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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Doug Martin to "Hit the Ground Running"

Doug Martin excelled in Dirk Koetter's system in 2015 and now he has a chance to help the Bucs' offense unlock even more of the potential in their new head coach's playbook.

The new head coach, of course, is last year's offensive coordinator, Dirk Koetter. The new OC is former Southern Miss Head Coach Todd Monken, who will help enhance what Koetter has built, not replace it. Left guard will indeed see a transition from retired Pro Bowler Logan Mankins to free agency addition J.R. Sweezy, but Sweezy's strong run-blocking skills should only make things better for Martin. Most importantly, the playbook is the same as last year, and that's a critical development – or lack of development – for the NFL's second-leading rusher in 2015.

"I've been through about two to three new playbooks [in my career], so it feels good to come in and not have to learn a whole new playbook and it's good to have that continuity," said Martin. "If you get a new guy and he has a whole new playbook, it's like learning a whole new language, so it's a good feeling to come here and not learn a whole new playbook. It's easy on everybody else."

Photos of running back Doug Martin from the 2015 season.

It's also easy to understand why Martin would want to continue working with the same coaches and in the same system. After a pair of injury-plagued seasons in 2013 and 2014, Martin regained his impressive rookie-season form and ran for 1,402 yards and six touchdowns. He didn't quite surpass his 2012 total of 1,454 rushing yards, but he averaged a career-best 4.9 yards per carry. After a dismal 2014 season that was essentially conducted without an offensive coordinator, the Buccaneers set a team record with 6,014 net yards last fall, and Martin was the centerpiece of the attack.

The timing was particularly nice for the fourth-year back, who then hit unrestricted free agency in March. He was only on the market for a few hours, however, before agreeing to a lucrative new deal to stay in Tampa. It was the outcome he had hoped for, a fact he had made clear in the months between the 2015 season and free agency.

"I wasn't really all that worried [about leaving]," said Martin. "It's a business, so there is always a chance – I always felt there was a chance I might be somewhere else, but I was really hoping I'd be back here and I'm very grateful and very blessed that I get to play here for five more years. I came back because I just – I love the team. I know we have great potential in what we're going to do in the future and real soon, so that definitely had a hand in me coming back."

In successful stints as the offensive coordinator in Jacksonville and Atlanta, Koetter showed he could adapt to the strengths of his team's roster. The Jaguars emphasized their running back tandem of Fred Taylor and Maurice-Jones Drew while the Falcons relied heavily on quarterback Matt Ryan and a high-powered passing attack. Upon arriving in Tampa in 2015, Koetter quickly became enamored of Martin's skills, which he then employed to great effect during the fall. For his part, Martin seized the rebound opportunity by re-sculpting his body and doing everything he could to stay healthy for 16 games.

Koetter was in Jacksonville when Jones-Drew signed his second deal with the team in 2009, and over the next three seasons the standout back averaged 1,440 yards and nine touchdowns per year. Martin just got his second deal, and he intends to take his career to another level, just like Jones-Drew did.

"I just have to set goals for myself and if I set high goals, if I shoot high, then the rest will fall into place," said Martin. "I have to have a burning desire and know what I want and if I do that and just work hard and do my job, everything else will fall into place.

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"I would like to just get more yards than I had last year - than my rookie year. More touchdowns, I'll be able to finish more, finish more often. I get caught around the five you know, finish and get more touchdowns. But just goals like that – just adding to my game."

Those are realistic goals in part because the team didn't add any mental gymnastics to his offseason workload this time around. Martin and his returning teammates already know Koetter's playbook, and now they are in position to unlock even more of its potential.

"We should be able to hit the ground running and get into more depth into the playbook, just little details that will probably be game-changers in the game, so just really getting in depth with the playbook," he said. "We have the continuity with the playbook and I haven't really seen what the defense is doing, but they're pretty excited about what they're being taught and we have that unity in the team and the locker room is good, so that's all the things you need to go the long way."

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