The Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive line has been much-maligned this offseason, which is not undeserved based on their abysmal performance last year. So when Jameis Winston seemed to be under pressure on every other play, everyone was quick to blame the offensive linemen. After all: they were starting two rookies and a third-year unknown. How could they not be getting beat every play against a pretty good Browns front?
But watching the game again, the offensive linemen actually held up well. The constant pressure was a result of the relentless blitzes the Browns sent, for which the Bucs seemed very ill-prepared. In fact, the Browns brought four pass rushers only six times in the first half, one of those came on third-and-22, and four in the two-minute warning. The line held up well on all but one of those plays, when Garrett Gilkey blew a block at left guard.
Almost all of the pressure Winston faced was the result of free blitzers and other communication errors, like when Doug Martin bounced into Winston while trying to get to his pick-up block. That's something that was obvious on Winston's only interception of the night, too: two rushers came free because of a zone blitz, which is hardly the result of poor blocking -- it's poor recognition by the offense and Winston in particular, who probably calls the protections and has to find hot receivers.
Jameis WINTston pic.twitter.com/ZoYhX7yv2i— SB Nation GIF (@SBNationGIF) August 29, 2015
That's not to say that the offensive line was perfect. Ali Marpet was beat three times, and there was certainly some other leakage. But that's going to happen in the NFL. No one's going to block perfectly on every snap. In all, the individual linemen did not get beat particularly often. Instead, most of the pressure on Winston was a result of poor communication and recognition -- which, in turn, is on the offense as a whole, not the offensive line specifically. When the communication was on point and the blitzers did get picked up correctly, the line didn't have all that much trouble keeping Winston clean.
This lack of communication and recognition may simply be the result of a lack of gameplanning due to the team's short week. No one truly gameplans for opponents in the preseason, but the Bucs offense was much more prepared for the Bengals' blitzes on Monday night, when they had nine days to prepare -- incidentally also the amount of time the Browns had to prepare for yesterday's game.
So no, I'm not particularly concerned about the offensive line. I'm actually encouraged by their overall performance this preseason. They just have to clean up their blitz recognition.