Bucs' Doug Martin recapturing rookie-season form

Tampa Bay Buccaneers tailback Doug Martin stole the spotlight from Jameis Winston on Monday night, not an easy task when the quarterback is the No. 1 overall pick making his first national television appearance.

A slimmer, speedier Martin justified a summer's worthof hype emanating from Bucs camp, shredding the Bengals' defense for 68 yards on seven first-quarter touches.

The Around The NFL Podcast recently nominated Martin as the prime candidate to follow Ryan Mathews (2013) and Mark Ingram (2014) as the preseason sensation finally realizing his first-round talent after a couple of disappointing seasons.

The early returns suggest Martin has recaptured rookie-season form. Against Cincinnati, he showed the explosive lateral agility, decisiveness and vision that were missing in 2013 and 2014.

We will be watching next week to see if he also flashes a second gear and more elusiveness after the catch. As it stands now, Martin is locked in as Tampa Bay's lead back, with Charles Sims as the change-of-pace option in obvious passing situations.

Even if the offensive line remains a question mark, the improvements at quarterback and in the backfield should lead to a more consistent Bucs attack in 2015.

Here's what else we learned in the Buccaneers' 25-11 victory over the Bengals:

  1. The Bengals aren't the first team to no-show for a preseason road game. Although they were outgained 216-49 and outscored 23-3 in the first half, there was one bright spot: Geno Atkins is back. Glowing reports out of offseason practices and training camp hinted that Atkins had recaptured the 2012 form that had him in the Defensive Player of the Year race with J.J. Watt. Monday's night's performance backed up that sentiment, as Atkins gave the interior of the Bucs' offensive line fits.
  1. Andy Dalton's woes under the lights of national television aren't limited to the regular season and postseason. The Bengals' loaded first-string offense was a comprehensive failure, as Dalton managed a 15.7 passer rating in two quarters. Second-year quarterback A.J. McCarron, viewed as an alternative down the line, did nothing noteworthy in his first NFL preseason game.
  1. Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans exited with a hamstring injury. He was held out of the rest of the game as a precautionary measure, NFL Media's Rand Getlin reported, per multiple sources close to the situation. This will be a situation for fantasy leaguers to monitor in the next few days, though it sounds like Evans will be fine going forward.
  1. Keep an eye on Bucs rookie linebacker Kwon Alexander. The front office is as excited about their fourth-round pick, according to FOX's Peter Schrager, as they are about Winston. Alexander wasted little time in besting former Cowboys linebacker Bruce Carter for the pivotal middle linebacker role.
  1. In other linebacker news, Bengals strong-side starter Emmanuel Lamur has lost his job to Vincent Rey.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast discusses Jordy Nelson's knee injury and gives its winners and losers from Week 2 of the preseason.

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