I have been holding off on a story like this about the Bucs' offensive line, but after Sunday's dominating performance, the time was right.
I know there are plenty of folks praising Doug Martin right now for what he did to the Jaguars in the Bucs 38-31 win on Sunday. Martin had over 150 yards of total offense on Sunday, including 123 yards on the ground. His running mate, Charles Sims, also had a very good game with over 130 total yards, including 85 yards through the air. What should be noticed is the way their offensive line played in front of them.
“I got to tip my hat off and give a lot of credit to the offensive line, Doug Martin said after the game. "A lot of guys [were] down so that’s not our original starting linemen, but a lot of guys are stepping up. Kevin Pamphile stepped up in a big way today. I owe them dinner this week. I know we will continue to do that, be just as good as we were today throughout.”
Yes, Doug Martin has shown nice explosion and elusiveness in the open field, but a ton of his success this year goes to the Bucs offensive line. There were many times where Martin was not even being touched until he was already 4 yards passed the line of scrimmage...that just shows the dominance of the Bucs offensive line from Sunday.
Oh, and back to Martin's comments about this offensive line not being the regular offensive line - Well, maybe it should be!
I have said on this site and on twitter all season long that the Bucs' only liability along their offensive line was their veteran, Logan Mankins. With Evan Smith and Mankins watching from the sideline on Sunday, so was over $10 million in salary cap space as well.
"He’s been working a little bit here and there," Lovie Smith said of Kevin Pamphile's switch to guard. "He’s been primarily at tackle, but when you dress you need to be able to do both. We normally dress seven [offensive linemen]. Around Wednesday we put him in there more full-time. He hadn’t gotten a whole lot of reps there, which says a lot more just from that. Great job by him today.”
It was, and with Pamphile at guard next to rookie Donovan Smith and rookie Ali Marpet at right guard, the Bucs have quickly changed their offensive line with draft picks...something Mark Dominik never did.
I'm about to say something that may literally blow your mind. The Bucs offensive line is not a liability. Hell, the Bucs offensive line is not one of their weakest units on their team. As a matter of fact, the Bucs offensive line is one of the units I'm most confident in moving forward. MIND...BLOWN!!
They were dominant against the Jaguars. They also eliminated the Texans vaunted pass rush. They have been able to keep Jameis Winston in one piece despite the large amount of blitzes they see on a weekly basis, but their strength is with the ground game in clearing out the trenches.
They are not a finished product by any means. Pamphile's future is likely at guard, while Donovan Smith seems more and more comfortable at left tackle and Ali Marpet is entrenched at right guard for probably the next 10 years. The Bucs could still use a long-term center and right tackle, but they're clearly on the right track.
It's still early. The likes of Donovan Smith, Ali Marpet, and others will make mistakes and will miss blocks. The reality, though, is that the Bucs are building a nice young offensive line that will grow together for years to come.