BREAKDOWN: Offensive Line

October 25th, 2008 analyst Steve Campbell gives Bucs right tackle Jeremy Trueblood a game ball for his play in the Bucs win over Seattle. analyst Steve Campbell gives Bucs right tackle Jeremy Trueblood a game ball for his play in the Bucs win over Seattle. analyst Steve Campbell reviews the Bucs’ offensive line play in Week 7 and projects what fans can expect against the Dallass Cowboys on Sunday.

In the 1990s, Campbell was a NCAA Division I lineman and played semipro football (he likes to say he was a tackling dummy for a future NFL defenisve tackle). His analysis appears here weekly.

The Bucs offensive line turned in another solid, if not spectacular performance last week against Seattle. I was critical earlier in the season of Jon Gruden’s abandonment of the run and his tendency to throw too much. Jeff Garcia and the Bucs came out slinging but I think this was the way to attack Seattle.

The Seahawks showed the “loaded box” look that Chicago used against the Bucs in Week 3 when Brian Griese attempted 67 passes in an exciting overtime Bucs win. Seattle used mostly eight-man fronts and sometimes loaded the box with nine defensive players daring the Bucs to throw. Considering that, a 36/38 run/pass ratio is pretty good in my book.

The pass protection was outstanding. Besides the one sack by Seattle, I could count only two times where Jeff Garcia came close to being hit as he threw: Both the result of blitzes. I didn’t see one time where a Bucs offensive lineman was beaten in a one-on-one type pass protection situation. Jeremy Trueblood (more on him later), specifically, was very good in pass protection. Just like in the Chicago and Green Bay games, Trueblood shut down a top notch defensive end. This time it was Patrick Kerney that Trueblood was neutralizing.

I wouldn’t fret too much as a Tampa Bay fan about the Bucs’s 2.5 yards per carry average for this game. As stated earlier, it’s tough to run in the NFL when teams are loading the box with eight and nine men. There is just no room to run anywhere. The good news is, even with their depleted wide receiver corps, the Bucs made the Seahawks pay for their strategy. Expect teams to loosen up the box a little more, and hopefully Gruden will take advantage of this, and run the ball.

Though the Bucs offensive line played well, the Bucs tight ends did not have their best night. There were several times where all five offensive linemen made their blocks, and a tight end was beaten in one-on-one run blocks.

Game ball: It was a tough call, but my game ball goes to right tackle Jeremy Trueblood who was very good pass protecting, and I continue to love his aggressiveness in the run game. Opposing defensive players that are “pile watchers” better watch themselves when playing the Bucs. Trueblood goes to the whistle every play and is always looking for somebody to hit that is standing around watching the tackle.

Normally, I would also tell you about any Bucs offensive lineman who didn’t have their best night, but I honestly thought they all played pretty well.

Against Dallas the Bucs face a defensive team whose back is against the wall. That scares me a bit, because the last time we faced this type of defense, it was the Denver Broncos, and that was a forgettable day for the Tampa Bay offense. Also, Dallas runs a 3-4 defense, and historically, these types of defenses have given the Bucs fits. At nose tackle, the Cowboys go with Jay Ratliff (6-4, 302). Ratliff has been a very active, overachieving player. The same can’t be said for the defensive ends of the Cowboys. Marcus Spears and Chris Canty have been major disappointments this year and for most of their short careers in Dallas. With the exception of DeMarcus Ware (a sack in 10 straight games), the Dallas linebackers have been very average.
Zach Thomas and Bradie James have been gashed lately in the middle. Thomas looks like a player that is on the definite downswing of his career.

This is a great opportunity for the Bucs this week. Dallas has been a team that has been run on this year, and if the Bucs offensive line can give Garcia time to throw, their depleted secondary can also be exploited.

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