A clear cut candidate after struggling last year and being suspended at the end of the season for violating the NFL's drug policy, Martin has earned nothing but praise this offseason after he spent time in rehab.
NFL Network's Mike Garafolo spoke to Bucs general manager Jason Licht as the team closed minicamp on Thursday. The assessment of Martin's on-field improvement was glowing.
"I had a conversation with [Licht]. He said, '[Martin] looks lean, he looks like he's finishing his runs -- obviously, there is no contact in the spring -- but it looks like he's finishing his runs. He looks like he's got that burst. He looks like the Doug Martin of 2015,'" Garafolo said Thursday on NFL Network's Inside Minicamp Live.
The report from Licht meshes with everything we heard from beat reporters during minicamp about Martin looking quicker and fresher than last season.
Jenna Laine of ESPN even gave us a good sneak preview:
If the Bucs do indeed get 2015 Martin -- who rushed for 1,402 yards -- the offense surrounding Jameis Winston will be among the most dynamic and diverse in the NFL. Tampa owns the receivers in Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson and rookie Chris Godwin to overwhelm defensive backfields. The tight end duo of Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard should eat over the middle and in the red zone. If Martin is back in form, it will keep the Bucs in good down and distance, making Winston's pass attack more potent.
There is reason to temper the optimism in June, however.
Not only is Martin suspended the first three weeks of the season, as Garafolo notes, the running back isn't coming off an ankle or knee injury. He's overcoming off-field demons that have been known to creep back up on players during the six weeks of downtime before training camp.
The hope is Martin returns to training camp and continues to impress team brass with improvements both on and off the field. If that happens, the Bucs' playoff chances get a big boost.