The Tampa Bay Buccaneers need to improve their offensive line in 2019. The unit has taken a turn for the worst late in the season.
Buccaneers’ general manager Jason Licht will have his hands full this offseason. With limited cap space, he will have to rebuild most of the offensive line before the 2019 season.
As the 2018 season progressed, the Tampa Bay frontline regressed to one of the worst units in the league. The group has avoided major injury, but the unit cannot get on the same page.
The blame for the Bucs most recent loss can land on the shoulders of the linemen. They allowed four sacks, 10 quarterback hits and Bucs running backs averaged just 3.2 yards per carry. Add in upwards of five penalties called on the group; it was a disastrous performance from the big bodies up front.
Aside from turnovers, the only thing slowing down the offense was the line. Pro Football Outsiders ranks the Bucs run blocking as the worst in the NFL. The Bucs average just 98.7 rushing yards per contest, the sixth-worst mark in the league.
Tampa Bay’s offense ranks among the best in the league. They feature a quarterback capable of putting up ridiculous numbers and an arsenal of weapons. However, they have holes all over the offensive line.
The root of the issues along the Tampa Bay front lie at right guard and left tackle.
Guard Caleb Benenoch won the starting RG job out of camp but calling him a starter is somewhat of a stretch.
In every game, head coach Dirk Koetter subs Benenoch out of the game. He was replaced by backup center/guard Evan Smith earlier in the season. When Smith went down with injury, rookie guard Alex Cappa stepped in to rotate with Benenoch.
Not one of the guards has performed well, while Smith and Cappa are nothing more than depth, Benenoch grades as the worst right guard in all of football, according to Pro Football Focus.
Over the past couple of seasons, the Bucs have worked with Benenoch. He played both tackle and guard during his time with Tampa Bay, but they will likely look in a different direction in the offseason.
The other position where the Bucs must improve is at left tackle. Donovan Smith will hit free agency once the season ends and the former second-round pick will be asking for the Bucs to back up the Brinks truck.
Hopefully, Tampa Bay doesn’t. Smith has allowed the fourth-most pressures in the NFL, according to PFF. He takes plays off each week and has regressed since a promising 2016 campaign.
Although there may not be more enticing options in the free agent market, investing a top pick at the tackle position could result in consistent blindside protection for the first time in Jameis Winston‘s career.
The rest of the offensive line will likely return in 2019. Although veteran tackle Demar Dotson has begun to slow down, he only has one year left on his deal. Ali Marpet continues to play like an All-Pro, and there is no way the Bucs can cut Ryan Jensen. Remember, Jensen is the highest paid center in the league.
Next season will be year five with Jameis Winston under center. Although the Bucs have provided him with talented receivers, they haven’t made the right investments when trying to protect him.
Tampa Bay has a tough decision to make about Winston’s long-term future. It can be made much easier with a competent offensive line in front of him.
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