Bucs offensive line buried at the bottom

The Bucs offensive line got the first piece of good news in awhile on Tuesday.  That news was that Arron Sears would be returning to the team.  A key component to our young line, Sears was going to be counted on heavily in 2009.  But he disappeared from the team in a story that still hasn't completely unfolded.  The Bucs OL turned to Zuttah to fill the gap, who has done an admirable job, but the line as a whole has not performed well. 

Some of this may be attributed to the new zone blocking scheme that has been installed.  Other teams that took on this endeavour for the first time have said it takes about half a season to get comfortable with the blocking change.  That would be right about now, except the Bucs have quietly moved away from the scheme.  Jeff Faine has been quoted as saying they've (the OL) have moved to more of a man up system.  The scheme is still split with some downs utilizing the zone scheme and others the man scheme, but all this change and lack of commitment probably won't serve the team well.

Through Week 10 (9 games), how has the OL compared to it's peers?  Hit the jump and lets find out.

To look at the offensive line, we'll go back to some of the stats derived by Football Outsiders.  We'll look at how the offensive line has fared in the run game and the passing game.  First off, lets take on the passing game.

The easy metric to look at is number of sacks given up.  But this only tells a part of the story.  As we've discussed before, teams that drop back more can sway the stats.  More drop backs equals more opportunity for sacks and more opportunities to dilute the results.  Lets see what the numbers tell us.

  Rank Sacks AdjSack Rate
TB 10 19 5.20%
NFL x 20 6.60%

Not too shabby.  Ranked 10th in adjusted sack rate which, per FO is

sacks (plus intentional grounding penalties) per pass attempt adjusted for down, distance, and opponent

 So just over 5% of the Bucs dropbacks end in sacks.  That number has been greatly helped by Josh Johnson's ability to scramble, and Freeman's size as we witnessed Sunday against Miami.  Looks like either our quarterbacks are doing a good job of avoiding sacks, our line is doing a great job in pass protection, or a combination of both.

The run numbers aren't so pretty.  We've all seen Cadillac and Ward take a hand off and immediately be hit in the backfield.  I've seen far too many running plays that end up with Penn, Joseph or Trueblood all standing up 2 yards in the backfield with no one around them.  That's not a good sign. 

Lets first look at the adjusted line yards.

    ALY RB Yds
30 TB 3.44 3.75

x

NFL x 4.3

Not hard to see that the Bucs are at the bottom of the league.  Ranked 30th in adjusted line yards, this metric gives us the yards per run that the offensive line creates by opening up holes, moving guys off the line fo scrimmage etc.  This of course is adjusted based on down, distance and defense.  The RB yards, which is the standard yards per carry isn't pretty.  It's more than a half yard below the NFL average.  The line doesn't create much room and the running backs don't go much further than what's there.  Not a good combo.

  Power Rank
TB 64% 15
NFL 63% x

Our power success if right in line with NFL averages, as is our rank.  This is the short yardage stuff, 3rd and 2, goal line runs etc.  At this point, I'll take an average ranking for our run game.  For reference sake, the leader in power success if at 82%.  They convert 4 out of 5 short yardage situations. 

  Stuffed Rank
TB 24% 28
NFL 19% x

This is the most telling statistic to me.  As much as it might seem that Caddy and Ward just aren't running hard or getting anywhere, this stat tells me enough to know that they are facing an uphill battle.  The Bucs RB's are hit and tackled behind the line of scrimmage almost a quarter of the time.  One out of every four running plays ends up with Caddy, Ward, Graham or Smith (gah) being hit in the backfield.  That's unacceptable.  There is no way to run the ball and make teams respect it when you are hit in the backfield so often. 

Whether it be scheme, personnel, or just time together, something isn't working.  I'm leaning more towards either personnel or ability based on the 2008 numbers only being slight better.  There has been some drop off with Faine missing time and Sears being gone, but even with both healthy in 2008, we still ranked in the bottom half of the league in most run categories.  It's time to do something about the run game and give it the time and overhaul it needs.  Lets make some changes now to benefit our team.  Controlling the ball on the ground will help out a young quarterback and an ill equipped defense. 

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