Yardbarker Horiz

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Offensive Line Showing Strength

If there is one thing we now know about the 2010 Tampa Bay Buccaneers it is the offensive line is ready to go.

Facing a blitz on nearly every down last Saturday night against the Kansas City Chiefs at Raymond James Stadium, the quarterbacks and offensive line worked in tandem to audible out to quick hit pass plays and slowly dissected the Chiefs.  How good was it?

Zero sacks.  None, nada, zip, zilch, zero.  Granted the Chiefs were a 4-12 team last year and gave up the most yards in team history against the Cleveland Browns last year.  But still it was mostly 6-8 versus the Buccaneer's front 5 for most of the night.  And zero sacks against anyone in the NFL is not easy to do.

The Buccaneers 53-yard touchdown from Josh Johnson to Micheal Spurlock was a prime example:  facing an all out  blitz (including the Cheifs top draft choice Eric Berry from the safety position) the offensive line reacted correctly and accounted for all the defenders, Spurlock evaded one-on-one coverage from Kansas City corner Brandon Flowers, and Josh Johnson laid in a quick but accurate throw.  Touchdown!

I think, looking at both games so far this preseason, it's becoming obvious that the offense is quite a bit ahead of the defense so far.  It should not be a surprise -- rookies on the defensive line take time to adjust to NFL schemes and trickery.  If it is the case the defense needs more time to jell, then it will be up to the offensive line to move the chains and win time of possession which will limit the number of opportunities for the opposing team.  It appears the offensive line is up to the task.

The same unit has started both preseason games so far in 2010 and is the same group that started most of the 2009 season:
Left Tackle:  #70 Donald Penn
Left Guard:  #76 Jeremy Zuttah
Center:  #52 Jeff Faine
Right Guard:  #75 Davin Joseph
Right Tackle:  #65 Jeremy Trueblood

Coach Morris has already announced the Keydrick Vincent, a 10 year pro and 2010 free agent signing, will replace 3rd year pro Jeremy Zuttah at Left Guard this Saturday night against Jacksonville.  Zuttah was pressed into service with the unexpected departure of Aaron Sears during the 2008 offseason.  Zuttah has shown some versatility this preseason:  when Vincent entered the game Zuttah moved inside and took snaps at center.  This is an important need for this team -- when Center Jeff Faine went down with an injury for a few weeks last season the offense sputtered and the team had to go to the waiver wire to find a suitable replacement.  Was it actually because there was no suitable backup for Zuttah?  It would explain the offseason signing of Vincent, but only the GM knows for sure.  Nonetheless, if Zuttah can back up both Left Guard and Center his value to this team skyrockets, and anything he learns from Vincent is icing on the cake.

The opponent this Saturday night is the Jacksonville Jaguars, well known for their defensive-minded coach and recent efforts to rebuild a defense which has been very stout in the past.  If the offensive line can continue to protect the quarterback in passing situations and furthur develop the running game this week it could establish itself as the strongest unit on the team going into Week 1 against the Cleveland Browns.  It may even be possible to control and win some of the early season games with ball control, giving the youthful defense more time to develop.

A strong showing by the offensive line this week will set a strong tone for early part of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers season.  If it gets contagious for this young team big things could happen this year!

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