Oct 13, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin (22) runs up the middle against Philadelphia Eagles defense at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Lovie Smith to reduce Doug Martin’s workload?

Doug Martin proved that running backs not named Adrian Peterson could carry the load in a one man backfield during his rookie season. His second season, he did not. Marting suffered a season-ending shoulder injury.

For the sake of Martin’s health, Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith may reduce his carries. He was averaging 23.5 carries per game prior to his injury. In the NFL, that total is beginning to look less and less sustainable.

“What I’ve said is I like Doug a lot. Doug’s a good football player,” Smith said, via the Tampa Bay Times. “Everywhere I’ve ever been, if you look at my history, our history, we’ve played more than one running back. We had a great running back in Thomas Jones, and we drafted Cedric Benson and played them both. One running back just can’t make it through the season.”

That said, Smith dismissed the idea that Martin may take a smaller role as “chatter,” maintaining that he’ll still have a central role in the Bucs offense, even if it’s part of a deep running back depth chart.

There’s no way around it: Doug Martin must be a key cog in an offense that is somewhat quarterback-less. It’s a tight walk. Limit his role and risk wasting touches on another back. Expand his role and increase risk for an injury that would diminish his role to zero. Love Smith has a surprisingly poor record keeping his starter out of the fold. While with the Bears, his No. 1 rusher accounted for 60.4 percent of the team’s total rushing yards in Chicago, averaging 1,055 yards per season.

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Tags: Doug Martin Lovie Smith Tampa Bay Bucaneers