Start With The Anchor

March 23rd, 2024

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When Ryan Jensen was carted off the field with a knee injury on the second day of training camp in 2022, he took the Buccaneer ground game with him.

The Bucs haven’t run the football worth a damn since their veteran center suffered complete tears of his MCL and PCL and a partial ACL tear, effectively ending an accomplished 11-year NFL career.

Although Jensen willed himself back for the blowout playoff loss against the Cowboys, he wasn’t effective. After missing all of last season, Jensen announced his retirement seven weeks ago.

Tampa Bay has averaged 3.4 yards per carry in each of the past two seasons while Jensen was sidelined. They have only 13 rushing touchdowns in that span, compared to 18 touchdowns on the ground in 2021 — with Jensen as the ornery anchor of the offensive line.

The Bucs tried to replace Jensen with Robert Hainsey, a third-round pick out of Notre Dame in 2021. Hainsey was afforded only 31 snaps as a rookie before being thrust into a critical role when Jensen went down. He had played right tackle for the Irish but Jason Licht liked the versatility he showed at the Senior Bowl.

Two years later, it’s clear Hainsey is not the answer at center.

Move him to guard, writes Ira Kaufman.

You don’t have to convince Buc fans, who have seen Hainsey consistently overpowered or outfinessed by interior linemen.

For example, in the regular-season finale at Charlotte, with a playoff berth on the line, Carolina defensive tackle Derrick Brown virtually shut down Tampa Bay’s offense. The Bucs mustered three field goals but it was enough against the punchless Panthers because the Bucs pitched a shutout.

For two years, this team hasn’t been able to establish a credible run game. You can blame poor blocking schemes or Rachaad White’s struggles to find the open hole, but you can’t overlook the guy who snaps the football. It didn’t help when Ali Marpet retired at age 28 and Alex Cappa signed with Cincinnati as a free agent, but the lack of push up the middle has been glaring and troublesome.

It’s not Hainsey’s fault.

He had ZERO experience at center before taking over for Jensen, who set a nasty tone for an attack that ranked No. 2 in both scoring offense and total offense in 2021. The Bucs rushed for at least 100 yards in 9 of their 19 games that season, averaging 4.3 yards per carry.

The Bucs currently have an opening at left guard. Let Hainsey compete for that. Buc fans want an upgrade at center. So does Todd Bowles, Liam Coen and Baker Mayfield.

How about the upcoming draft?

The Bucs currently pick No. 26 in the opening round. If they stay in that slot, they might end up with the sixth-best edge rusher in the draft class. And while there’s no question Bowles craves a dynamic quarterback hunter, Licht shouldn’t dismiss the idea of taking a center at No. 26.

Oregon center Jackson Powers-Johnson.

A promising rookie center won’t sell season tickets, but he just might help you win another game or two. The top-rated prospects are Oregon’s Jackson Powers-Johnson. Graham Barton of Duke and Zach Frazier of West Virginia.

“We look at the center, Jackson Powers-Johnson,” says NFL Network draft guru Daniel Jeremiah. “It’s hard to find guys that big that can move like that. He’s 334 pounds and you can’t get through him. He just kind of catches guys and absorbs them. In pass pro, he is quick to the second level and good on combo blocks. He has some nasty to him. He is a bulldog.

“Got some real snap and pop in his hands. He was having a great week until he got nicked up at the Senior Bowl too. I think he’s going to find his way into the bottom portion of the first round. He’s too clean of a player, and it’s just somebody that can anchor your offensive line for the next decade.”

Jensen earned the complete trust of Tom Brady and now the Bucs have to find the right guy to snap the ball to Mayfield. Hainsey isn’t that guy, but he may turn out to be a dependable player at a different position.
Like Hainsey, Barton has been lauded for his versatility.

“He started a ton of games,” Jeremiah said. “He’s played center. I think that’s where his ultimate best position is going to be … at center. He can play anywhere. When you look at the interior guys in this draft, there’s other options, too. I have done more work since my initial top 50 list came out. I’ll end up having Jackson Powers-Johnson over Graham Barton, but I really like Graham Barton too and I like Zach Frazier. I think all three of those guys would be plug and play guys. I’m not telling you anything you don’t know, but they’re win now, let’s go mode, and I think these guys — those three interior guys — are plug and play for me.”

Plug and play sounds just lovely.

The Bucs need to use a premium pick on an aggressive center who can move bodies and convince opposing linemen they’re in for a long day. Jensen excelled on both counts.

Let Hainsey duke it out at left guard in training camp. He’s no scrub, but the Bucs can do better at center. Since Hainsey replaced Jensen, Tampa Bay has topped 100 yards rushing only 10 times in 37 games. No wonder teams don’t respect this ground attack.

Something has to change on this stalled pirate ship. Start with the anchor.

47 Responses to “Start With The Anchor”

  1. BucsFan Says:

    Jackson Powers Johnson would invigorate the Oline-Like It.

  2. infomeplease Says:

    I like the idea of trading up for JPJ!! Having a quality center will add points to most games. Especially when you’re in the red zone! More points wins more games. TB and JL have been spending enough draft capital on 1st rnd dl picks. Time to shore up the middle of the oline!

  3. 74 Bucs Fan Says:


  4. BA’s Red Pen Says:

    I’m with you Sage.

  5. gotbbucs Says:

    Give me Barton over Powers-Johnson all day. Way more positional versatility.

    You wanna know why you never see center’s as big as JPJ? Because your center has to be able to get out and run and cut off second level defenders.

    I don’t think team evaluators are going to be nearly as high on Powers-Johnson as the media seems to be. My opinion is that he’s a 2nd round prospect. One year of starting experience in a notoriously weak defensive conference.

  6. D-Rok Says:

    Amen! This team will be much better if we upgrade C and G.

  7. BillyBucco Says:

    The Panthers overpaid Robert Hunt because they don’t have a first round pick. After JPJ, Barton and Frazier who I think has a better base than Barton for Center, there is a considerable drop off. If the Bucs like all 3, then the choice becomes easy, but I WOULD NOT trade up for a Center, NO WAY. If they only like 2 let’s say and they are gone, once again trading back becomes easy unless there is an edge who falls. DOUBTFUL. Van Pran, Beebe and Zinter are guys you target if you trade back. I really like Van Pran and if we can get him plus an extra 2nd for trading back and use that pick for Adisa Isaac, that would be better than JPJ alone IMO.

  8. Defense Rules Says:

    Daniel Jeremiah (talking about Jackson Powers-Johnson) … ‘I think he’s going to find his way into the bottom portion of the first round.’

    Wouldn’t it be nice if he lasted until #26.

  9. faspro Says:

    Yes, thank you, Ira…absolutely a priority.

  10. Capt.Tim Says:

    Outstanding work, Ira. Spot on.

    But I hope you ran that by Joe(b). He alone has seen Hainsey open up holes for our backs. .

    We desperately need a Center and left guard.
    And unless Mauch makes huge strides(doubtful), we may need a right Guard.

    Makes sense
    We never replaced Marpet, Jensen, or Cappa.
    We just threw 3 backups in there, and crossed our fingers.

    It didnt work

  11. PSL Bob Says:

    Can’t refute the logic there. I’d love a powerful edge rusher, but we’ve seen too often how those draft picks can go bust quickly. Get a solid o-line and you instantly put more points on the board. So, it doesn’t matter if your edge rush is a little sub par.

  12. 74 Bucs Fan Says:

    When our opponents see the schedule I want them to think – oh crap, huge O line, Vea and Kancey – oh boy.

  13. Thundersack Says:

    Georgia Center Sedrick Van Pran? I watched a few of their games and he did very well with room to improve. His 10 yard split, for initial quickness, was akin to a TE at 1.77. It is Top 3 of all centers measured this year.

    Yet no one is talking about him. Anyone have an opinion?

  14. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    6th best edge rusher….or top center…..if it’s a position of need….and center is….then take the best player at the position.

    I actually think he’ll be there at 26….lots of QBs, Tackles, Edge rushers WRs & CB will be drafted first.

  15. Bucfan Says:

    Don’t dismiss the fact that running on 1st & 2nd downs 75% of the time sure does not help the running game! What drives me nuts is on the rare occasion the Bucs have 2nd & short they run up the gut for one or two yards rather than taking a shot down field. The short runs do not help increase the yards per gain.

  16. Pickgrin Says:

    But, but – the obstinate Joe once saw Hainsey open a hole that the RB missed….

  17. Hodad Says:

    Licht is going to move up in the second round for a small school tackle that he could draft in the third round. That’s what he does. Then we’ll hear how that player needs to adjust to the NFL, and new position. Meanwhile guys like Van Pran will be sitting there. Licht could also move Mauch to center like he did Marpet for a failed year. Then we’ll have a guy who can’t play center, and another hole to fill at LG. Hope I’m wrong, but it’s what Licht does.

  18. 1#bucsfan Says:

    Hodad. Marpet and cappa both came from small town schools that Jason moved up for and they turned out great. What’s your point? Jason is a great evaluator when it comes to O-lineman. Donny wirfs cappa marpet all have had better than good careers mauch and goedke are doing just fine as well hainsey isn’t the road grader that is needed at center but his pass blocking is good. All these lineman drafted by Jason. I trust him at what ever O-lineman he wants it’s D-lineman that isn’t his strong suit. Spence JTS hall havnt panned out at all vea really is his only 1. I’d throw kancey in there and YAYA to but cause their promising but still to soon.

  19. Duane in Sanford Says:

    Thank you Ira! I like all 3 guys. Would be a coup to pick up two of them. Barton can replace what we lost with Marpet, and Frazier/JPJ can help replace Jensen and his spirited play.

  20. Simeon4HOF Says:

    Well said Sage, why I’ve been reading your articles since The Tampa Tribune

  21. Thundersack Says:

    @Hodad & @1#bucsfan

    Licht has a great record at drafting, but they have still made mistakes. Blindly placing trust across the board doesn’t make sense and here is why. Marpet to center did not work and was a wasted year. Goedeke to guard did not work. Wasted a year. Put them back at their original positions and they are above average.

    Hainsey has versatility positionally which is great. However, he is an average to below average center. He may have been an excellet tackle, his original position, in the pros.

    It begs the question of why some talent evaluators keep drafting players and projecting them to another position. Why not just draft a performer at the actual position they played in college? The adjustment period would be lower. I would love to see an alaysis over the last 10 years as to how that worked out statistically. I am positing the percentages are not good.

  22. Biff Barker Says:

    A really good team is built from the inside out. We had the perfect Center until the Bum Logan Hall showed up.

  23. Cobraboy Says:

    I would be 100% all-in if P-J is on the board at #26.

    Hainsey has versatility. I want a big, mean, nasty, ugly specialist anchoring the line.

  24. ModHairKen Says:

    The Cowboys want him. Got to move up. Be worth it.

  25. MadMax Says:

    Yep, Ive been thinking that this the whole time Ira. He would be great starting at LG and could bring our rook along. I love Hainsey, he tries but you can only be so big and strong at Center and he’s at his ceiling.

    @Mod its possible, but i think Dallas will go WR to give prescott a little more help. Im thinking pitt might take him, but they also need an OT. Then miami is my next concern. So theres three teams we have to worry about who pick before us.

    Need to work a trade with the rams for that 19th spot and go get our guy. And no its not a reach. I seem to remember people getting mad about us trading up for Wirfs (who i was also pushing hard for) and look at how that worked out.

  26. MadMax Says:

    that this, this that, wt h is wrong with me, sorry for the typo, shouldve read it before i sent it lol

  27. Bucs Guy Says:

    Seattle, Philly, Fins, Steelers and Cowboys all need a Center. All pick in front of the Bucs. Very doubtful JPJ is there at #26. Unless a top 3 Edge drops, go with Barton or Frazier in the 1st, trade up for Isaac in the 2nd and get a G (Mahogony from BC?) in the 3rd. Then your power RB (Davis, Allen or Estime). If need be get Van Pran in the 2nd for your C.

  28. Bucs Guy Says:

    Moving up fro 26 to 19 would probably take a 1, 3 and 4. Seems too high of a price. Sit and get Barton or Frazier and keep you other two picks.

  29. Bucs Guy Says:

    Steelers, Fins and Eagles are picks 20-22. May not be able to swing a deal with them. However, with the Vikings at 23 or whoever they trade with, you may be able to get in front of Dallas for just a 4th round pick.

  30. MadMax Says:

    ^ I think our 26 and 92 to drop 7 spots is a great deal. They’re looking for a CB and theres many. They might even land Dejean there (who i wanted until we got Whitehead back). That would still give us our 2nd rd 57 and 3rd rd 89.

  31. Cobraboy Says:

    I’d trade the #26 & JBF Casuals to move up to 19.

  32. Defense Rules Says:

    Cobraboy … ‘I’d trade the #26 & JBF Casuals to move up to 19.’

    It took me a few seconds Cobra, but now I get it. LMAO.

  33. ^^mtn^^ Says:

    Thundersack Says:
    March 23rd, 2024 at 12:05 pm
    Georgia Center Sedrick Van Pran? I watched a few of their games and he did very well with room to improve. His 10 yard split, for initial quickness, was akin to a TE at 1.77. It is Top 3 of all centers measured this year.

    Yet no one is talking about him. Anyone have an opinion?

    Think Van Pran grades out close to Frazier but is more raw. Little on the light side but MAY have a higher ceiling than Frazier. Still, think Frazier is a much better pick, better anchor/ base.

    I think Van Pran’s floor is probably Hainsey-ish but strongly believe he is a day 1 starter.

    Probably would have to pick him up in the second otherwise he’ll probably go (latest) at the top-mid 3rd round. Never know, Frazier might be there too when the Bucs pick at 57

    Since ’76

  34. MadMax Says:

    and thats why im a casual cobra…too much drama from mental midgets who have all day and night to post….i pick and choose my time wisely.

  35. Admiral Redbeard Says:

    If he’s not there at 26, trade back a few spots for more draft picks (throw JTS in the deal). I believe there’s a couple of solid plug and play centers/guards after JPJ. Z. Frazier, or super versatile Cooper Beebe, Christian Mahogany, Barton. 2 really good lineman in the 2nd and 3rd rounds instead of just one stud in the 1st might be better anyway.

  36. lanshark Says:

    Frazier is a better fit than JPJ, and depending on how things fall, we could even trade back to the end of 1st round and still get him. Barton would be great, but he won’t last til 26. Hainsey is better suited to Guard. I like that kid out of San Diego State with the 2nd pick in the 3rd round as well.

  37. Olboy Says:

    Jpj would be worth the reach it would take for us to get him. That mahogany is very interesting to me. Something about him. Unfortunately there’s the injury. It’s not desl breaker to me though.

  38. MadMax Says:

    Yep, figured you two out cobra and dr, lol thats funny. I always knew you guys would also post under anonymous names. Lol, all good

  39. Jvato24 Says:


  40. PewterStiffArm Says:

    Thanks Ira, articles like this not only educate me, they invigorate me. I thought defense all the way but a center this big and athletic definitely makes sense. Right away I went on YouTube to see film. The film doesn’t lie, he is a mauler with a pancake mentality. Strong and smart and moves with ease following the defender all the way to the ground. At the next level he will do some damage to defenders and open holes for running backs. Awesomely written Ira, thanks for opening my eyes. Now on to the next YouTube video.

  41. gotbbucs Says:

    I also don’t think you can limit it to just LG and C. They’ve shown the willingness to just switch guys from left to right if they feel like it makes the unit stronger overall. Right guards and right tackles that could slide in to guard are in play to. I could easily see them sliding Mauch over to left guard if a good right side lineman is available.

  42. MelvinJunior Says: (Chad Reuter) today, had the Steelers taking Barton at #20 and JPJ falling to the Bucs at #26… Also, had the Bucs taking the Wisconsin RB Allen, with our second 3rd Round Pick #92 (Penn St. TE Theo Johnson with their #89th), with the ‘Boys taking WV C Frazier, at #87. And, as for our 2nd Round Pick #57… He has us taking Penn St. EDGE Rusher, Adisa Isaac!!!!

  43. MelvinJunior Says:

    That could potentially be a BIG-TIME “Offensive” Draft-Class for the Bucs… ALL-3 Could Be MAJOR Contributors DAY-1. If they are, then it would definitely be a game changer and really set ‘em up for the future!!!! Maybe (HUGE maybe), then JTS and Hall can really take the ‘next step’ UP… And, that they HAVE TO in order to compete with (hopefully) THIS STUD, Isaac!?

  44. Stanglassman Says:

    Bucs fans have told each other the Mauch of over drafted so often they think it’s true. It’s not. Scouts had him going #50 overall. The Bucs had intel that Pitts was going to pick him (49) right before their pick so they moved up to 47 and got him. Yes he is another small school guy. Any yes most colleges put their best athletes at tackle so most nfl teams draft tackles and move them inside red to guard. That’s what most teams do now, not just Jason.

  45. Dave Pear Says:

    Licht knows best. Trust Licht. He’s

  46. Dave Pear Says:

    What the hell, just draft your highest rated fatty in the first two rounds and the highest rated pass rusher with the third.

  47. Thundersack Says:

    “^^mtn^^ Says:
    Still, think Frazier is a much better pick, better anchor/ base.”

    Nice. Will have to look up Frazier’s film. Thanks.