Method To The Madness?June 6th, 2014
From about the day after the free agency dinner bell rang, Joe has been grousing about the Bucs’ offensive line. Joe just doesn’t believe the offensive line is average right now.
For years, Bucs coach Lovie Smith, when he guided the Bears, had a rotten offensive line and yet he won, despite many failed transactions trying to beef up his line.
Well, Joe read a fantastic John Madden feature by an old comrade of Joe’s, Dan Pompei, who now is a freelance writer. The former long-time Bears beat writer, logging time at both the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune, knows Lovie well. Pompei recently typed this magnificant piece on Madden, who talked about how much football has changed since he was an offensive tackle in college in the 1950s.
In fact, Madden says in today’s NFL, many coaches don’t give a damn about pass blocking, yet still succeed in the pass game. Madden explains:
What has happened, in Madden’s opinion, is that short, quick passes have become the solution to pass-protection problems. “It used to be, ‘Block the blitz, and account for everyone,'” Madden said. “Now, it’s, ‘Don’t account for anyone, and just throw it before they get there. Take care of the double-A gaps, don’t let someone come free up the middle’ — and you can do that with shotgun.”
As the passing game has changed, so has the blocking game. Madden notes how often linemen use two point stances instead of three, and how they block with their hands instead of their shoulders. Even their shoulder pads have become much smaller, and they don’t use arm pads anymore. But most linemen wear big gloves that look like they could be used in MMA training, because they help with punch.
The run game used to be about drive blocking and double teams. Now? “Most of the runs, you just direct a guy or redirect a guy,” he said. “Or you try to cut a guy off, try to invite a guy off the field, knock him off and run inside of him.”
See how the pieces of the puzzle are coming together? The Bucs want to go “up-tempo,” so they go out and find a quarterback who last year threw well in the shotgun (Josh McCown). The Bucs offensive line may not be that improved, but a shotgun can neutralize a pass rush, see?
Protect the double-A gaps as Madden says teams now do. Go get a center, and the Bucs did just that. Evan Dietrich-Smith was a fine pickup and perhaps could be the best Bucs offensive lineman.
So maybe there is a method to Lovie’s madness? Again, puzzle pieces each week are emerging. The picture of what the Bucs offense may be is becoming clearer.