In Doug Martin, Patriots see a lot of C.J. Spiller
|09.19.13 at 8:31 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The Patriots have seen Tampa Bay running back Doug Martin before. They saw him in the preseason. They saw him in three joint practices between the Patriots and Buccaneers in the second week of August.
But even more to the point, they saw him in the season opener in Buffalo, or at least a very close reproduction. Speaking after practice Thursday, Patriots edge rusher Rob Ninkovich compared Martin to Bills running back C.J. Spiller in style and substance.
“Quick guy,” Ninkovich said. “He can make a lot of plays out there by testing the edge and also inside. I think, as a defensive line, you have to be strong on the edges, set the edge, not allow him to bounce the ball out and make yards that way. Good challenge for us to just keep him contained and not let him run all over the place because he’s fast.
“Spiller is similar, similar styles, really quick. Quick guy in space so you want to keep him bottled up.”
If the Patriots are making open comparisons like that then it’s likely they will try to replicate the game plan in the opener that worked so well. Spiller had just 41 yards on 17 carries with a long of nine yards. The second time Spiller touched the ball, the Patriots forced a fumble that led to a Tom Brady-to-Julian Edelman TD connection. The Patriots bottled Spiller up like a fine wine, holding him to five catches for just 14 yards. Martin has 209 yards on 53 carries in his first two games, good for a 3.9 yards-per-carry average. Martin hasn’t done much in the passing game, catching just two balls for -1 yard.
Ninkovich admitted the strategy would be similar. It’s worth noting that the Patriots on Sept. 8 against Buffalo went primarily with a nickel package (five defensive backs and two linebackers) in base defense to put additional speed on the field to help the edge rushers contain Spiller.
“Similar because you just don’t let a guy like that hit the edge and get going. You need to set a firm edge and not have him hit it running,” Ninkovich said. “Yeah, that he’s explosive. You know that he’s a dangerous guy and a target so he’s a guy you just want to take care of.”
“He’s one of them,” Wilfork said of Martin in the Tampa Bay arsenal. “He’s a good, good football player. He’s a great back, can block, can run, can catch. We have our hands full with him and Vincent Jackson.”