Chad Henne: Want to hear a joke?
Josh McCown: Sure!
Chad Henne: Your team’s o-line.
Things need to change quickly.
After the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ first preseason game of the year, that’s all I could think of in regards to the team’s starting offensive line.
The unit, plagued by change and the retirement of their oft-injured veteran leader, has yet to gel. While the coaching staff believes that the pieces of the puzzle are there, it definitely seems like they are not in place after getting bulldozed by the Jaguars’ defensive front.
They have three weeks to figure it out.
Behind the starting line, Doug Martin didn’t get anything going, and Josh McCown had no time to breathe in the pocket. In fact, calling what the o-line tried to establish for McCown a “pocket” would be a stretch. If it was a pocket, then it was one with all of the stitching coming loose and having one of the sides completely torn. It did not function as it was supposed to; a blocking mechanism used to establish offensive efficiency and rhythm.
It did just the opposite.
So here we are. The entire offseason, we had been wondering just how bad the Bucs’ offensive line would be. And now we know that it is terrible. That has me scared, because look at the weapons that Tampa Bay has on offense. The receivers are tall and speedy. The backs are plentiful, and reliable. Two tight ends, ASJ and Wright, are full of potential. And at quarterback, we have a veteran leader, and the young guy who is waiting for his opportunity. The only way those quarterbacks can make use of the weapons at their disposal is if they have the proper time to make a sound decision. I don’t know how often that is possible with this starting five up front.
Oniel Cousins and Jamon Meredith played especially awful. Cousins, who was brought in to add depth, is a veteran lineman who was only thought to be an emergency plug-and-play type of guy. Not the case anymore, as he will be depended on throughout the season. Meredith, much unlike Cousins, had high expectations. He was one of the best linemen the Buccaneers had last year, and is hoping to improve upon his 2013 campaign. Both men will have to play better if this offensive line is to succeed.
Besides not having their blocking and footwork down to a science, the Bucs’ starting linemen also were guilty of a few too many penalties. While that’s to be expected in the first week of the preseason, it also seems to result from their lazy blocks. When the defensive front gets a jump on the line, as many Jaguars did in this game, the immediate reaction is to grab their jersey and save the quarterback. Apart from holding, there was also an illegal hands to the face call. The penalties happened on a couple of would-be big plays, and I believe you guys are smart enough to know that those calls will hold this offense back from ever establishing a rhythm.
I’ve somehow gone almost 500 words without mentioning Bucs OC Jeff Tedford. His offense, and what it is going to look like come September, is still a mystery. While I don’t expect every wrinkle of the offense to be unveiled in games that don’t matter, at some point this offensive line will have to be strong enough so that the team can slowly roll out a few of the schemes that he has planned. Last night’s offense was generic and bland, and I assume it was because the whole game was spent just trying to calm everyone down and find a simple offensive rhythm.
In preseason games two and three, expect a lot of trial by fire. The Buccaneers know that this offensive line might be the only thing holding them back from having a great year and reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2007. Since they need them to play better together, the only thing that will aide in those efforts is letting them play in these games for more than one quarter. Sure, that might create a risk for injury. But after watching last night, what exactly does this team have to lose? Stellar offensive line play?
They already don’t have it.
It’s not time to panic, as it was only the first of four preseason games. But when regular season week one rolls around, this offensive line needs to have their ducks in a row. If they don’t, then Jeff Tedford’s offense will be one big sitting duck.