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The Bucs’ offensive line needs a boost

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NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

In a previous article called “ Finding the Bucs’ Top Deficiencies ”, I reflected on the massive drop in run blocking efficiency between 2015 and 2016. Recall, 2015 was when RB Doug Martin finished 2nd overall in rushing yards and when paired up with 3rd down back Charles Sims, they were a dynamic duo.

2015: 8th in short yardage situations and 13th at preventing their RB’s from being stuffed.

2016: 32nd in short yardage situations and 32nd at preventing their RB’s from being stuffed.

Being stuffed means getting stopped at the line of scrimmage or behind it. The short yardage situation, also known as Power Success to Football Outsiders, and stuffed metrics reveal another measure of run blocking prowess, or lack thereof.

Pass protection remained similar between those same seasons, being ranked 14th and 15th respectively by Football Outsiders.

Recently, the Buccaneers’ official website posted an article about explosive plays. Here is a snapshot of their findings:

http://www.buccaneers.com/news/article-smith/Offseason-Priority-Add-Explosiveness/b75ef4d9-b9e1-4273-a7dd-629aa889594a

Explosive Plays: Passing

There were 12 fewer explosive passes in 2016, or 12.3% drop in events. Yet, despite the negative explosive chances, the offense generated five more touchdowns off of fewer explosive plays. That would let us know the passing game actually produced positive dividends on the score sheet.

Explosive Plays: Rushing

There were 17 fewer explosive runs in 2016, or a 40.4% drop in events. This is a glaring problem.

After the Dallas game I wrote an article identifying that our running backs were not the problem, but rather our offensive line - particularly our run blocking. Here is the link: Run Deficiency, OL or RB. Included in the article are several sources depicting that our running backs are running the same way in 2015 as they were in 2016. If you read the comments section, then you will discover a tweet by Chris F from Bucs Brief actually recording Doug Martin’s attempts, including first contact, stuffed events, and yards after contact. When all sources repeat the same pattern, but from different angles, then it might be safe to say it is not our running backs that are the culprit.

Yet, with rumblings that Jacquizz Rodgers might be a better back and the problem is not the offensive line, I can now reflect more on the situation. Within aforementioned article, I recorded what Football Outsiders had posted on our run blocking stats:

Games 1 – 14

Power Success Rank: 31st

Stuffed Rank: 30th

Doug Martin sat out the final two games, with the latter being served for a four game suspension. Here is the finally tally at the end of 16 games, although, we already know that concluding result:

Games 1 – 16

Power Success Rank: 32nd

Stuffed Rank: 32nd

So without Doug Martin and the insertion of Jacquizz Rodgers into the starting role, our offensive line produced even worse without Doug Martin in the lineup.

Conclusion

"I’ve said many, many times that we believe besides turnovers, explosive plays are the next biggest factor in winning and losing, and that was our biggest drop-off on offense this year is in explosive plays and that was both in the running game and in the throwing game."

That’s a quote from head coach Dirk Koetter from the Buccaneers’ official website article on explosive plays. The drop off percentage on passing explosive plays this year was 12.3% with a 7 TD production increase. The drop off percentage on rushing explosive plays this year was 40.4%. I think he is underselling the drop off in the run game.

Although many fans and mock draft sites like to add weapons for QB Jameis Winston, all the statistical metrics emphasize to work on the run blocking issues. It does not matter whether the starting left guard issue is addressed in free agency or the draft because it is a glaring need that could increase the production of explosive plays for both running and passing as play action plays are dependent on selling the run game.