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Buccaneers are bullish about Doug Martin

Bucs running back Doug Martin is looking healthy and playing like it this preseason. Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports

TAMPA, Fla. -- Jameis Winston gets the headlines. It's understandable because the quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was the first pick in the 2015 draft.

But lost in Winston's shadow is the play of running back Doug Martin in Monday night's preseason victory against Cincinnati. Martin had six carries for 59 yards (a 9.8-yard average), including 52 yards on an opening touchdown drive.

He looked more like the Martin who rushed for more than 1,400 yards as a rookie in 2012 than like the player who has struggled through injuries the past two seasons.

"First off, he's healthy and you know how much that means to a running back," coach Lovie Smith said Tuesday. "He's worked hard. He's looked good in training camp practices but you want to see him do it in a game. There were holes last night. But there was also a wall and he was stopped at the line of scrimmage a couple of times and he made something out of nothing a few times. He broke tackles and ran hard. Just a good game."

Martin's play in training camp has had the coaching staff talking and his performance against the Bengals only added to the excitement that he might be able to be the player he once was.

"I wasn't around when Doug had his breakout year," Smith said. "But that guy we saw last night, that's what we're looking for. That's what we need in order for us to get the running game going."

This is a huge year for Martin. The Bucs previously declined to pick up the fifth-year option (for 2016) on his rookie contract. That means Martin can become a free agent after this season. But, if he performs like he did against the Bengals, the Bucs will try to lock him up for the long term.