Did Fitz Fix The Offensive Line?

May 18th, 2018

Did Ryan Fitzpatrick solve more than Rubik’s Cube?

A search for answers often leads to more questions.

And a disturbing take from offensive line coach George Warhop yesterday certainly did just that.

There are widely varying assessments of the Bucs’ offensive line and individual linemen last season.

Joe firmly believes the line was at least average, dragged down to that grading range by Doug Martin’s ineptitude, a dude with a bad back at right guard, a goofy rotation at left guard and a center who was learning on the job. Moan about the offensive line if you wish, but a garbage line doesn’t help lead the NFC in first downs like the Bucs did, overcoming the wrong guy running the football most of the time.

Anyway, Warhop firmly stated the offensive line’s effort was sub-standard through the first eight games of last season and it didn’t repair itself until the Jets game — when the Bucs already were 2-6 and effectively out of the playoff chase.

It picked up from there, Warhop said. “We started to turn the corner in terms of mentality of how we want to go about our business. And I thought that helped us. So we just had to shake it up a little bit. And then it doesn’t matter who plays. It really doesn’t matter who’s playing. It’s just a matter of how you want to go about playing.

“More finish, more get on-your-guy, more sustain, and give our backs a better chance, so, it’s just a little bit more grind.”

The scary thing is the Bucs had no debilitating injuries on the o-line through those first eight games. So it was the starters who were unfocused and/or loafing at times, per Warhop.

So what the heck happened? And why? And why the heck wasn’t anyone benched?

The wacky thing is that Doug Martin had two brutal days running the football against the Jets and Miami (39 total carries for 88 yards) when the Bucs offensive line had turned a corner, per Warhop.

Man, so many questions.

That aside, Joe wonders whether the injection of Ryan Fitzpatrick into the starting lineup against the Jets is what got the offensive line to wake up. It was Fitz’s first start and he clearly had a settling effect on the offense through his three starts. His leadership appeared to shine through.

When Jameis Winston returned, the line was shaken up by injuries with Evan Smith starting at center and Caleb Benenoch at right tackle. And it certainly got the job done as well as the main unit.

The Bucs started 3-5 in 2016, and then 2-6 last year. That’s evidence of a mentality issue, even before Warhop’s comments.

But it’s even clearer now that the neck-up stuff is the biggest thing Dirk Koetter needs to fix — before the calendar hits September.

31 Responses to “Did Fitz Fix The Offensive Line?”

  1. BigHogHaynes Says:

    I know 1 and 1 is 2 but this is beyond me!

  2. pick6 Says:

    “More finish, more get on-your-guy, more sustain, and give our backs a better chance, so, it’s just a little bit more grind.”

    i’m not following. those all sound effort related and not scheme related. is the implication that fitzpatrick was the only one to look around and say to the offensive staff “guys i’ve been doing deep analysis and i’ve come to the conclusion that if the OL plays harder they will suck less”?

  3. AlteredEgo Says:

    That aside, Joe wonders whether the injection of Ryan Fitzpatrick into the starting lineup against the Jets is what got the offensive line to wake up.”….maybe it was because the OL knew where the QB was….supposed to be….

  4. K_Bassuka Says:

    Fitzpatrick doesn’t fo anything to help this team. That’s a fact!

  5. Geno Says:

    George Warhop has always been a huge question mark to me. I certainly know less than Joe and the Bucs organization but it seems George Warhop has had many more bad offensive lines than good ones.

  6. Geno Says:

    Maybe we could have hired Harold Godwin of the Arizona Cardinals to have replaced Warhop.

  7. gotbbucs Says:


    You bring up a very, very good point….

    That is an issue for the tackles on the outside, what makes it difficult is if your inside three allow pressure up the middle too.

    Winston, like Russell Wilson and Big Ben, makes it very difficult on offensive lines because he doesn’t get rid if the ball when he’s supposed to many times. He holds the ball too long. O-linemen know about how long each pass play should take and when you know it’s taken longer than it should it’s impossible to know if your QB is still behind you or if he’s left the pocket. Many times that’s when you’ll get your holding calls on the edges.
    This is why QB and WR timing is so important, the ball needs to be delivered to a spot in the field at a precise time or the play is screwed.

  8. Bucnut2 Says:

    I don’t agree with Joe but you have to give Fitz props. We were 2-1 in games he started versus 3-10 with Winston. Hard to argue with wins. Bottom line, we likely would have won more games with Fitz. Say whatever you want about these 2 QB’s, Fitz won with the same crappy defense, awful martin and suspect line. The difference, the number 1 indicator of winning in the NFL, TO’s. Winston is a TO machine, Fitz, not so much. This is the reason I don’t care if Winston gets suspended, is that our history shows we have a better chance of winning with the lesser talented, ball protecting QB, Fitz.

  9. Lamarcus Says:

    Wow. Fitzgarabe actually fixed the oline? No. Just these coaches are on roll with their cockiness. Ur right Joe. If it was the players mentality why no benching?

    I agree our oline was a somewhat a bright spot but looked better with the backups

  10. Pickgrin Says:

    Both starting Guards were not getting the job done in 2017 – and that’s putting it nicely.

    Joe calls it a “goofy rotation at left guard” – I call it what it is – Bucs giving Kevin Pamphile every opportunity and then some to outplay a mediocre depth guy in Evan Smith – and he never could. Which is why Pamphile is no longer a Buccaneer – Duh.

    Then there was Sweezy who was pretty universally graded by all the stat nerds as one of the worst run blocking guards in the league. I’m no expert grader or anything – but my eyes told me the same thing. Sweezy was approaching adequate as a pass blocker (and never got there) – but his run blocking was a joke. Abysmal is actually the word that comes to mind.

    Then there’s Donovan Smith. A LT who looks solid 85-90% of the time – but then the other 10% you find yourself screaming – “WTF Donovan??”. Inconsistency is not a desirable trait when trying to protect your Quarterback’s blind side. Donovan’s run blocking was nothing to write home about either.

    Dotson was the Bucs best and most consistent OL player until he got hurt (again). And Marpet did fine while doing OJT at Center.

    So 40% of our 5 starting OLinemen were “good” (Dot and Marpet) – 20% (Smith) was at best “inconsistent” and 40%(Pamphile and Sweezy) were “bad”.

    I guess that averages out to 50% – “good” – 50% “bad”.

    Apparently in Joe’s mind that 50% “good” means the Bucs 2017 OLine was worthy of being labeled “average”.

    To me it meant that we desperately needed to upgrade both Guard spots in order to approach “average” or “adequate”. Licht was able to at least 1/2 way accomplish that by bringing in Jensen and moving Marpet back to Guard (albeit LG this year which is yet again another new position for Ali to acclimate to). The RG spot is still a big question mark with Evan Smith, Benenoch, D2 rookie Cappa and I guess Sweezy if he is still around vying to play well enough to grab that spot this year and help make our OLine better in 2018.

    Warhop has a lot of work to do and so do these OLine players. A LOT is riding on this group being significantly improved in 2018. If the Oline can manage to play well this year – the entire offense will look “in-sync”. If not – then we are likely to be frustrated with offensive results – just like last year – despite having a young, dynamic QB and tons of receiving weapons…

    It all starts up front!

  11. Defense Rules Says:

    Warhop’s statements really got me wondering. Jameis played the first 8 games behind the same OLine Fitz did, and led us to a 2-6 record (beating the then-inept Bears & Giants). In the Arizona game, Jameis got knocked out of the game in the 2nd qtr with Bucs trailing 24-0. Fitz comes in for the rest of the game, same players & Bucs score 33 pts (but lose 38-33). Jameis came back & played 3 games AFTER the Cards game, apparently we hear now with a bum shoulder, and the Bucs lose all 3 games. Fitz then gets to start for the Jets, Dolphins & Falcons games, and the Bucs win the first 2, and could’ve won the Falcons game if not for Julio Jones running free for 253 yds & 2 TDs. Jameis comes back in for the last 5 games … We go 1-4.

    So what are we supposed to walk away with? That the Bucs’ OLine “didn’t repair itself until the Jets game” when Fitz started in place of Jameis? Not following. Fitz started behind exactly the same OLine that Jameis did. Martin played in all 3 of those games that Fitz started (and was mediocre at best).

    Let me try 2 different conclusions Joe. First, Bucs beat FOUR bad teams last year, and ONE very good team. Second, Fitz played a total of almost 15 quarters of football & didn’t fumble the ball once & only threw 1 INT. Turnovers lose games.

  12. Lamarcus Says:

    Defense Rules

    Defense sucks period. How can u continue to be blinded by that fact with a name like Defense Rules. Turnovers lose games. Duh. Also having a 32nd ranked defense gets u blown out.

    Quit defending this defense of last year. Az was a blown out. 33 points my azz.

  13. Bucnut2 Says:

    Defense- thank you for stating the truth that few on this site including the joes want to hear. TO lose games and Winston kills us.

  14. Capt.Tim Says:

    Defense rules- yup
    We were a much better team with fitz at the wheel.
    At the NFL level- Turnovers make the difference.

  15. Reach87 Says:

    Defense, I’m following you and think you make a great point. But I’m stuck on the sense that even with the turnovers, we had leads in 4-5 of those games we lost with Winston. I can’t help but think the real key was not fumbles or anything else on the offensive side. I’m more inclined to find the defensive performance as the cause. One stop in the fourth quarter of those games = wins. The turnovers NEED to decrease, but the defense MUST be able to get stops when it matters. I think (if we follow the process) both will be improved this year (step one of the process is getting better players, and I think we have done that). Much, much more to do. Go Bucs!

  16. Defense Rules Says:

    Reach87 … “The turnovers NEED to decrease, but the defense MUST be able to get stops when it matters.” I agree 100%. BOTH the offense AND the defense need to play much better this year for us to be competitive.

  17. StPeteBucsFan Says:

    I agree with Pickgrin’s assessment of 2017 OL play. If we build on that we might be OK.

    I read many here who like Pickgrin think Donavan Smith is talented enough but is still too inconsistent. I do not disagree with those posters. I do not agree with posters who simply say Smith sucks.

    So if you take Pickgrin’s 85-90% of good plays for Smith and then 10% poor plays you can have a specific to work on. If Warhop and Koetter could cut that 10% to just 5% that would be a significant improvement and we would be fine at LT. Nobody grades out 100%.

    Ali will be terrific at LG and we’re all excited about our new mean center. So that’s half the line in great shape!!! Now the right side does have questions. Dot’s age? Benenoch’s readiness? Is this his breakout year where he earns a starters spot? And the big new kid with the rep as a nasty player. He has size…perhaps more suited for tackle than guard but if he and Benenoch could hold down RG and RT between them we would then have a solid OL for 2018.

    Those gambles on the right side of the OL are not as long of shots as thinking Jack Smith would play DE last year or that Doug Martin was ready to roll.

    Another fact that is frequently overlooked…especially in the running game…if you’re grading the performance of the OL it’s not just tackle to tackle…the TE’s can be important as well. We have two TE’s who can both get open, who both have good hands but one of whom is also a really good blocker. OJ is going to improve our OL play this year.

  18. Frank Pillow Says:

    How does this guy still have a job? Eight weeks into a lost season and the OL starts playing at a serviceable level…sure sounds like George is passing the blame onto the players here when he had to have a hand in the Marpet move, Sweezy, the funky guard swap and coordination of the running game/ blocking scheme. Holy heck- look in the mirror buddy

  19. Buccaneer Bonzai Says:

    Bucnut2 Says
    “Winston is a TO machine, Fitz, not so much.” I

    First, Fitz threw 3 picks in those 3 games, and took 7 sacks.

    Second, Fitz is an interception machine. He had 17 in 2016 and he had 15 in 2015. In addition to that, he fumbles. A lot. 9 fumbles in 2016, and that wasn’t the first time he had so many. He’s had as many as 11 fumbles in a season.

    Now, Winston has had some of the same issues…but his individual results have been better, plus he is young. Fitz is not. He reached his ceiling long ago.

    Your statement is a prime example of how fans tend to be short-sighted in their evaluations of players.

  20. Buccaneer Bonzai Says:

    As to the Oline, if our new draft pick is going to switch positions from tackle to guard, why make Marpet switch sides? Put him back where he belongs and move Sweezy over, then let him and our new guy fight it out.

  21. 915bucsfan Says:

    Got all you that think fitz is a good qb…. dude had his chance to be the guy fact is he sucked I’ve seen fitz throw 6 picks 1 game its like all you fools forgot. https://ftw.usatoday.com/2016/09/ryan-fitzpatrick-worst-player-of-the-week-six-interception-game-stats-highlights

    Then to top it off before he came in for Winston did he have any game tape under Dirk? Noooooooooo they didn’t….. do they didn’t know his tendencies in Dirks offense nooooooooo. If it were up to most the fans on here we would have a new team every few years cuz the supposed for hard fans run everyone out of town. Well folks the grass isn’t always greener on the other side

  22. adam from ny Says:

    fitzie gives good beard – that’s the main thing – have an old williamsburg, brooklyn hipster giving good beard…then you don’t have to worry about wins and losses – fitzie got this!


  23. Defense Rules Says:

    @Bucnut2 … “Defense- thank you for stating the truth that few on this site including the joes want to hear. TO lose games and Winston kills us.”

    Uhhh, you’re stretching what I wrote Bucnut2. Turnovers lose games … yea verily. Never said “Winston kills us”. Jameis’ turnovers … like ANY player’s turnovers … adversely impact the productivity of your offense. They also often put your defense in a bad spot because of where some happen on the field. But I’m very much in the ‘pro-Jameis’ camp … he needs to focus on fixing certain aspects of his game (uhhh, like turnovers?), but he’s got all the potential in the world to lead this franchise for many, many years as our franchise QB.

    And Bonzai, your statement that “Fitz threw 3 picks in those 3 games, and took 7 sacks” is incorrect. ON THE YEAR he did throw 3 INTs & take 7 sacks … but NOT IN THOSE 3 GAMES (Jets, Dolphins, Falcons) that he started. When he came in in relief of Jameis in the Cards game (with us WAY BEHIND & throwing to catch up), he threw 2 INTs & also took 2 sacks. He threw his other INT in the Jets game & took 1 sack. And in the 6 games that he played in (299 snaps total) he had 0 fumbles.

    We all goof up ‘the facts’ once in awhile for sure. But making statements like “Your statement is a prime example of how fans tend to be short-sighted in their evaluations of players” works both ways.

  24. BucEmUp Says:

    Fitz had a calming effect on evwryone. His re signing was one of my favorite moves

  25. Oneilbucs Says:

    Man fiz is not good why do y’all love this guy so much Tampa fans are the only ones that love this quarterback . Trust me no other team won’t this guy but bucs fans.

  26. Oneilbucs Says:

    He just another white quarterback who keep getting chances. That’s what’s wrong with the NFL they keep these trash quarterback around and they say he’s good for the locker room, are he’s a good back up. If he is not good enough to start then he should not be in the league. People that don’t know football here what ESPN and fox sports say about he’s a good back up but not a starter that don’t make sense at all . He’s trash trash trash !!!!!

  27. Defense Rules Says:

    @Oneilbucs … “He just another white quarterback who keep getting chances … He’s trash trash trash !!!!!” Good to see that there’s no prejudice there Oneilbucs (sarcasm font ON). Fitz wasn’t re-signed to be the starter, but he’s a very experienced backup who’s 2-1 with the Bucs, and who played well enough in the other 2 games he got significant time in to win if our defense had done better. Plus he’s a good mentor for Jameis IMO. I’ll take him as a backup QB any day.

  28. Oneilbucs Says:

    We beat the jets n dolphins with him. I rather try Grifen then him. I’m sick and tired of these old quarterback in the NFL. Winston will be alright with out him. Winston need a defense as well when the defense played alright 2016 we won with Winston he played good without a running game .

  29. John5 Says:

    I can’t believe all these folks that think Fitz is a better QB than Jameis. It’s crazy to me. One saying Fitz doesn’t turnover the ball? That’s a good joke. I do think Fitz is a better leader, and that’s because he’s a seasoned veteran. And part of that comes with the respect he gets. People forget Jameis just turned 24 in January. Think of what you were doing at 21-23 years old. Something that’s the equivalent of leading an entire team of pro NFL players would
    be quite the feat. I know I wasn’t. Jameis is so passionate about the game when leading but can be immature (eating W’s) and needs to pump guys up mentally more than with his emotion. He will Get there. And he will continue to earn respect. Not just from players, but these sports analyst boneheads too.

    James threw for over 4,000 yards in his first two seasons, and still went over 3,500 last year with sitting out games and playing others with a bad shoulder. He has consistently broken records. This is a kid we’re talking about.

    And this whole thing from Warhop has me questioning him. Makes me want to go back and watch games last year to see if that really was a turning point. And I really liked Joe Hawley at center, despite him being small. He was decent. As was Evans. So maybe the shake up was putting guys back where they know their role. By the way, not sure if Joe has done an article on it, but Joe Hawley retired from the NFL and and is now traveling the world in a van and posting it all online.

  30. Tony from Los Angeles Says:

    More Jameis bashing today. Interesting.
    There’s no Jameis bashing going on. –Joe

  31. Owlykat Says:

    WarFLOP is why we haven’t had a good OL. He told everyone D. Smith is a Top 3 LT so we have left Smith there for three years now and keep saying he just needs another year to prove he is a good LT. When he was drafted Lindy’s knew he was a poor pass blocker and said he should be used as a Guard. But WarFLOP was too inept to put him at LG where he belonged. Yes, Pamphile who played basketball in college just like Dotson did was not developed by WarFLOP into a great RT to replace Dotson when hurt or retired. Instead WarFLOP put him at Guard instead and of course he could not cut it there. And WarFLOP put Benenoch at RT and he was in over his head. However, when he has been subbing at Guard he has shown promise. WarFLOP can’t develop anybody and doesn’t have a clue how to put together a good line or he would have pulled Sweezy after the first bad game and set him on the bench; but no he let him suck at RG an entire year. The Bucs should have brought in the Card’s OLC and fired WarFLOP!!!