long ago. 

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Martin is not only more disciplined, he's the better overall back. He isn't remarkable in any particular category, but he's solid across-the-board. His sharp vision, toughness between the tackles, plus versatility and suitable pass blocking skills are all attributes reminiscent of another once unheralded rushing Martin, Curtis, a 2012 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee.

Don't be surprised if the rookie posts gaudy numbers out of the gate too.

As stated previously, the environment in Tampa is ripe. The acquisition of Vincent Jackson this past off-season greatly bolsters a vertical attack that ranked 25th in pass rating last year. His presence, along with Mike Williams and Dallas Clark's, will prevent defenses from stuffing the box. The Bucs' offensive line is also a major plus. A well-oiled run-blocking machine, it will likely be one of the league's best. Throw in Schiano's conservative mindset along with Martin's three-down abilities, and it's reasonable to project the youngster to log at least 16-19 touches per game. That's week-to-week reliability rarely seen in a timeshare age, making the kid a supreme RB2 bargain at his current 51.2 Y! ADP (RB17).

In the eyes of the common drafter, rookie runners have a tarnished image. Several highly touted RBs (e.g. Ryan Mathews) in recent years kicked investors where it counts during their inaugural campaigns. However, with fellow freshman Trent Richardson also in an ideal situation, owners who choose not to fear the unknown should be rewarded handsomely. Fantasy-wise, Martin and T-Pain could be the nastiest one-two rookie punch since Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch first laid out opponents in 2007.


Martin is about to set sail. Jump aboard.

Fearless Forecast (16 games): 239 carries, 1,051 rushing yards, 48 receptions, 313 receiving yards, 9 total touchdowns (RB11)

Want to bull rush Brad? Follow him on Twitter @YahooNoise and be sure to check him along with Andy Behrens, Brandon Funston, Scott Pianowski and Dalton Del Don on The Fantasy Freak Show (Now on iTunes) every Friday at 5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET on Yahoo! Sports Radio

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