The Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive line has faced a lot of criticism over the last years. Donovan Smith in particular was supposed to be awful, while the rest of the line barely rose above mediocre—except for athletic beast Ali Marpet.
Leading the the-Bucs-line-sucks chant was Pro Football Focus. And yet, this year, they’re on the other side. Now they think the Bucs’ line is awesome: the third-best pass-blocking line in the NFL, in fact.
Apparently those graders really like what the Bucs did this year, huh? Except for Donovan Smith, of course. They still think he’s awful—I mostly think he’s just inconsistent, but improving.
The Bucs have played one fewer game than most teams thanks to Hurricane Irma, and have consequently allowed fewer total pressures than all but the Raiders. They have also the third-best efficiency and could be even higher if they could shore up their left tackle spot.
The Bucs did shuffle their line a bit this offseason, which may explain a few things. Ali Marpet moved to center, where he’s played well, except for some mishaps snapping the ball. That allowed J.R. Sweezy, who was injured last year, to slide in at right guard. And surprisingly, the Bucs have had Kevin Pamphile and Evan Smith sharing time at left guard—I’m not sure how long that’ll go on for, it’s weird.
Of course, Pro Football Focus is far from perfect. They grade by watching game footage, they don’t know offensive lines’ assignments, and what they prioritize may not be what is most relevant in the NFL. Plus, they don’t adjust for opponent quality.
Still, this is a neat indication that all that investment in the line actually paid off. Who wants to tell Mark Dominik?