Like hundreds of rookies around the league, Doug Martin has now gotten his first taste of the NFL game. Martin played extensively in the first half of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' preseason opener in Miami on Friday night, rushing seven times for 21 yards and a touchdown and catching one pass for seven yards.
For many NFL newcomers, that first bit of real action – even if it is in the preseason – is an eye-opener, a game-changer. It sets a baseline – "Okay, I can handle this, so I can handle what comes next."
Martin says he really didn't need a confidence boost, that he was already sure he could succeed at the next level (as were the Buccaneers, obviously, as they used the 31st overall pick in the 2012 draft to get the Boise state back). He didn't even particularly need to score a touchdown or rip off a 10-yard run – both things he accomplished in Miami – to feel good after the game. What the game did do for Martin was give him a more settled feeling, in the Bucs' offense and in the NFL as a whole.
"It helps in a way, to know that everything is in your control," said Martin, stressing that it wasn't the stats but the experience that gave him this feeling. "You could have one day that you don't get the holes that you want, but you've just got to do what you can and play your best."
Martin's 2.5 yards per carry in Miami could have been more robust if he hadn't been handed the ball three times inside the six-yard line, though that was certainly a worthwhile experience, particularly when he scored on a third-down dive. He also saw action as the third-down back on the team's opening touchdown drive, which featured LeGarrette Blount as the primary runner, and got involved in the passing game, as the team expects him to do quite frequently this fall. None of it was overwhelming for the rookie back, but it was a good introduction to the pace of the pro game.
"From the Miami game I could definitely tell that the speed of the game is faster," he said. "You've just got to get in the playbook, understand defenses and know what your reads are, and then the game starts to slow down for you. I'm trying to do that right now.
"I know that we're playing a little more [in Week Two] than we did during the first game, so I'm hoping to get a few more series and more of a rhythm going."