Byner, who played with the Cleveland Browns, Washington Redskins and Baltimore Ravens during his career, coached Martin last year as the Bucs’ running backs coach before being fired in January. Byner believes Martin has the capability to be a better pass-catcher out of the backfield.
"I got a chance to really spend some of that individual time with him,” Byner said of Martin. “And I could see in rookie minicamp that this guy had a chance to be one of the special guys. He's a freak. He's a little bit like [Maurice Jones-Drew], a little like [Chris Johnson], because those guys have a little something that's a little bit different. Doug, in my opinion, can be a better receiver than what he's shown the first few years. He has an opportunity to actually go out, spread out and make some plays, do some of the things Maurice [Jones-Drew] did."
Martin was a victim of the sophomore jinx last season, a year after earning a Pro Bowl berth as a rookie in 2012. He suffered a shoulder injury in Week Seven of the 2013 season against the Atlanta Falcons and was forced to miss the remainder of the season.
Joining Martin in the backfield and likely to compete for carries and catches is rookie Charles Sims out of West Virginia. A third-round draft pick, Sims signed a four-year deal and is projected to be a third-down back, sharing responsibilities with Martin.
In a five-year college career at Houston and West Virginia, Sims racked up 3,465 rushing yards and 40 touchdowns. He also proved prolific at catching passes, with 203 receptions to his credit for 2,108 yards and 11 touchdowns.
With new offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford expected to open up the offense this season, Martin may just get the opportunity to expand his range if he is utilized more in a pass-catching role. If Byner is correct and Martin improves in the pass-catching department, the Bucs stocked backfield, which also includes Mike James and Bobby Rainey, appears loaded with threats.
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Tags: Atlanta Falcons, Bobby Rainey, Charles Sims, Chris Johnson, Doug Martin, Earnest Byner, Football, Jeff Tedford, Maurice Jones-Drew, Mike James, NFL, Pro Bowl, Tampa Bay, Tampa Bay Buccaneers