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Martin, Sims 'absolutely' have shot to be top RB duo

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BOCA RATON, Florida. -- While the Oakland Raiders and Jacksonville Jaguars are seen as a pair of teams on the rise, there's also an argument to be made for Tampa Bay.

Bucs general manager Jason Licht met with Around The NFL on Monday to talk about a promising young offense featuring quarterback Jameis Winston, and a versatile backfield led by workhorse Doug Martin and passing-down specialist Charles Sims.

"Absolutely," Licht said when asked if the Bucs could emerge with the top backfield tandem in the NFL, which makes plenty of sense: Martin and Sims operated as the league's best pair for much of 2015 with an NFL-best 2,763 yards combined from scrimmage last season.

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Licht told us that Tampa Bay never really questioned re-signing Martin after the season he enjoyed. The Bucs were impressed with Martin's commitment to physical conditioning heading into last year's training camp, and believe his dedication to the game is at an all-time high.

Martin was an absolute load, running for a career-best 4.9 yards per carry. His 1,402 yards on the ground trailed only Minnesota's Adrian Peterson, washing away the ugly memory of two injury-battered seasons prior to 2015. As for his backfield partner, Licht said: "We love Charles Sims," acknowledging the third-year back's versatility as a dangerous pass-catching whirlwind who hauled in 51 balls last season.

If there's optimism around Tampa's future, it has plenty to do with an offense that will play together for years to come.

Here's what else we learned from the Bucs GM:

1. "Really smart," was how Jason Licht described newly hired offensive-minded coach Dirk Koetter, going so far as to draw a comparison to Bruce Arians, the Cardinals coach Licht worked with in Arizona.

2. We asked Licht to name a player on his young Bucs roster who excites him as a potential breakout figure. His answer: Third-year tight end Cameron Brate, who caught 23 passes for 288 yards and four scores last season. He's part of a deep tight end group that also includes Austin Seferian-Jenkins.

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