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Dirk Koetter's arrival kept Doug Martin with Bucs

By November of last season it appeared that Doug Martin's days with the Tampa Bay Buccaneerswere numbered. The new regime fielded phone calls at the trade deadline and had no plans to pick up the tailback's 2016 option.

When former Falcons coordinator Dirk Koetter was hired to oversee the offense in January, though, Martin finally had a voice in his corner.

"Dirk Koetter, once he started watching tape of all our players, he came away impressed with Doug," general manager Jason Licht said last week, via Pewter Report. "You saw the tape when he's healthy, he's still a very effective runner."

Similar to the Saints' tack with Mark Ingram last offseason, the Bucs are keeping Martin on the roster but also applying pressure to produce by declining the back's fifth-year option.

The early returns are promising.

"He's on the first team like he's always been," coach Lovie Smith said late last month. "He's one of our guys. He's our running back, and he's showing up, and he's getting good work, so I think it's just as simple as that."

A slimmed-down Martin feels "awesome" and has been noticeably faster in OTAs.

Offseason trope or not, it's welcome news for a back who has managed just 3.64 yards per carry and 5.2 yards per reception since his Pro Bowl rookie season.

For the better part of the past two years Martin has shown a startling lack of vision, patience and elusiveness in the open field.

Although he did clear 90 rushing yards in two of the final three games to close out last season, those numbers were inflated by runs of 63 (through a gaping hole) and 45 (poor tackling) yards.

This was not a tailback making defenders miss while consistently moving the chains. Minus those two fluky plays, Martin averaged a paltry 2.8 yards per attempt during that December span.

To be fair, Martin and Charles Sims were routinely hit in the backfield behind a woebegone offensive line.

Jameis Winston's recipe for rookie success includes Martin recapturing 2011 form between the tackles, Sims emerging as a passing-down playmaker and the offensive line showing major improvement.

If Martin is going to follow Ingram's 2014 blueprint for a career turnaround, he will start serving notice with a dominant preseason this summer.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast discusses offseason clichés and who are the NFL's most valuable non-QBs. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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