Running Into A Wall

December 21st, 2016



They’re trying, Lord, they’re trying.

You can’t say Dirk Koetter and Todd Monken have abandoned a flat-lined running game that is killing the Bucs right now.

They keep running Doug Martin left, Doug Martin right, Doug Martin up the middle, but the results don’t seem to change.

The word “plodding” comes to mind.

Charles Sims isn’t doing any better, either.

There’s a mystery here because with the exception of veteran left guard Logan Mankins, Tampa Bay’s offensive line has returned intact from a 2015 unit that blocked ferociously to open running lanes.

If Mankins was that important, he should have been named MVP of the league last season.

Health Rules

The five starters along the offensive line have missed a total of five games this season. By NFL standards, that’s a run of incredible health.

There’s got to be more to it — and the Bucs are running out of time to figure out what’s wrong.

“If it was an easy fix, it would have been done, but it’s not,” right guard Ali Marpet says of the ongoing rushing woes. “I love that coach Koetter still has confidence in us. I respect the heck out of that.”

The Bucs show no signs of returning to the September days when Jameis Winston was throwing 40 passes per game.

“I’ll give Coach Koetter a lot of credit — we’ve continued to try and run it when we haven’t been able to run it because that’s who we have to be in order to make our play-action game work,” Monken says. “Receivers have to block better, we’ve got to do a better job of being able to throw it down the field to get some people off of us in the run game and give us better box numbers.”

Koetter continues to show faith in his backs and run blockers, and that’s commendable, but at some point things have to change.

Saturday at the Superdome wouldn’t be a bad place to start because it’s folly to think you’re going to beat New Orleans 16-11 again. Drew Brees showed last week that he still has a lot of pride.

The best way to keep him down is to keep him steaming on the sidelines.

Better production on first down will be critical, and that’s an area the Bucs have much work to do. Tampa Bay ran the ball 13 times on first down against the Cowboys … and ended up with 21 yards.

For our math-challenged readers, let me help you.

That stinks.

Martin was responsible for 11 of those first-down carries and he generated 25 yards. Eight of those snaps gained three yards or less.

That stinks.

If Martin is still hampered by that serious hamstring injury suffered in Week 2, he shouldn’t be the primary back. If he’s healthy and producing these feeble numbers, that’s even worse.

Precision Lost

Success on first down has been a problem all season. The Bucs average only 4.64 yards on first down, and only the Texans (4.58) are worse. In contrast, the team the Bucs are chasing in the NFC South, Atlanta, tops the NFL with a 7.46 average on first down.

Big, big difference.

“If we continue to stick with it, it’ll come,” Marpet says. “When you get away from the run, it really throws off the rhythm of a game. It’s awesome that he (Koetter) continues to believe in us,”

Adding to the frustration is the knowledge that the Bucs ran the ball with power and precision in 2015, averaging 4.8 yards per carry. They topped 115 yards on the ground 11 times.

This year, they have rushed for 105 yards or more only four times.

Martin’s drop off has been staggering. He has exactly half as many carries as last season (144-288) and almost 1,000 fewer yards.

It’s time to see what Jacquizz Rodgers can do. He’s healthy again and he has already shown he can break runs behind this line.

I say turn Rodgers loose and let a lousy Saints defense try to chase him down.

58 Responses to “Running Into A Wall”

  1. Patrick in VA Says:

    This isn’t rocket surgery. The difference between this year and last year is a big, fat contract given to one Douglas Martin. He’s performed well in his rookie year, which bought him the rope he needed to make people believe, and in his contract year. Make him sign year to year Revis-style prove it contracts and I think we’ll be surprised how much our o-line improves and suddenly we have tons of holes for Martin to run through

  2. Lord Cornelius Says:

    I’d go with Rodgers as well. With how bad the blocking is; his running style fits better as a small diminutive guy that can pick a spot and try to sneak out 3-4 yards.

    I duno why the line regressed this year. I thought Smith, Marpet, & Pamphile’s development would offset the loss of Mankins.

    Marpet is the best guy we have; and he’s not a top 10 guard yet. I haven’t seen any of our lineman listed in any of the top 25 type lineman lists out there

  3. Patrick in VA Says:

    Last year, Martin ran violently. He ran like he was on a mission. This year, that fire isn’t there. He led the league in shed tackles and yards after contact. This year, there’s none of that. He’ll get a lunging yard here or there at the goal line, but there’s nothing like the effort that we saw last year.

  4. tmaxcon Says:

    22 is simply unreliable

  5. Ocala Says:

    Rodgers certainly looks better
    than Martin.

    Maybe Doug is hurt still but either way he looks slow.

  6. Lord Cornelius Says:

    Patrick – our line is 3rd worst in the entire league when it comes to the % of plays the RB is hit at or behind the line of scrimmage.

    We were top 13 in that category last year.

    Martin is still running violently. If anything too violent when he just runs into a wall instead of trying to find a crease. He doesn’t have as much burst and his vision has been worse; but the offensive line is not helping anyone and needs to be better.

  7. Patrick in VA Says:

    @Lord – I feel like that’s a bit of a chicken and egg scenario. Is the line playing badly because they aren’t executing or is our 1st down predictability skewing those numbers in a big way? Every first down run up the gut is met with a wall of other colored jerseys because they know that we’re coming. We can debate what level the line is at, but we all know that they’re not at a level where we can just line up against a team that knows what we’re doing and flat out beat them because we’re just that much better.

  8. BCoburn Says:

    I think Martin has certainly lost a step, but is it also possible our opponents don’t really respect our passing game with the injuries at receiver? Maybe they’ve ‘figured us out.’ As much as WInston and Koetter like throwing downfield I’ve wondered if a little dink and dunk would help us out. Help get Jameis into a rhythm, help get some completion in there, help setup some shots later, and perhaps force them to respect passing more. Our identity is clearly deeper throws and Jameis numbers show that, but is it too much? Also those deeper shots require Jameis to sit in the pocket longer. Is that perhaps what teams have been feeding on lately and why Dallas seemed to pin their ears back? Seems like to beat our offense you cover the deeper routes and apply pressure. Defend the run on 1st down.

  9. Patrick in VA Says:

    @BCoburn – You make a good point. Part of the effects of having a receiving group held together by bubble gum and duct tape. Not only are they not as adept at getting open and actually catching the ball, but defenses are not respecting that part of our game as much. I’m sure that’s playing in to them being able to load up our line more than our guys can handle.

  10. DB55 Says:

    Although I like hawleys tenacity I’m not sure he has the strength or talent to be a FT starter on a top oline.

    The team is made up of a bunch of 2nd string, 3rd string and practice squad talent.

    It truely is a miracle we’ve come this far.

  11. Gencoimports Says:

    I’ll said this before and I’ll say it again – throw out the 49ers game (the 49ers rushing defense is one of the very worst of all time) and Rodgers’ YPC falls dramatically.

    He didn’t do much in the Raiders game (19-69) and their run D at the time wasn’t very good either.

    But you know what? Fine, start him. Bench Martin. But don’t be surprised when results don’t improve.

    And that’s no knock on Rodgers. He’s a pretty good weapon. The offensive line was mediocre last year and they suck this year. No good RB can hold up behind a weak line.

  12. DB55 Says:


    Problem is Jameis won’t throw short. Last week on 3&5 late in the 4th JW looked off hump at the first down marker and threw it downfield for an incompletion. It’s all or nothing with jaboowins.

  13. tdtb2015 Says:

    Then it also lies on the Koetter to create different plays and looks. But time is running out. We have to win out. Rodgers needs to be active on Saturday. Let Martin and Rodgers alternate drives or quarters. Lets stick we the one with more production, if one is not producing.

  14. tdtb2015 Says:

    I would hate to see us miss the playoffs because Jameis is acting like a little kid or our coaches are staying vanilla in their game plan.

  15. DB55 Says:


    You don’t have to bench Martin to play Jac. Truth is Simms avg 1.3 ypc last week but you won’t hear that from Joe cuz he’s on a mission to paint Martin as non-productive.

  16. Patrick in VA Says:

    @DB55 – I’m not sure that I’m tracking. I believe it’s pretty common knowledge that Sims is garbage when you try to run him as a legit back. That has nothing to do with the line. That’s him dancing and shimmying before he’ll try to move toward the end zone. Him being excluded is more a product of him not being worthy of inclusion in the discussion

  17. Nole on Sat.-Bucc on Sun. Says:

    Everything isn’t always what seems. Let me give an example,when Fameis stepped up in pocket and launched one deep to ME which in all likelihood wouldve won the game even with how poorly we appeared to have played. Most probably under the assumption he poorly over threw ME right.. My response would be he could’ve easily been safe with pass an slightly undwr threw him right there forcing the refs to make decision. One of many things made me go hmmm.

  18. Nole on Sat.-Bucc on Sun. Says:

    And yes Pat sims pie. Draft Cook and we have the between the tackles runner and the pass catcher out the backfield all in one package.

  19. Gencoimports Says:

    I don’t disagree with you DB55. But this article was written by Ira, not Joe.

    Unlike the Joes, Ira does not have an agenda. He is taking a more neutral stance.

    I’m beyond tired of this subject. I think the Bucs are going to lose this week regardless of who starts at RB. Beating the same team twice in 3 weeks is a very tough feat in the NFL and there are several reasons as to why the Bucs offense is sputtering. To me, weak line play, no true FB, a predictable offense and lack of speed in the passing game are the main reasons why.

  20. Gencoimports Says:

    Sims needs to be used like Shane Vareen when he was with the Pats. Or Dion Lewis/James White now,

    Put him in the slot primarily and only hand off to him when you have the defense spread out to give him the ball in space, But you don’t see much of that here.

  21. Gencoimports Says:

    Cook would be a wasted pick. Most teams don’t draft RBs early anymore and we have far more pressing needs OL, WR, DT, S, CB

  22. DB55 Says:

    Reply didn’t post. Boarding now ttyl. Feliz navidad off to Puerto Rico I go.

  23. Kobe Faker Says:

    nice article

    we should have a another article

    what happened to the rb screens

    throw it on 1st down, throw it to any rb that is on the field

    stacked box on 1st and 2nd down. no problem…run screens and the stacked box will disappear

    do we suck at screens? hell no! over 80% of the time we have good yardage and a few explosive plays

    people here is finally going to agree with me that koetter the clown actually is a terrible playcaller. the stubborn bifocal fool cant make adjustments whatsoever and the number 1 reason that kobe gets riled up the most is…

    he cant/doesnt use his players correctly and to the best ability

    hump cant run vertical routes. his is too short to drop a pass to downfield

    constant running martin instead of quizz. he is our #1 rb and that is that

    not using shep enough because he is st gunner

    running sims into the middle wall

    1stt down predicatable run plays…etc

    we need koetter to be HC only and bring in norv turner as oc

    add all the years of nfl experience and who was the nfl qb did this offensive side coaching staff groom and worked wit…we have a bunch of college coaches trying to teach our franchise qb

    bark? nothing

    monton is a recievers coach and what did he do

    koetter? david garrnd and gabbert

    *Matt ryan and the scheme was installed by marlarky. after he won the off coodinator of the year he left to a hc gig. and see what shanahan is doing

    ***koetter isnt going anywhere, but we are not going to improve until koetter stops having 2 positions



  24. Pickgrin Says:

    Another well written piece Ira.

    The truth is simple – Compared to last year, Martin is not running as well and the Oline is not blocking as well – thus we are averaging 3 yards a carry.

  25. J 2.0 Says:

    Playcalling is an issue.

    Jameis will get in a groove and complete 3 passes in a row and we go down the field and then all of a sudden its “run it up the gut with Martin time” and it just spoils the whole drive.

    The play where Jameis cost us a chance at 6 (and possibly the game) was inexcusable. Everyone knew a run was coming. He got dropped 5 yards back and the penalty didn’t help. Jameis literally had just thrown us down the field. Why not ride the hot hand? I’ve seen this happen too many time lately.

  26. J 2.0 Says:

    ***Jameis costing us 6 was the headbutt.

  27. Pickgrin Says:

    Go Away Kobe Welcher. GIT!

  28. Nole on Sat.-Bucc on Sun. Says:

    Genco you lost me when you said you expect us to lose this week on some hard to beat the same team twice bs. Let me say it again z ran for 159 dak threw for almost 300 we spotted them 3 turnover and still had a chance to win thst game but didn’t why??? The vegas line was +7 the won by 6 so who really won last Sunday night “the house” that’s who. Another thing I’m willing bet off the success of zek Cooks and fournette go in the top 15 of this next draft.

  29. DB55 Says:

    Draft Cook. That is all!

  30. Pickgrin Says:

    Cook will be gone when Bucs pick DB. Surely you don’t think we should trade up in the 1st rd for a RB?

  31. Nole on Sat.-Bucc on Sun. Says:

    Offense would be nasty wit Cook.

  32. Nole on Sat.-Bucc on Sun. Says:

    Pick why not if that’s the missing piece.. Give me a right tackle in free agency,a speedy wide out can be found anywhere.

  33. Lord Cornelius Says:

    “what happened to the rb screens”

    We ran some against Dallas and one could have maybe been a TD but the blocking was terrible by Brate & Cherilus.

    Agree on the unbalanced gameplan on 1st down. We ran it 14 times on 1st down compared to 7 passes on 1st down against Dallas. I’m not counting the times we passed in desperation mode on the last 2 series.

    Most game logs don’t play out like that when I’ve run the #s. This one was bad.

  34. Nole on Sat.-Bucc on Sun. Says:

    Look man coach K an offensive HC,and stated two weeks ago the need to get better football players around Fameis. If you think you about see any defensive player come off the board this time around in rounds 1 thru 3 you fooling yourselves.

  35. Patrick in VA Says:

    @NoSBoS – We thought that with the huge ‘fro kid whose name I can’t remember now, and the olympic sprinter guy who we’ve tried to jam in to our receiving group over the years. It’s not as easy as just getting somebody up off the street. Yes, they can be had in the later rounds, but a trade up would mean getting rid of those later round picks.

    Honestly, I think shoring up our line and getting receiving help will do great things for our run game. That and some more creative play calling

  36. Gencoimports Says:

    Nole on Sat. I haven’t done a study, but beating a division opponent twice in three weeks doesn’t happen very often. I’ll be very happy to be proven wrong,

    Cook will be a fine back, but we would also struggle behind our line until it’s upgraded.

  37. Patrick in VA Says:

    If we draft skill players, we’re trying to stop a river with a rock. We need to build up our lines before we look for a skill player to overcome the shortfalls of our lines. That’s the way that the bottom feeder teams are always doing it. They get the players that they think will make a splash but it doesn’t work that way. We’ve seen it too many times. With our team and with others who have struggled for just as long as we have. We need a few boring drafts where we get the big guys to fill the holes and create them

  38. 813bucboi Says:

    @lORD says, “I duno why the line regressed this year. I thought Smith, Marpet, & Pamphile’s development would offset the loss of Mankins.”….

    the problem really hasn’t been those three…its the other two that have been killing us….we consistently get pressure up the middle(center) and right tackle(Dotson)….marpet and pamphile have been solid….d.smith can be dominate at times but needs to become consistent…..he’s average at worst….

    it we can draft a tackle(first round) and move marpet to center we should be fine….but all of that depends on the health of the mystery man sweezy….we could roll out a healthy oline that consist of smith, sweezy, marpet, pamphile and a rookie/FA….or draft a center and kick pamphile outside at tackle…GO BUCS!!!!

  39. Nole on Sat.-Bucc on Sun. Says:

    Fair assessment Genco,I happen to be a theorist so my belief is if its in the cards it’ll happen. We’ll see Saturday.

  40. Nole on Sat.-Bucc on Sun. Says:

    Season’s are funny tho man last year Dougie rushed for all those yards and their was composing about this o line. He’s a hammy comes back not the same runner and now folks sound like we need upgrades at every position. Not quite buying that bro’s.

  41. Nole on Sat.-Bucc on Sun. Says:

    Especially not buying it when I witnessed Rodgers getting up thru there before he hurt his foot.

  42. 813bucboi Says:

    @db55…sorry but hell no to Cook….besides his injuries he puts the ball on the ground too much….I would prefer a hammer like james conner from pitt or d’onte foreman from texas…the kid from penn st is pretty good too!!!….and we could get each one in the later rounds…..GO BUCS!!!!

  43. Patrick in VA Says:

    @NoSBoS – look back at the season 22 was having before the injury. He wasn’t blowing any doors off before he went out either.

  44. DB55 Says:


    You are absolutely right BUT if a player like Cook is available you just can’t pass him by.

    I’m in the air sipping on Bombay, watching Bucs v Dallas on nfln, while on free fly-fi thanks to amazon prime. #Murica

  45. Patrick in VA Says:

    well played, DB55

    Thing is, Cook won’t be available. Not as low as we’ll pick. Happy to have those sorts of problems now.

  46. Gencoimports Says:

    Patrick you have to look at both. Draft a WR with speed to burn like John Ross who can be a legit No. 2 that will force defenses to play us honest and less 8 in the box. That will help free up the running game plus also free up Evans, Hump, Brate and our RBs in the passing game.

    I think they can wait until the second or third round to draft a Guard or a tackle, but they also need DT depth and in the secondary.

  47. Patrick in VA Says:

    @Genco – I think that with GMC and CMC as our DTs right now, we don’t need a first round DT. We can get one in the late second or third and let him develop behind them for a bit. DE needs to be addressed. Yes, Jaq Smith will be back next year (hopefully) and he’ll give us depth, but we’ve found, and Seattle has proven, that you can never have too many quality DEs

    Honestly, I’m not sure that I believe in our ability to evaluate talent for a WR outside the first round. If it doesn’t hit them in the face then I don’t know that that’s a position that we can develop very well. Between fro guy, Kaelen Clay and our bevy of receivers who have merely been warm bodies this year, I don’t think we’re at a place as a team that can wait around for a WR to develop. We need a week 1 contributor

  48. 813bucboi Says:

    @kobe….you make some valid points….maybe dirk does have too much on his plate….we saw that vs the rams when he f’ed up the clock….he may need to give up play calling duties and focus on being a hc and help jameis understand what he wants from his qb and what he has to do to get us to the next level…..GO BUCS!!!!

  49. unbelievable Says:

    I’m sorry but a 1st round pick on a RB would be a complete waste for this team. That’s not how you build a contender.

    We need OL and DL first and foremost, specifically tackles.

    The o-line was average to slightly above in run blocking and pass blocking last year, but most of Dougs success was actually him doing all the work, dodging tackles behind the LOS, jump cutting and rerouting 2 or 3 times before finding space. We were also using a ton of jumbo sets w/ 6 lineman plus a TE.

    The run blocking is worse this year, below average in almost ever game outside of SF and CAR. Dougie looks to have lost some burst but he’s getting blown up in the backfield at an alarming rate. We have the second most running plays stuffed at or behind the LOS of any team in the league this year! Think about that!

    That comes down to poor o-line play coupled with incredibly predictable playcalling. Koetter needs to mix it up, use misdirection, call more screens to RBs, run out of pass formations, etc., especially on 1st down.

  50. ndog Says:

    As much I like Jameis a big problem is that he is not taking what is there which takes us out of play calling rhythm. He has to start taking the 5-8 yards throws and that will keep the linebackers at home more and open up the running game. Then play action works and the deep shots open up. Just watch the games closely Kobe and you will see there are short throws there to be made but Jameis just spits on them for deeper dig routs or fly routes. On the drive after the Witten fumble he had Hump for a easy first down on 3rd and 6. What did he do he threw what had to be a picture perfect pass to Shep. That is not on the play caller that is on the QB no matter who it is. I am a huge Jameis guy but the fact is if you want to have an explosive offense you have to dictate to them not have them dictate to you. By taking what they give you at first it then forces them to take that away then you have the right where you want them. If not they know what is coming each time which with us is a run up the middle, deep dig route, fly pattern and occasional screen usually to Hump. But built within those routes mentioned above are check downs that if taken make it 2nd and 6 instead of 3rd and 10 which is a big difference to the play caller and in the mind of the defense.

  51. Trubucfan22 Says:

    Mankins was the leader, the heart and soul, of the o line group last season. Do not underestimate the power of a proven leader. Just look at what guys like Winston and Ayers have done for the team in general. Energy is up, practices are more intense. It takes leadership and respect from your peers to buy in to that. Last season you always heard about how Mankins ran the o line when they messed up. He was a special player in that o line room. He is sorely missed for sure.

  52. Trubucfan22 Says:

    We do not need a RB. We need the type of O line that can make any scrub RB look like an All pro.

    We need to seriously emulate what the cowboys have done with their o line. Their entire o line are made of top shelf blue chip players. What do we have? Undrafted dudes off the street, late round picks, Second round picks. No elite talent. If you want to build a nasty o line, it is pretty simple, draft them early and often. We have essentially ignored our o line during the draft for the last decade or more. Bring in the premium meat!

    Marpet is the only decent o lineman we have, every other player is below average. Joes won’t agree with that, but on an individual basis they are not very good. As a unit they perform better, because they can help each other out. But d smith 1 on 1 with an elite DE gets destroyed regularly. He needs help from pamphile. And hawley is a smaller dude he can’t handle the big powerful DTs in his league, he needs help from Marpet. And dotson or cherilus one on one against anyone is a disater waiting to happen. Fix this o line and you fix a lot of problems we have on offense.

  53. Cobraboy Says:

    When you don’t respect a receiver corp, you stack the box and stop the run. That is exactly what has been happening to the Bucs.

    Double/triple Evans, keep an eye on Brate and stuff the LOS.

    The template to stopping the Buc O has been set, and that won’t change until the passing game clicks downfield.

  54. yrbndr Says:

    @K faker What is the source of our HATE? Yes I screamed it as you do. Koetter is our HC and OC. By all measurables he is doing a heck of a job. Yes it is his first year doing this but hey I’ll take where we are and where we are going. It is all trending up! You do seem to be knowledgeable but your angst is childish! I suggest you volunteer for your local Pop Warner league and gain some experience and wisdom and humility. By the way I thought you weren’t going to post anymore? I guess your ego was too big to man up…

  55. SB with Jameis Says:

    Patrick in VA Says:
    December 21st, 2016 at 1:49 pm
    This isn’t rocket surgery.
    Funniest thing I have read in a while. I Googled ‘rocket surgeon’ and nothing came up.

  56. Gencoimports Says:

    ITA Trubucfan22

  57. Trubucfan22 Says:

    As for Rodgers. I remember him getting 2 carries a couple games ago. With how much praise he gets on a regular basis from Joe’s and some fans, you’d think he got 40 yards. Nope he got zero. 2 tries, both stuffed. But please tell me again how the o line is not the problem, and Martin is the only reason we suck running the ball. Since the o line is awesome, and Rodgers is a better RB, he should have been able to break away big gains. Sure, small sample size. But zero yards? Not even a single yard was gained? Martin might not be running well, but he is doing better than a 0 yard per carry average.

    I guess the o line actually does need to create at least a small crease for our small RBs to squeeze through.. just sayin.

  58. Tnew Says:

    One name that is omitted re last year. Javorskie Lane.