Much-Maligned O-Line Getting It Done

Despite criticism,the offensive line has been key to the Bucs' 2-0 start.

By Jeff Berlinicke

As surprising as the Bucs 2-0 start has been, even more surprising has been the work of the much-maligned offensive line.

It was a unit that was blamed by most for last season's 5-11 collapse. During the off-season, Bucs management was blasted for waiting until the third round to do anything with the draft, finally taking versatile Dan Buenning who has been a major contributor so far.

Still, when summer training camp loomed, that's where the question marks were, especially after it seemed the entire line was out for part of the pre-season with one injury or another. It got so bad the Bucs had to bring back Todd Stuessie after releasing him just two months earlier for salary cap reasons as well as performance. People questioned why the Buccaneers would draft a running back with the No. 5 overall pick when he would have no one to run behind.

Instead, the offensive line deserves credit for springing rookie running back Cadillac Williams as well as protecting immobile quarterback Brian Griese. More importantly, the line hasn't been causing officials to strain their arms tossing flags all over the field.

Kenyatta Walker, usually the most criticized of all of the Bucs linemen, is showing signs of playing to his potential. The former No. 1 pick was solid in Sunday's 19-3 win over Buffalo and said the emphasis this year is on run blocking, a position in which he is much more comfortable.

"The thing this year is to run the ball,'' Walker said. "Last year teams knew we were going to pass. We are getting better, but there are still a lot of things we can do better. Anytime you get a win, that's a positive.''

Coach Jon Gruden was also especially proud of his line after the Buffalo win.

"I am very proud of what they did,'' Gruden said." They dominated them in the third-down area. I think running the ball with some success allo0ws then to do that. Hopefully the start getting some respect.''

Walker said the line wasn't as confident in itself as it should have been last season.

"We are getting better and our confidence is building,'' Walker said. "We are trying to find the identity of the offense. We have special players around us, and the offensive line just does what we have to do.''

What is has to do is win, and the Bucs are doing quite well at that right now with a trip to Green Bay on Sunday.

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