J.R. Sweezy is back on the field for the Buccaneers, and his influence may prove to be invaluable.
When the Buccaneers signed J.R. Sweezy prior to last season, they thought they had Logan Mankins 2.0. Mankins had announced his retirement, leaving a hole along the line both physically and vocally. Mankins was an experienced player, much of it coming in New England with the Patriots, and he was the glue that was bringing the Bucs young line together.
Sweezy’s job was to replace Mankins as that veteran glue to keep the young ones together. Unfortunately, he never recovered from his previous injury with enough time to salvage 2016. Without him, the line took steps backwards. Jameis Winston‘s sack totals went up (27 to 35), and the holes for the running backs weren’t nearly as big or as frequently there.
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Well it is now 2017 and J.R. Sweezy is back. He has been back on the field with his Bucs teammates and the staff is more than happy about it. To give you an insight, here is what coach Dirk Koetter had to say at a recent press conference (via press release):
"When people say we didn’t address the [offensive] line, the fact that J.R. was out all last year, I mean we were real excited about what J.R. would bring to the group last year. And unfortunately he had to miss [the 2016 season]. J.R., in his 50-something starts in Seattle, [was an] extremely physical player. For our fans that haven’t seen him, he’s a bigger, stronger version of Joe Hawley, the way he plays. I know our fans like the way Joe plays; I think they’re going to like the way J.R. plays as well. I think he’s going to bring a physical presence to the center of our line.”"
Coaches and teammates also have noted that Sweezy brings a nasty edge to the table (via USA Today). Don’t diminish the importance of the attitude, especially along the offensive line. If you could pick one area on the football field where it is simply hand to hand combat, beat the other guy with brute strength, it’s in the trenches. It’s you and your opponent, nose to nose.
If you are passive, you have already lost. An offensive lineman must be on that edge of crazy, ready to take the other guy and make him quit. If you don’t make your opponent quit, he’ll make you quit. A nasty edge is essential. Sweezy appears to have it, and if that can rub off on his teammates, this group could come together into one special unit.
His experience will help as well, make no mistake. Sweezy sports a Super Bowl ring and ten playoff starts. Just like Mankins, the experience in big games will help the young Bucs as they take the next step into the team we believe they can be. Obviously it’s early, but the signs are pointing in the right direction.