After doing his best Reggie Jackson “Mr. October” impression, Bucs rookie running back Doug Martin has quickly emerged as a household name in the NFL community. Splashy plays (and a funky nickname) will do that for you, and Martin has put together nothing less than a video game-esque highlight reel in October and November.
And still, he might not even be the most likely rookie of the year candidate in the Bucs locker room.
That distinction very well may go to linebacker Lavonte David. With 87 total tackles, David is top five in the league with that stat. His 67 solo stops are second best.
Sure, I know. Tackles are a tough stat to really gauge as far being a true acumen of a player’s productivity. Ask any Barrett Ruud detractor about that.
But David has given the Bucs what they’ve lacked at outside linebacker since Derrick Brooks hung them up – a relentless tackler who is always around the ball and rarely fails to bring the ballcarrier down. David’s overall speed and lateral quickness is impressive. It’s no coincidence that his performance comes for a defense that has improved exponentially against the run, allowing the fewest yards per game (80) and per carry (3.5) in the league.
David’s main competition for the defensive rookie of the year position could come from Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly, a name that many Bucs fans expected to hear coming to One Buc Place back on draft day. However, while Kuechly appears to be a rising star, the obscurity of playing on a last-place team won’t be easy to overcome. Seattle’s Bruce Irvin leads all NFL rookies with 7 sacks and should also be a strong contender. New England’s Chandler Jones (6 sacks) also is in the hunt.
While Martin is having a breakout year, Andrew Luck has led the Indianapolis Colts to a 6-3 record, and Russell Wilson is making an increasingly strong case, especially if he can lead the Seahawks to the playoffs or a division title. And let’s not kid ourselves, this is a passing league and a quarterback favored award.
Still, Martin is doing the best he can to make his case. He has surpassed 100 yards from scrimmage in each of the last 5 games. He’s had a rush or catch of over 35 yards in each game of that stretch. He’s averaging 96 rushing yards per game and is on pace for 1533 rushing yards. Not surprisingly, the Bucs are 4-1 in that span, scoring 28 or more points each game.
Even if neither ultimately wins the award, both Martin and David are poised to help form a solid foundation in Tampa for years to come.