The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will fail in embarrassing fashion in 2014 if they do not take action now to fix their horrible offensive line.
Friday evening's preseason opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars revealed that the situation at guard was worse than even the most pessimistic fans could have imagined. The Bucs could not protect their quarterbacks or block for their running backs when the starters were on the field, and the offense was totally ineffective as a result.
Oniel Cousins and Jamon Meredith were absolutely horrible early in the game, as both players were turnstiles at guard. Josh McCown would have pressure in his face by the time he hit the final step of his drop, and the running backs would have nowhere to go on handoffs.
By the time Jacksonville removed anyone resembling a starter, the battle in the trenches balanced out, but during the first quarter, the Bucs couldn't stop any Jaguar coming through the middle of the line. The exception being Cousins moving out to tackle later in the game and allowing an easy sack on Mike Glennon by a speed rusher.
The Buccaneers did not have an NFL level of play tonight from either of their guard positions in the starting lineup, and that is a recipe for disaster in the a league full of athletic defensive tackles. Interior pressure leads to quarterback mistakes (like a back-foot throw in the pocket that sails over a receiver's head for a pick-six), and shuts down any semblance of a running game.
Put another way: If the Bucs lined up against the Bucs in a real game today, Gerald McCoy would earn a spot in Canton with the performance he'd put forth against the abhorrent guards the Bucs are rolling out to stop opposing linemen.
So what can the Buccaneers do? At this point, the answer cannot include the words "competition" or "in camp." Jason Licht needs to bring in any guards with NFL experience that he can and get them up to speed with the offense. Whether it's by trade or via free agency, Licht must act now to get offensive linemen in camp with a realistic shot of stopping Carolina Panthers defenders in Week 1.
Because as it stands, the tackles for the Panthers will set NFL records against the Buccaneers' offensive line.
There's no more doubt. There's no more "let's see what they do on the field." There's no more reason for optimism. The Buccaneers have a problem at guard that will render irrelevant the strong performances of a talented defense and the athletic potential of the "Dunkaneer" offense.
I wanted to believe that the team could get by with subpar guard play. But what we saw on Friday wasn't just subpar. It was beyond awful, and in need of immediate action by the front office.