“This Has Been The Best Offensive Line In The League”

January 30th, 2021

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The startling rise of the 2020 Buccaneers can be credited to many factors, led by the signing of Tom Brady.

Devin White’s play has been critical, Ronald Jones continues to improve and Ryan Succop’s reliability is a godsend.

Those are key developments, yet I’m going elsewhere. I’m going with pocket change.

O-line coach Joe Gilbert

Let’s give Joe Gilbert his due. Presiding over the best offensive line in the 45-year history of the Buccaneers, Gilbert’s work has gone largely unnoticed.

“Tom Brady is going home to his wife after every game, telling her he can keep playing because he’s not even getting touched,” says ESPN analyst and former Bucs tight end Anthony Becht. “Left to right, this has been the best offensive line in the league. I’ve known Joe Gilbert for years and I knew he was a great hire for Tampa … he’s done a phenomenal job.”

Gilbert’s exacting standards have helped Donovan Smith emerge as a consistent performer on the blind side. Ali Marpet is having the best season of his career while Ryan Jensen sets a nasty tone as the anchor.

Becht says Tristan Wirfs is one of the best rookie tackles he’s ever seen, but it was Gilbert who prepared the former Iowa standout for the pro game. Aaron Stinnie has stepped in for injured Alex Cappa at right guard and the pewter train keeps rolling on.

During the regular season, the Gilbert Gang allowed 22 sacks. Only the Steelers yielded less than 21. Brady was pressured on just 17.6 percent of his throws, the fourth-lowest rate in the NFL.

While Brady’s experience in reading defenses and his guile in getting the ball out quickly helps those numbers, there’s more to this protection racket.

“Pass protection has been great,” says Bruce Arians. “It was a work in progress for a long, long time and things just started to click.”

The Bucs are averaging 31 points and 391 yards in the postseason, despite facing two of the league’s premier defenses in Washington and New Orleans. During those three games, Brady has been dropped five times while absorbing 14 hits.

Two of those five sacks came on inside rushes by Washington after Cappa fractured his ankle and was replaced by Ted Larsen.

“I think for the last 19 weeks the pass protection has been amazing,” Brady says. “The big guys up front set the tone for us all year. We’re going to need another week of it.”

The Chiefs have some quality pass rushers in tackle Chris Jones and end Frank Clark, but there’s no credible reason to believe Brady will be under siege Feb. 7. And when Clark lines up on the left side, he’ll quickly re-discover that Wirfs has incredible technique and polish.

In Kansas City’s 27-24 victory at Tampa in Week 12, Clark and Jones combined for zero sacks, one tackle and three QB hits.

“Here’s another way to judge this offensive line,” Becht says. “Look at the last four quarterbacks left standing – Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Aaron Rodgers and Brady. Unlike the other three, Brady’s got to do everything from the pocket.

“Tom can’t extend plays like those guys can. That’s why in my opinion the offensive line is the main reason why Tampa Bay is one win away from the Vince Lombardi Trophy.”

Take a bow, Mr. Gilbert. You’ve turned a weakness into a strength.

When the 2002 Bucs reached the playoffs, their offensive line, generally considered the team’s weak link, stepped up their play in front of Brad Johnson.

This one’s better.

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12 Responses to ““This Has Been The Best Offensive Line In The League””

  1. Bird Says:

    You are right

    The oline has been bad / average for a long time.
    Good drafted players here and there like gruber and joseph
    Some solid free agents but mostly misses

    If ali marpet did not miss 3 games , he would probably been all pro
    Donovan smith may actually be here next year even on his 14 mil contract
    Cappa did not give up a sack i want to say. He was most improved And from what i heard …really bulked up in offseason weight program
    Stinnie is light years better then larsen
    Jensen is the enforcer / leader of team. He is in top 3 center discussion for best center in nfl

    And the next big ticket to come for bucs is Wirfs. We got him for 4 more years on a bargain contract although he will get paid earlier

    Love this team

    Honestly , the offense should not be messed with other then running back in offseason cause playoff lenny about to be paid. They need receiving back for sure. But if they draft defensive end/ edge rusher/ and defensive tackle and add on free agent corner …look out next year too

  2. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    Correct that, Ira……best pass-blocking Oline in the league….

    I’d say Tenn has a better run-blocking Oline….at least.

    Now,here is the very good news…..barring something very strange this entire Oline will return next year……continuity on the way!!!

  3. Buc1987 Says:

    You’re right this o-line is much better than what Brad had.

    Go Bucs!!!!(Win the damn thing)

  4. KnoxvilleBuc Says:

    @Tampabaybucfan: I get to see all of The Tenn games. I have watched all the Buc games, I say the Bucs O-line is just as good or better on run blocking. Derek Henry is a MONSTER.

  5. KnoxvilleBuc Says:

    Love seeing another KnoxvilleBuc fan! Wirfs sealed the deal making this O-line top 5 in the NFL. Great article about the staff and makeup of this line. Coach Gilbert definitely deserves some praise! Getting Smith to play more consistently,Jensens attitude, Marpets ability , and credit Capps/Stine for their roles. Hopefully this group can stay together for a while

  6. KnoxvilleBuc Says:

    I’m fired up and ready for this game! I know this has nothing to do with the article but seeing our secondary communicate and progress has been amazing! The Miller catch before halftime was probably the play of the game and will
    be remembered for a Buc lifetime but to me the play of the game was inside our 5 yard line in the 4th with Rodgers sending Adams in motion with Davis playing man and the fake switch with Mike Edwards to get on Adams with Davis staying home when Adams came back instead of chasing him. Incredible communication and film study.

  7. ModHairKen Says:

    The OL is the strength of this team. Period.

  8. chris L Says:

    joe thought gilbert would get brady and winston killed based on one bad season for andrew luck!!

  9. 6throundpick Says:

    Lotsa players become great around TB12…saw it in New England. And when they didn’t place a star somewhere else, after signing for big bucks, Belichick got the credit. Note to team: go for the rings! After ya get some…then go get your payday. 🙂

  10. james west Says:

    O-line for MVP

  11. unbelievable Says:

    The closer the game gets, the more confident I’m feeling.

    And without a doubt the o-line right now is playing as good as we’ve ever seen. Keep it up and let’s get the first home SB win ever!

    Go Bucs!

  12. Mediation Sucks Says:

    GO BUCS!