You don't need the All-22 or end zone camera angles to know that the offensive line did not a good job last Sunday - but using those cameras helps us realise exactly what went wrong.
Having studied every offensive snap, it's clear that there were many issues. The biggest problem across the board, though, was inconsistencies: it seemed like almost every play, at least one or two blockers, be them linemen, tight end or tight end-playing-fullback, made a mistake that cost us. Even the team's best plays offensively came in spite, or occasionally because, of mistakes made up front. I could go through every single play and explain who messed up what and why, but instead will pick a few key plays that I feel illustrate the issues we had. Make no mistake, though, that these aren't me picking just the worst plays - this is pretty representative of what the blocking was like throughout.
As a general observation, our most consistent lineman on the day was probably Zuttah; Carimi was without question the worst - in fact, I could easily write several articles over how bad Carimi was. Before I start breaking down specific plays, I'd like to use these two snap shots to illustrate what Carimi's problem was on almost every pass - heck, on almost every play: footwork.
When it comes to pass protection, by far the most important thing a lineman must do is keep even weight distribution through both feet. If you put too much weight on one foot, you're just inviting defensive linemen to beat you - and while that's something every lineman does during the game, no-one did it more often than Carimi. It's not just weight distribution, though - it's also placement; indeed the two are related - if your stance is too wide, then it makes it harder to move without distributing your weight too unevenly. Compare below Penn's and Carimi's outside foot:
You can see here, Carimi is blocking Sheldon Richardson (#91), while Penn is blocking Garrett McIntyre (#50). Both Jets are attempting to use swim moves to get inside of their blockers (also, note Muhammad Wilkerson's nice little two-handed facemask on Demar Dotson). You'll see that Penn's outside foot is pointing in the direction of the defender he's engaged with, and is just outside of the defender. His stance is not too wide, and he's still showing the numbers on the back of his jersey towards his quarterback - which is what you're looking for in pass protection. Carimi, however, has taken far too deep a step with his outside foot. As a result, his whole body is turned away from the defender, while his stance is very wide - you can see it would be much easier for Penn to shift his weight back to his inside foot than it would be for Carimi. Who do you think prevented their defenders from beating them inside?
As you can see, Penn (who, in all fairness, is normally terrible at defending his inside - as we will see later) was on this occasion balanced enough to stop the linebacker getting inside of him, forcing him to head back outside. Carimi, on the other hand, never managed to get his weight back on his inside, giving Richardson all the leverage - and an opportunity to sack the quarterback. Luckily on this play, Doug Martin comes up and gives Richardson enough of a thump to momentarily slow him down, allowing Freeman to complete the pass, a 12-yard pass to Vincent Jackson that would lead to the Bucs' first touchdown two plays later. Had Martin not been there, however, this play would likely have ended up in either a sack or a rushed throw.
We'll discuss poor technique when and as they crop up, but I just wanted to particularly pinpoint Carimi's issues - and until he gets his footwork sorted, he'll never threaten for a starting spot without help from the injury bug (or at least the MRSA bug).
Now, for a selection of plays that I believe fairly represent the Bucs' level of offensive line play (with some criticism thrown in at the tight ends when appropriate) against the Jets.
Ain't got the power
We begin with what has been one of the staples of the Buccaneers running game for a few years: the Power, also sometimes called a Power O. It's a common play, but executed in different ways, with different teams using different blockers to achieve the same outcome: a running back following a lead-blocker, usually a pulling lineman. As the Bucs are on their goal-line here, they've come out in a heavy formation, with a tight end and an H-back to the left of the formation.
The play is designed that everyone on the line, with the exception of Davin Joseph, is to down block to the right, walling off all defenders to the right of Tim Wright, who is the H-back. Nate Byham is in the backfield as full back; his job will be to kick out the DE, Calvin Pace (#97), while Davin Joseph will pull across the formation and block the first defender in the hole. At least, that's how it should have been executed.
Here you see what Byham and Joseph's responsibilities should be:
And in this picture, I've identified the blocking responsibilities of the down linemen. You'll notice that, with the exception of Penn, everyone's block is pretty clear. Penn should in theory be trying to block David Harris (#52), leaving Demario Davis (#56) to try and get to the hole - and be met by Davin Joseph.
However, things rarely unfold as they're drawn up in the playbook. You can see here that while Penn should still ideally be getting to Harris, the Jets' veteran is already starting to flow to the ball, so Penn may decide to cut his losses and make sure he gets the block on Demario, leaving Harris to Joseph, who's been circled. You'll also notice I've circled Tim Wright, who is responsible for blocking safety Antonio Allen (#39). While it's not so much a block as a shoulder barge, it is delivered with enough force to not make him an issue at the first level.
Joseph comes rolling along, and sees Allen in front of him. We'll return to Joseph in a second, but first, notice the two circles: we have Nate Byham about to collide with Pace, and Donald Penn, looking at Demario but with his body turned away from him. Penn's going to have to haul ass to block Demario. Now, as for Joseph: remember, on this play he is a lead blocker. Lead blockers cannot just go out and block - they need to be aware that the running back is keying on their blocks, and the blocks they make will tell the running back which hole to hit. You can see, I've drawn a line from Martin's helmet showing that he is focusing on what Joseph is doing.
Now, in the picture above, you can see what has happened: Joseph has blocked straight into Allen... but that block dictates which hole Martin's to go up - namely, by blocking Allen outwards, Martin's keys will tell him to cut up inside of him. You can also see in the white circle that Byham whiffs on his block on Pace - whereas Lorig's always been solid enough for these types of plays. In the red circle, meanwhile, you'll see Demario's already gotten passed Penn; of the two linebackers Penn should have blocked, he's succeeded in blocking neither. You can also see behind Penn, Muhammad Wilkerson is spinning out of Luke Stocker's block.
Had Joseph gone around the outside, or even approached Allen head on rather than blocking him out, Martin's read is different, and he doesn't head up this 'hole'. Instead, he gets sent up a hole clogged up by the two linebackers Penn fails to get to, and the defensive lineman spinning out of Stocker's block. As you might guess, the play doesn't end well:
The play goes for no gain. Three plays later, Joseph taps Zuttah's leg too early, the ball is snapped before Freeman's calling for it and... safety.
Now, the next play was actually the Bucs' best run play all day, a 17-yard gain by Martin that started the drive that would lead to Rian Lindell's field goal to give the Bucs the lead, and it came on another Power - but absolutely did not go as designed.
Above is the play as designed - same principles, but on a smaller scale: down blocking by Dotson, Joseph and Zuttah on Wilkerson, Antwan Barnes (#95) and Richardson respectively. Carimi, meanwhile, is to pull and lead block up the play cap outside of Dotson, most likely blocking Harris, while Luke Stocker kicks Pace out towards the sideline. That, however, is not what happened.
Circled here is Barnes, getting easily past Joseph. If you notice, Joseph's head is down, while his back leg is far out behind him. This means that not only was Joseph never going to be able to get great leverage, due to his feet, but he was never going to make that block other than by sheer dumb luck due to lowering his head and taking his eyes off the linebacker. Still, it's possible that this play isn't a Power at all, but a Trap - so that, in this case, Barnes thinks he's getting free into the backfield, only to be blindsided by a pulling Carimi. Joseph, meanwhile, would seal in David Harris, leaving a huge hole between a potentially blocked Harris, by Joseph, and Richardson, by Zuttah double teaming with Penn. So, was this a successful Trap? Or a Power which Joseph merely whiffed on?
Well, as you can see in the white circle, Carimi does get in a monster block on Barnes... but Joseph hasn't gone to seal in Harris. In fact, he's turned his whole body round to see what happened. That is not someone looking to seal in a linebacker - that's someone who's just messed up. Luckily, as you can see, by dumb chance a huge hole has opened up, and Martin runs up through it for seventeen yards. In fact, based on this play, I'd strongly encourage Mike Sullivan to run more Trap plays. Still, this play's success was not at all by design, but rather by Martin's quick feet and instincts to find and hit the massive hole before Harris, or Pace coming off of Stocker's block on the left there, are able to find and plug it.
Unfortunately, Davin Joseph's play was rife with these kind of mental mistakes on Sunday - little mistakes that make a huge difference to the success of plays. If you're feeling generous, you can chalk it up to brain rust due to being out of action for so long - but even accounting for that, this team needs to win games, and they will struggle to do that when a player touted as one of their best is making mental mistakes that a seasoned veteran really shouldn't be making.
Man, oh man
One thing often said about the offensive line is that they are built for man-power blocking rather than zone blocking. Personally, I'm a fan of zone blocking, but it's true that this offensive line needs to build their foot speed up a lot if they're going to be running outside zone in particular. And they're going to be running a lot of outside zone; in fact, outside zone seemed to be the run play we ran most on Sunday. Before we delve into that, though, let's look at one of the more positive moments in the game - Doug Martin's touchdown run.
This play's a straight-forward man-power blocking scheme: a specific hole is designated, all the blockers down block away from the hole, except where there's a double team, in which case one of the blockers should chip on the double team and then peel off to hit a linebacker. I've drawn up above the blockers' responsibilities - note Carimi chipping on the nose tackle to give Zuttah some help before peeling off to block David Harris.
First thing to note on this play is that the safety, Dawan Landry (#26) has moved inside of the linebacker on the edge, changing Stocker's and Dotson's responsibilities. Zuttah has got a nice seal in on the nose tackle, leaving Carimi free to move up to Harris. Penn has gotten himself in good position to get a block on the linebacker. All Joseph needs to do his move the circled foot forward and he can seal out that defensive tackle, Richardson.
The running lane is now clear: Carimi should be kicking out Harris, and Zuttah maintains his seal on the nose tackle (both will end up on the floor shortly), setting the edges of the running lane. Again, Joseph needs to step forward - I've even indicated the perfect location to place his foot - and there's no chance that Richardson can get to Martin.
On the next play, however, you see Joseph has NOT moved his foot forward - it's still on that five yard mark. Richardson is now starting to get past Joseph. We know that his play ended in a touchdown - but this blocking scheme is what Joseph is meant to excel at. Unfortunately, to me this doesn't speak mental rust, but rather tentativeness due to the injury he's coming back from. We can, and should, forgive him for playing cautiously on his first time out - but it's something he's got to get right.
With Richardson starting to get past Joseph, you should also pay attention to Carimi: all his weight is on his back foot, which is far too far behind him. When so much weight is on a foot far behind you, the body naturally leans forward - leaving no reserve power to drive a linebacker backwards. That wide big open hole...
...shuts pretty quickly. Martin does make it over the goal line, but quite frankly he should be walking into the end zone. The frustrating thing is that the blocks were in place - but poor technique on Carimi's part, and either rustiness or over-cautiousness on Joseph's, lead to Martin getting unnecessarily hit from both sides. That just shouldn't be happening (note Richardson's #91 has managed to wrap up Martin just as he gets to the goal line - if the team got the ball one yard further out, this isn't a touchdown but a defensive stop, on the type of play this line is meant to excel at).
Josh Freeman did not have a good day on Sunday, but he certainly wasn't helped by the offensive line. In fact, on Freeman's completions, there's only two passing plays I can confidently say that he had good protection - with no defenders beating their blockers. That's not a great ratio, especially considering just how much the team has invested into its offensive line. In fact, there is no more egregious example of this than on the touchdown play - which was literally half a second away from being a sack.
You can see above that the Jets are going to rush four defenders, and see where they are roughly going to be rushing (Calvin Pace is not currently on screen, so is represented by the crudely-drawn #97).
What you see here is Antwan Barnes, #95, starting a spin move against Davin Joseph in the red circle. In the white circle, we see Zuttah should be in good position to block Leger Douzable, #78.
Unfortunately, Zuttah drops his helmet (in the red circle) - and as we saw earlier, when you drop your head, it makes it much easier for a defender to get past you, simply because you cannot see what's in front of you. Meanwhile, in the white circle, Joseph's body has not turned with Barnes' spin, meaning only his inside arm is still in contact with Barnes.
Joseph is still far too slow at turning his body round, and Barnes is about to get past him. Zuttah's head dropping has made it easy for Douzable to get the center's hands off of him. Zuttah responds by stepping hard towards Douzalbe - lifting his back leg off the ground, which has been circled. As you should realise by now, this means all of Zuttah's weight is on his outside foot - making his inside susceptible. Also circled is Dotson's feet, which are far too narrow, giving him a higher center of gravity and making him easier to simply push off balance, as Pace is about to do.
And there you have it, of the four defenders the Jets sent on this play, three - three - have gotten off of their blocks. Pace even gets a QB Knockdown of Freeman, he was so close to the quarterback when the ball was thrown. That half-second was the difference between the team's first touchdown, and a sack. The problem is, these pass protection issues were a problem all day long, and while they were never as bad again as 75% of the rushers sent beating their blockers, you could guarantee at least one or two came free on almost every pass play - and, as in this case, far too often it's simply a case of bad footwork and sloppy technique (never drop your head on a block!). Let us now turn our attention to two sacks, one off of play-action, the other a straight drop-back, to see some more of the issues the team had on Sunday.
This play is designed to look like an inside zone-type play, with Martin faking a handoff from Freeman, so most of the line (with the exception of Penn, who goes straight into his pass-pro stance against Barnes, as seen in the light-blue circle) are looking to drive the defenders laterally along the line of scrimmage. You can see Davin Joseph has got a solid block on Wilkerson (#96), and though his arm (in the red circle) is outside of Wilkerson, he's using it drive the defensive lineman along the LOS, rather than holding him, so the play is not flagged. Zuttah, you may notice, has no such arm up to prevent his defender, Richardson, from getting behind him. Even worse, you can see I've circled Zuttah's back leg; it is far too extended, making it very hard for Zuttah to be able to shift his weight to get back to protect that gap, especially as Zuttah doesn't have any inside leverage on Richardson due to his arm placement. The other important person to note here is Stocker, who is pulling across the formation against the direction of the fake. This is because in zone plays, you leave the back-side defender unblocked, in this case Calvin Pace. Since you don't want a pass-rusher coming unblocked at your quarterback, Stocker is pulling across the formation to block Pace. They are both circled with dark blue.
Now circled in red, you can see Zuttah is too far out in front of Richardson. Without the proper hand placement to drive Richardson along the line of scrimmage, and without great footwork, meaning he had very little chance of getting back to protect his backside A-gap, Zuttah has whiffed on Richardson. On the outside, we have Penn's feet - look at how close together they are. With Barnes already starting to get the edge, Penn needs to move his feet quickly in order to prevent a sack. Stocker, in the meantime, is still on pace (pun intended) to block Pace.
As you can see here, Stocker, in the dark blue circle, has ended up having to block Richardson. This is a good sign, as it does show Stocker's ability to adapt to block the most dangerous man when plays don't unfold as they are drawn up in the playbook... but a bad sign, as it means Calvin Pace is now unblocked. Likewise, Barnes has gotten the edge on Penn, who was far too slow moving his feet, and is making a beeline straight for the quarterback. Pace and Barnes would end up splitting the sack, while Zuttah and Penn, both circled in yellow, stand by and watch helplessly.
The following play was broken down by Sander here - the play where Doug Martin was open on a pass in the middle of the field, but, as Sander notes, Freeman was hesitant through his read progression, leading to a sack. However, I'd like to take a different angle - while Freeman might have been slow through his progression, this was compounded immensely by having to then shift around in the pocket due the two Pro Bowl linemen in front of him.
Shortly after the play begins, the line go into their pass-pro stances, and all seems fine. Doug Martin runs up the middle of the field - the route that will be open - and Richardson, presumably in case of a draw play, moves in towards the middle of the field to check Martin. This should make Joseph's job a lot easier, as Freeman will be moving in the pocket in the direction of the arrow - and away from where Richardson is leaning towards. Joseph should be able to seal in Richardson and make him a non-factor in the play. Also circled is Penn blocking Wilkerson, together with Carimi - we'll come back to Penn shortly.
I've circled Joseph's back leg - and, though it's hard to tell from the still, anyone with Game Pass/Game Rewind will be able to check that his heel is actually off the ground here. Of course, this means all the weight is on the inside foot - leaving Joseph's outside open to attack...
...which is exactly what happens. Joseph's weight is shifted so far to the inside that as Freeman starts climbing across the pocket, Richardson is easily able to change direction, leaving Joseph behind him. You might also notice this is the point where Freeman starts looking towards Martin, who as we saw in Sander's piece was wide open. You might also realise, though, that as he starts looking towards Martin, he's also seeing Richardson coming off of Joseph's block at him. I've also circled Penn in blue here - Wilkerson is working Penn's hands to get inside of him. Notice how much Penn is leaning onto his outside foot? That's not going to end well.
I've circled Freeman here - look how much he's leaning backwards. That's because he's stepping back into the pocket to avoid Richardson, who at this point is completely free of Joseph. And we're about to see what Free is backing into...
Let's re-wind to the last point I circled Penn; remember how much he was leaning on his outside foot? This is what it looks like from the All-22. Notice that Penn's hip and upper body is further over than his outside leg. This is something Penn does too frequently - move his upper body with the defender instead of his lower body. With his upper body now leaning further over to the left than his legs are, the only way to stop himself falling is to plant that outside foot hard.
And that's exactly what he does - and we all know what that means: too much weight on the outside foot (in fact, all his weight - the circled foot is off the ground) leaving a clear path to the inside for Wilkerson.
As you can see in the white circle, this is the point where Joseph completely lost Richardson, forcing Freeman to lean back and start stepping backwards...
...right into Wilkerson's waiting arms. Yes, Freeman needs to speed up his reads - but think about how much we're paying Penn and Joseph, and how great their reputation is. We all know Freeman needs to step up or he'll be gone from the team - with the size of #70's and #75's contracts, it's fair to wonder if, with performances like these, those two Pro Bowlers will still be on the roster in 2014 without taking a pay cut.
Outside their comfort zone
As said earlier, one thing often cited about the Bucs' offensive line is that they're built for man-power schemes, not zone schemes. Of course, it's not really that straight forward - there's no reason why physically an offensive line built for man schemes should struggle with the inside zone - but the outside zone, however, does definitely benefit from better footwork and more agile linemen than we necessarily have. Despite this, outside zone was probably the run play the team ran the most on Sunday. Here are three examples of outside zone plays from Sunday: one that was blocked incorrectly and gained 1 yard, one that was blocked incorrectly and gained 7 yards, but could have gained more with the correct blocking, and one that was blocked correctly by the linemen and gained 5 yards, but only because Vincent Jackson messed up his block.
Incorrect blocking, 1 yard
This is how the play is meant to be blocked - with every blocker trying to get the outside edge on the defenders and seal them in towards the field. If everyone seals in the person they are responsible for, then Martin should have a clear alley around the outside, leaving him one-on-one with the safety. If the blocking is good, then Martin should have enough field to the outside to make it effectively a foot race between him and the safety - if the blocking is not good, however, then the defenders are going to spill outside of the contain and force Martin to run across the field rather than down it.
The first key block here is encircled - Luke Stocker on Garrett McIntyre. Stocker has got the edge on the linebacker here, but he never truly locks it in. Still, he manages to seal him in enough to get Martin to go around him. Most of the blockers have engaged with their men at this point - the only two not to are Carimi, who will end up having to help Penn with Richardson instead of going up to work on Pace, and Dotson. You may notice that Demario, #56, is already starting to move outside of Dotson. At this point, Dotson should focus less on sealing in Demario, and instead driving him towards the sideline - which, according to outside zone principles, is what you should do if you cannot seal in your defender, as it opens up a cut-back lane for the running back behind you.
Ah, footwork, our old friend. Dotson gets circled twice here: notice how far behind his feet are (the white circle) than his upper body (the red circle). It's going to be very hard to drive your opponent towards the sideline when your feet are a good two-three feet behind you. In theory, what we should be seeing is Dotson driving his defender towards the sideline, opening up the cut-back lane I've drawn in - and it would also have the added bonus of sending the safety, #26, to the outside while cutting back inside. The other thing to note is Davin Joseph's outside leg, in the blue circle - the name of the game here is to seal the linebacker inside. It's very hard to do that when your outside leg is inside of the defender's outside leg. Joseph either needs to move his feet quickly to get outside of Harris, or start driving him towards the sideline.
Unfortunately, neither Dotson nor Joseph were able to drive their defenders towards the sideline, which instead allowed them to disengage from the blockers and chase Martin sideways, preventing him from gaining positive yardage.
So, instead of Martin having an advantage by getting lots of room to the outside to out-run the safety, he's instead got three free defenders chasing him down - not including McIntyre, who is getting free here from Stocker's block.
Incorrect blocking, 7 yards
I know what you're thinking: "so what if the play wasn't perfect - it got seven yards!". Well, context is all. Like with Martin's touchdown run - sure, Richardson wrapped up Martin as he was crossing the goal line, but who cares, he was over the goal line, so what does it matter, right?
Well, this play might have gotten seven yards - but with correct blocking, this play makes a huge, huge difference. Firstly, this is how the play's meant to go:
So far, so simple right?
So here we see Doug Martin heading towards the outside - but if you follow the angle of his helmet, he can see that Joseph is not going to get to the outside of David Harris. So Joseph should be driving him to the outside, while Martin cuts back inside. Notice the circle around Penn - specifically notice how wide his strides are. Running with such long strides is not going to keep you balanced in football.
And, as if to prove the point, Penn loses his footing and ends up on the floor, with Richardson now in position to make a play on the running back - or at least, would be if Martin didn't have the wheels he does. You'll also see McIntyre flying in from the right has been circled - this is the defender normally left unblocked in a zone play, but, of course, when you cut back on the zone, you're suddenly vulnerable to being chase down by him. You can also see in the foreground, Carimi loses Demario completely. Also circled is Davin Joseph's helmet - yes, Joseph has lowered his lid to block Harris, which, as we've seen, tends more often than not to let defenders take advantage.
Now, I've circled Carimi in red here - though he lost Demario (who in this picture has just lunged at Martin, and missed), he wheels round to find someone else to block, in this case McIntyre, who had a good angle on Martin and was a threat. While it shows he doesn't give up on plays when they go wrong, though, he still lost his assignment on the play - something that Carimi was guilty of far too often on Sunday. But I digress, Carimi has sealed off McIntyre from any backside pursuit. What should happen now, if everything to the playside was blocked correctly - and by correctly, I don't even mean sealed in, but even driven to the sideline as dictated by basic outside zone rules - then this play would purely be a matter of Martin running along the arrow I've drawn in faster than the safety in the blue circle can get to him. Doug Martin absolutely has the speed to get there - check out both the defender Penn failed to block, and Demario, on the floor behind him as proof - and quite frankly, we could be talking touchdown here. Remember, though, that Joseph lowered his helmet - and that was all a veteran like David Harris needed to get off the block, as seen in the white circle.
So, instead of racing for the pylon for a potential touchdown, or at least a long gain, Harris forces Martin back inside towards the safety, and all Martin can do is brace to be taken down, while Joseph, in white, watches in dismay.
I know it seems like I might be picking on Joseph - I really don't mean to - but he was rusty as all hell this game, and quite frankly he made mistakes that a veteran, even one coming of injury, should not be making. I picked this play for a particular reason, though: check out the field markings. this play was stopped just outside of the Jets' 20. The context? At the time of the snap of this play, there is fifty-nine seconds left in the game. Yes, this is the seven yard play that set up Lindell's field goal two snaps later. You might remember, Rex Ryan used the Jets' second time out after this play; a third-and-three plunge went no-where, but forced the Jets to use their third time out. The Bucs then kicked the field goal to give the Jets the ball back with enough time to... well, you know how that story ends.
If Joseph makes this block, then forget the touchdown, there's no this doesn't realistically get those three extra yards. If Martin gets those three yards, then even with the Jets using a timeout, that still gives the Bucs a first and ten with the Jets having just the one time out. This means the Bucs could run the clock down to within a few seconds before kicking the field goal. That's what's so frustrating. Davin Joseph is a two-time Pro Bowler, one of the highest-paid players on this team, and has a reputation for being great - yet this missed block made the difference between a hard-fought W and a soul-crushing loss. Hopefully his second game back, he'll have knocked all that mental rust off, and he'll be able to play with a little less caution - but in his first game back, don't be deceived: Carimi may have been the worst player on the offensive line on the day, but Joseph was not far behind him.
Let's end on something a little more positive: if Sullivan's going to continue calling the outside zone so much, you want to see that we're able to at least block it correctly, right? And again, correctly doesn't have to be perfectly, where every defender is sealed in - just where each defender is either sealed in or, failing that, driven towards the sideline. Well, with one exception (sorry Davin, I really don't mean to keep calling you out like this), and even that exception ends up not really effecting the play, this next one was blocked just like the rules dictate by the linemen, and if not for a bad block by VJax, could have been a big gainer.
Blocked correctly, 5 yards
Here's the play as designed. This is has the uncovered blockers (Byham and Joseph) and those without backside help (Carimi, Penn and Stocker) looking to take a bucket step to get depth underneath, then come around and seal in the down linemen:
Now, compare the four circled feet - do you see the difference? The two in white, Carimi and Penn, are deeper than Byham's and especially Joseph's. In fact, Joseph's step is far too shallow to comfortably be able to get a good angle on Harrison (#94). Stocker, meanwhile, looks as if he's not even going to bother attempting to seal in McIntyre, instead going straight to drive him towards the sideline.
Though he took a deep enough step, Penn simply doesn't have the speed to get the edge on Demario - so instead he's going to drive him straight towards the sideline. Carimi, meanwhile, has been able to get a seal in on Richardson, setting the edges of the running lane for Martin (as marked out by the arrow). In order to make sure that the running lane stays open, however, Zuttah is going to need to get off that block on Harrison, leaving him to Joseph, and get up to Harris. Compare, if you will, Joseph and Byham, both circled in white. Do you see how, even though he was shallower than Penn or Carimi, by being deeper than Joseph, Byham is actually in a much better position than #75 to get around the outside of the defensive linemen to be in position to seal them in? There's no realistic way Joseph is going to get a seal in on #94 coming in from that angle - though Joseph does at least stick with the guy.
You can see here the problem with Joseph's lack of a block - if, say, Carimi had not gotten a seal on Richardson, then the cut-back lane is right up inside of Joseph, as demonstrated by the yellow line. If Martin had to take that cut-back, it would have been straight into Harrison's arms. Luckily, though, there's a nice clean open running lane, with Zuttan and VJax setting the edges at the top of the lane, circled in white.
Unfortunately, VJax plants his inside foot far too hard, shifting almost all his weight onto that foot - and we know what that leads to. Note too how far Carimi's foot is behind him - the inevitable poor balance that will result from that will make it easy for Richardson to get off his block.
Carimi, however, uses some... unconventional blocking techniques to stop Richardson getting to Martin. (Yes, that is a blatant hold, and Carimi should consider himself lucky to not cost the team ten yards here). The safety, #39, has completely gotten off of VJax's block, and will bring Martin down for a gain of five. If VJax, holds firm there, we're looking at a big gain.
The good news is, when Joseph hopefully knocks off the rust, and Carl Nicks is back in the line up, we should absolutely be able to run the outside zone, especially now that Penn has slimmed down which enabled him to be able to actually block linebackers (in the past, Penn was far too slow to get a proper block on LBs, and would instead throw himself at their feet in a sloppy attempt at a cut block). Given how often Sullivan called the outside zone on Sunday, that should be comforting indeed.
If there's one word to describe the OL on Sunday, it's "sloppy". Obviously the Jets have a very good front seven - but if the news media is to be believed, we're meant to have a very good offensive line, too. It sure didn't look like it though. The frustrating thing is that generally, the linemen weren't beat by superior tools - they could often match up physically with the guys lining up across from them - but rather by better-drilled technique. It's the poor fundamentals shown by many of the linemen - especially with their footwork - that has to have you concerned, though, especially as fundamentals was meant to be something Schiano's staff was meant to obsessed with. You do have to wonder, though, if there's a correlation between Carimi's poor footwork out of college, a huge reason the Bears cut ties with him, and the poor footwork on show here - remember where Carimi's college coach was, after all.
Carimi was, however, the worst offender on the day. I've only shown a small selection of the plays here where Carimi was obviously beaten - and to be fair, he wasn't beaten quite as often as many believe - but he was definitely the biggest liability out there this past weekend. The very first two photos I showed - comparing Carimi's and Penn's foot placement - was a sight seen far, far too often during the game, and if he can't get it fixed, it seems hard to believe Carimi will force his way into any starting line up soon.
Joseph was, well, bad. He had a few good plays, but the majority were not. He was really not far behind Carimi, and you've seen enough explanation as to the exact ways in which Joseph needs to do a better job. Hopefully he's gotten over the mental rust of not playing in over a year, and the mental reservation that comes from having such an injury, by the Saints' game, but he cannot continue this level of play if the Bucs have any hope of contending this year.
Penn had a lot of the same problems he's always had - he's too easy to beat on the inside, and that comes from poor footwork. It's also fair to question if his weight loss has had an effect on his strength - but truth be told, it's definitely made an impact on his run blocking in a positive way. Even so, Penn has always been, in my eyes, over-hyped, and he didn't exactly cover himself in glory on Sunday either.
Though Dotson probably got beaten more often in the pass game than Penn, he also brought more in the run game. Still, Dotson is not as strong as even slimmed-down Penn, and it's not aided by poor technique. It's why he was able to be pushed out the way by Pace on that touchdown throw, it's why he couldn't drive a line backer out the way in that first outside zone I showed you. Dotson has high potential, but in order to turn that potential into consistent production, he either needs to work on his upper body strength, improve his technique - or both.
Finally, Zuttah was our best lineman on the day - or our least worse. That's not a co-incidence - of all starting OL, including Nicks, Zuttah probably has the best feet, and that shows. Even though I focused in on two plays were Zuttah got beat, only one of them was due to poor footwork, and to be honest, even that was rare to see. Zuttah's weakness lies in strength at the point of attack - which is why he plays much better at center, where he's either getting help on a nose tackle from a guard or he's going up to the second level and blocking linebackers, than he does at guard.
In all, Sunday's level of play was far below what it should have been from an offensive line that is certainly talented, even if some of the line do fail to live up to their billing. It is frustrating because it's not one player getting beat consistently every play - not even Carimi, though he was beaten more often than the others - but rather, it was more like the linemen took turns getting beat on different plays. The good news, though, is that there are enough examples of linemen winning their individual match ups to make you believe that the talent is there, the only thing missing is consistency (gee, where have we heard that before?). The concern, though, has to be that so many of the line showed sloppy technique in their fundamentals. If they can't get the basics right, do you believe they can bring consistency to a talented (and highly paid) offensive line in sore need of it? I'm sceptical - but we'll see what Week 2 brings.