Bucs Offensive Line No. 10May 8th, 2012
Many Bucs fans were quick to knight the Bucs offensive line as one of the best in the NFL when Bucs rock star general manager Mark Dominik landed All-Pro guard Carl Nicks in free agency.
This allowed the Bucs to move left guard Jeremy Zuttah to center and wave goodbye to former starting center Jeff Faine.
But Evan Silva of Rotoworld.com isn’t ready to jump on the bandwagon quite yet. Though impressed with Nicks, he believes Dominik is not getting the most bang for his buck with his offensive line and barely grades the Bucs offensive line in the top third of the league at No. 10.
Overview: Meet the NFL’s most expensive O-Line. Over the past three years, the Bucs have devoted an unprecedented $168 million in combined contracts to their five starters, including this offseason’s Nicks ($47.5M) and Zuttah ($16.3M) deals. So far, the group has been overpaid. Nicks is the lone truly elite lineman, and he’s yet to play a down for Tampa. There are reasons to believe this unit is destined for a big leap, though. New coach Greg Schiano is installing a run-heavy attack, and that philosophy plays to the strengths of this power-blocking group. Nicks’ presence allows Zuttah to kick from left guard to center, turning last year’s biggest negative into a positive. The addition of a running back with power and wiggle in first-round pick Doug Martin will naturally make the blocking look better. Though not quite as good as its price tag suggests, Tampa’s offensive line was still a top 15 or 18 unit in 2011. It should be top ten in 2012.
The key to the offensive line lies with two people, both tackles: Donald Penn and Jeremy Trueblood.
Though in a NFL Network special on the Top 100 players of2012 Penn was ranked by current NFL players at No. 97, Penn seemed to become disinterested late last season, gaining weight and losing his edge as one of the dominant tackles in the NFL.
Trueblood is a pretty damned good run blocker but he struggles against the pass. Two years ago James Lee pushed him aside for a starting job and defensive ends ran past Trueblood ease.
If Penn can stay sharp all year and Trueblood can improve his pass blocking, there is no reason to believe the Bucs will struggle on the offensive line.