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Bucs' Doug Martin (hamstring) set to miss three weeks

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin is expected to miss about three weeks with a hamstring injury, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported following the results of his MRI.

The pinball runner exited Sunday's blowout loss to the Arizona Cardinals in the first half after suffering the injury.

Tampa has a bye in Week 6, meaning Martin would get extra rest for his hamstring before visiting San Francisco.

In the short term, it's a massive blow to the Bucs' offense. After Martin left the contest Sunday, Tampa's run game struggled, especially on runs between the tackles. Last season, the compact, muscle-bound 5-foot-9 back plowed his way for 1,402 yards on 288 carries. In less than six quarters this season, Martin again displayed a knack for slithering through small gaps to pick up extra yardage and bowled over linebackers and defensive backs on the second level.

Charles Sims takes over as the lead back in Martin's absence. While Sims ran noticeably tougher in two games this season, he's not a between-the-tackles mudder. More a pass-catching maven, Sims' game is better in space against linebackers and safeties than taking on 315-pound defensive tackles.

Recently signed Jacquizz Rodgers took the backup role Sunday after Martin exited, but is also a scatback lacking power. Undrafted rookie Peyton Barber, from Auburn, rounds out the Bucs' backfield.

In the next three weeks, the Bucs face the Los Angeles Rams, Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers. Those are three of the top defensive front sevens in the NFL. It will be tough sledding for Sims and Rodgers in the run game. 

With Martin out, Tampa loses the power element to its game. More pressure will fall to Jameis Winston without Martin's chain-moving ability. The Bucs could find themselves in more second- and third-and-long situations the next three weeks.

We expected Winston to make a leap in Year 2. That leap just became more difficult, and more vital without Martin for almost a month.

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