The Leader Emerges

October 3rd, 2019

Ryan Jensen is the focus of Ira Kaufman’s new column

BY IRA KAUFMAN columnist

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A sore back and the specter of Aaron Donald were no match for Ryan Jensen’s dedication to his teammates Sunday.

Anyone who doubted Jensen would suit up in Los Angeles despite missing several practices underestimated his resolve. And when the game began, Jensen wasted little time informing Donald and his talented teammates that they were in for a long day at the Coliseum.

“Ryan’s a beast,” says second-year guard Alex Cappa, a co-mauler in Tampa Bay’s resurgent offensive line. “It’s awesome. He’s leading the group. Ryan gets after it. He’s a tough guy and he going to play through everything he can.”

Jensen’s improvement up front is one of the hidden stories of the opening month.

The Bucs signed him as a free agent from Baltimore, making him the highest paid center in the league, but Jensen underperformed in 2018.

He was flagged for 11 penalties and provided little push for a plodding run game.

A new Ryan Jensen was apparent from the start under a new coaching staff that stressed physicality at the point of attack. Through four games, Jensen has yet to be flagged and he is the nasty anchor for an aggressive front that is opening holes for Ronald Jones and providing Jameis Winston with a clean pocket.

The latest matchup provided the latest example of the new-look offensive line. Donald, the 2-time Defensive Player of the Year, left his A-game in the Hollywood Hills. He was no factor, which turned out to be a critical factor in a statement victory.

“We had a good game plan against Aaron Donald and we executed that game plan,” says Ali Marpet. “Ryan is kind of leading the way for us.”

When Bruce Arians arrived, he singled out the offensive line as a group that needed to raise its level. He didn’t name names, but Arians knew Jensen would likely have to be the catalyst for change.

“It’s just us working together,” Cappa says. “I think we’ve been doing a decent job.”

New Tone

More than decent, but here comes another challenge. The Saints just shut down Ezekiel Elliott, limiting him to 35 yards in 18 carries by outplaying one of the NFL’s premier offensive lines. The front four — Cameron Jordan, Sheldon Rankins, Malcom Brown and Marcus Davenport — are all former first-round draft picks.

Here comes Saints Pro Bowl DE Cameron Jordan

New Orleans is good, but there will be plays to be made downfield if Winston has time to find Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. It all starts up front and teammates realize Jensen is the deserved center of attention.

“I think Jensen really sets the tone.” says Winston. “Ali’s doing an amazing job – he’s one of our leaders, one of our captains. But Jensen, his tenacity really sets the tone up front for all those guys. If you just watch closely after plays, Jensen is all the way down the field like he finishes a play.”

Jensen, who has started 38 consecutive games, played guard for the Ravens until 2017, when he was switched to the middle. That’s where he developed a reputation as an aggressive player who relishes contact and never backs down.

At the age of 28, Jensen is living up to his contract and paving the way for a team averaging 31 points per game. The Bucs just set a franchise record by hanging 55 points on the defending NFC champs, so I asked Arians to gauge Jensen’s play through the opening month.

“Really, really good,” Arians said. “That fourth quarter, most guys probably would’ve came out. His back was locked up, but he just kept battling. He said, ‘I’m not coming out.’ ”

Yes, coach, he is.

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24 Responses to “The Leader Emerges”

  1. TheBucsAnthem Says:

    What is it with Big Ol White Offensive Linemen and long hair????

    Is that a “thing” in the NFL??????

    Everytime I see an pick of Jensen and Cappa; I can just picture those two as Vikings rowing across the Atlantic and invading somebody’s village to kill and plunder!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Señor Harry in Costa Rica Says:

    In all the appropriate accolades you are giving Jenson, how can you leave out drawing a unsportsmanlike penalty on the cupcake #93? lol, THAT was one of my favorites and I am not a 93 hater. Its just fun to see us get the advantage on “X-players” (pun intended) instead of the other way around!

  3. AwShbucs Says:

    Been saying this everytime the Joe’s try mentioning that the Oline that was criticized the last 2 years.

    2019 Cappa > Benenoch

    2019 Jensen > 2018 Jensen

    2019 Marpet > 2018 Marpet.

    The Oline is playing much better as a whole. And for the first time in a long time are actually opening up wholes consistently in the run game. And what do yknow? We actually have a pretty good running game now.

    Who would have ever thought that better blocking upfront could lead to better production from the running backs?

  4. james west Says:

    they should all get flat tops, or mohawks, yeah mohawks for the o-line flat tops for the d-line, that would be intimidating to the other teams especially standing over on the sidelines with helmets off, during change of possession, it would show unity, tenacity, resolve, and cohesiveness!!!!! specially if arians and bowles did it

  5. TampaBay AllDay Says:

    The Aints have been impressive this year…the fact that they lost brees and have had a tough schedule. BUT non have a combo receivers and a QB like me do. Lets go in that dome and kick some @$$!!

  6. 813bucboi Says:

    this is for the,”licht never did enough for the o-line” folks….lol…just sayin….

    GO BUCS!!!!!!

  7. AwShbucs Says:

    Still think Dotson needed to be replaced this Offseason 813.

    But it turns out more than anything that the thing holding back the Oline was Koetter and Warhop.

  8. TOM Says:

    Warhop really sucked. Big time.

  9. Buccernutter Says:

    They focused too much on pass pro last year.

    OL has improved with balance and emphasis on the run.

    Not to mention Dirk’s ignorance to give Rojo snaps.

  10. 813bucboi Says:


    i would like to see us draft a RT high next year as well….dotson’s contract is up at the end of the season i believe…..

    for the past 3years i’ve been saying the problem was coaching….and it was….

    GO BUCS!!!!!

  11. AwShbucs Says:

    I was right there with you Bud. My theme for the 2018 offseason was having zero faith in the Coaching staff.

    After 2017 it was apparent to me that Koetter had lost what ever momo he had and Mike Smith’s 5 game stretch in 2016 was a total fluke.

    Still in regards to the Oline I must admit the fact that Cappa was unable to beat Benenoch for the starting job last year left me with very little faith in him being the solution at right guard. The preseason game vs Cleveland did little to quell my fears… Never been Happier to be wrong.

    As for Dotson, hes been ok at times, heinously bad at others, and he still has a penchant for penalties at the absolute worst time possible.
    Plus he’ll inevitably get hurt at some point as well.

    Heres hoping Goodwin and Gilbert are coaching the Backup tackles well enough to fill in with little to no drop off or heck even be an improvement when that happens.

  12. AwShbucs Says:

    Mojo* not momo… cmon google.

  13. stpetebucsfan Says:

    I’m not sure the 11 penalties knock is actually a bad thing.

    There are penalties and there are penalties. Like everyone I LOATHE dead ball penalties…they are the WORST.

    Next come holding for an OL but that’s tough…it’s been said in the NFL that officials ‘could” call holding on EVERY play…so some of those penalties can be truly suspect.

    Then come the personal fouls. I think they fall into two different categories. Stupid loss of composure at the wrong time where the penalties have a true impact on the game.

    And what I saw many times last year…Jensen roughing a guy up…gets the flag…but it was in a situation where it did minimum harm…IE…not at First and goal…perhaps 3rd and long in our own end of the field.

    I actually like those kind of penalties. Sometimes you gotta standup and draw the line. It’s a violent sport…I like that Jensen sometimes goes…you want violence…as Doc Holliday said in the movie…”I’m your huckleberry”.

    Some of you guys amaze me with your ability to dig up stats.
    Can anybody tell me how many of those 11 penalties were personal fouls?

  14. jjbucfan Says:


    I think it was more of Koetter’s unwillingness to give anyone minutes. Turns out maybe Jameis made him look better than he was and actually got him the head coaching job and he just got exposed. All these Jameis haters saying Jameis is the head coach killer was the dumbest thing ever. Look at Atlanta and all their fire power, they are terrible right now.

  15. Buccfan37 Says:

    Skinheads are so yesterday. Long hair hippies back in style even in football. Go Bucs OL hippies!

  16. Brandon Jeff Says:

    Exponential growth due to complementary football. O-line improvement against a formidable d-line allowed Jameis to be comfortable in the pocket thus improving QB and RB play. Variable play calling and improved execution kept us ahead on the scoreboard and the defense on their heels. This gave us the edge in the Time of possession and kept our defense fresh. Our defense was thus able to pin their ears back and create turnovers. This gave the offense more opportunities to score, which they took advantage of. Been a Bucs fan since they started and don’t remember when I’ve seen a more complete game. The scary thing is they will still improve. Not expecting this every week but this bodes well for the future! IT’S A BEAUTIFUL THING!!!

  17. 813bucboi Says:

    Heres hoping Goodwin and Gilbert are coaching the Backup tackles well enough to fill in with little to no drop off or heck even be an improvement when that happens.


    GO BUCS!!!!

  18. BucEmUp Says:

    Man….all these high priced free agent busts and all these draft picks playing like doo doo.Why the hell is Jason Licht even here???!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    BECAUSE IT WAS COACHING!!!!!!!!! Lets see if the coaches can out smart Sean Payton and Bridgewater this weekend.I believe they can, I just fear our soft cocerage now that the offense proced me wrong last week hoping Todd bowles does the same this week

  19. 2002WasALongTimeAgo Says:

    It is telling that Matty Ice had lots of yards, lots of INT’s, and lots of losses with the old coach. I’m treating this year with Winston as his first year, and he’s improving.

  20. Snook Says:

    What a difference a non-Koetter offense makes!

    Go watch the Falcons if you’re not convinced. 20 first half points COMBINED through 4 games. Pitiful.

  21. AwShbucs Says:

    Koetters offense and playcalling tendencies have been thoroughly figured out for the better part of 2 years and he’s incapable of change.

    He’ll probably be fired again at the end of the year and retire. Or at least he should.

  22. adam from ny Says:

    i’ve been saying it lately…it’s all bleeding out from the center…finally jensen is getting credit…and his bookend buddies are feeding off it (marpet and cappa)…the trio is getting nastier as the season moves along…and now donovan smith is even playing harder…look at that crushing hit on the int last weekend…now if ole dot can get an infusion as well, this line will be rolling…i’m shocked to say that we can run our backs thru some gaping holes …right thru the middle…jensen is leading that line nicely…good to see it is now being recognized…

    now go into new orleans and do the do boys!

  23. adam from ny Says:

    reality is bruce has got this team playing much harder now…

    we might be witnessing a culture change right now…

    these next few games are telltale

  24. Patrickbucs Says:

    Thought the Ginger couldn’t handle the heat per the troll? He’s doing really well, need some more consistency though.