The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have had a very busy offseason. With the hiring of the offensive-minded Bruce Arians to be the head coach, many believe that the offense could explode under his tutelage. The one thing that may hold the team back, however, is the poor play of the offensive line.
Preseason football is a time for key players to get their legs under them but at the same time, remain healthy. For this reason, many starters play a few snaps with the exception of week three. During the “dress rehearsal”, the Buccaneers offensive line was put to the test against the Cleveland Browns talented defensive front. The showing was less than spectacular, as the starters gave up four sacks on the first offensive series and looked overwhelmed all night.
For this film study, we will be looking at the play of the Buccaneers starting offensive line from that game and why their struggles against a talented defensive front like the Browns may be a sign of things to come this season.
The Buccaneers offensive line stood no chance against the vaunted Browns defensive front. Despite elite pass rusher Myles Garrett only playing one series in the game, the Buccaneers still had to fend off former Pro Bowlers in Olivier Vernon and Sheldon Richardson. The result was utter dominance upfront by the Browns.
This first play is a complete breakdown by both tackles. At the top of the screen, Garrett is working against veteran left tackle Donovan Smith. Smith is slow and upright in his kick slide but still manages to get in front of Garrett. His hand placement, however, is very wide which allows Garrett to counter and rip underneath the block to force quarterback Jameis Winston to step up.
On the other side, right tackle Demar Dotson is way too high in his stance, which leads to him being thrown aside by the strength of Vernon. The result is the two edge rushers converging on the quarterback for the sack.
Along with giving up edge pressure, the offensive line also gave up interior pressure. Right guard Alex Cappa is matched up with former Pro Bowler Sheldon Richardson on this play. Cappa does a good job of initially matching Richardson’s power as he stays sturdy against the initial push. But he loses his balance and footing, as Richardson wins the hand fighting and sends the young guard to the ground with a violent rip move. Cappa looks helpless to the strength of Richardson on this play and the result is another sack.
They struggled both on the interior and on the edges. To top it all off, the communication was poor along the entire front. Preseason football is typically very bland on both sides of the ball but the Browns did throw a stunt at the Bucs offensive line, as shown in this play. Dotson and Cappa look completely lost on their assignments and Vernon is able to come flying through the middle for a big sack. Poor communication along with losing one-on-one battles made this a terrible pass blocking game for the Buccaneers.
Pass blocking is just one phase of the game; surely the line looked better firing off in run blocking, right? Not really. The Browns won the battle of the trenches in all facets, as the Buccaneers offensive line failed to get a real push on the ground. They were constantly beaten at the point of attack and the running backs were given little room to work.
On this play, the Buccaneers try a run to the left side with the tight end as the lead blocker. The play is blown up, however, in the interior as center Ryan Jensen whiffs on his block of Sheldon Richardson. The rest of the line also fails to get much movement on their blocks. But the missed block on the interior effectively stuffs this run and gives the running back no outlet to escape. The result is a loss on the play.
On another play, the Buccaneers offensive line is unable to get much of a push on the outside stretch run. The play is blown up by Vernon, as he is able to explode upfield and beat the block of O.J. Howard to the outside.
The interior offensive line also didn’t do much to help. If they get a good push, there could have been the potential for a cut back lane on the backside. Unfortunately, the three interior linemen get tangled up together and all end up on the ground as their defenders pursue the ball carrier. Sloppy play and bad blocking led to the loss on the play.
This final play kind of sums up the game for the Buccaneers offensive line. On a simple dive play with one-on-one blocking assignments, they fail to get any push up front. Almost every lineman is beaten soundly by their man and the play gets blown up in the backfield. This was a rough overall game for the Buccaneers’ starting unit, as they were just manhandled all afternoon.
The Buccaneers have the makings of a good offense this season. They have a talented quarterback along with a ton of playmakers on the outside. The only thing that could hold them back, however, is their weak offensive line play. Outside of Ali Marpet, who is a star left guard, they are very weak at every other position along the offensive line.
The Buccaneers could very well break out this year. But considering the state of their offensive line, I would be very skeptical of them doing so. Their week one matchup against a San Francisco 49ers front that features Nick Bosa, DeForest Buckner, and Dee Ford could result in a very long afternoon for Tampa Bay.
Zach Hicks is a writer for Pro Football Network’s Film Room. Follow him on Twitter @ZachHicks2.