Offensive Line is arguably the most important position group on offense. The better those five players are, the easier it is to have a good season on that side of the ball. If you have a weak Line, the quarterback and skill position players have to work harder in order to put points on the board and the coaching staff is limited in the plays they can call.
The Bucs offensive line had an inconsistent season in 2019. Some games playing very well and other games, not so much. In this review, we will take a look back at the season the front five had.
The interior line had a better season than you might have thought. Pro Football Focus actually rated the Bucs interior linemen the 2nd best in the league in 2019 in terms of pass blocking. The Bucs offensive line gave Jameis Winston an average of 2.5 seconds of clean pocket per pass attempt. That’s slightly above average and impressive when you consider the Bucs offense was blitzed 241 times over the course of the season. That was by far the most any team faced in 2019. The next closest was Seattle with 221.
In my opinion, the team’s best offensive linemen this season was a two-way tie between Ali Marpet and Ryan Jensen. Marpet may have been the team’s best run-blocker and in pass-protection was only credited with giving up 2 sacks the whole year. Jensen had a superb second season in Tampa. Starting in all 16 games, he only had 3 penalties all year. He read the opposing team’s front seven well, accurately pointing out where pressure was coming from. Jensen also wasn’t credited with any bad snaps that resulted in a fumble.
The offensive tackles were the weakest part of the O-Line this season. Both struggled in pass-protection and weren’t much better in the run game. Demar ‘Dot’ Dotson had the worst year of his professional career. In his 10th season with the Bucs he looked like a player that lost a step. He was slow off the snap on pass plays and it led to him being beaten too often. He also had the most penalties of all the linemen(10). In fact, he tied as 9th most penalized offensive linemen in the league. It was something that plagued him all year. He wasn’t the only linemen who struggled in this department.
Donovan Smith was the 2nd most penalized linemen on the team and if not for declined penalties, like Dotson he would have been one of the most penalized linemen in the league. It’s unfortunate that Smith had an underwhelming season because when the team resigned him to a 3-year deal this past off-season, they did so hoping he would be one of the better players at his position. He is guaranteed $14.5 million dollars in 2020, so barring any trade we will see him back in a Bucs jersey next season and it will be make or break for him. If he has another lackluster year, the team can release him in the off-season without owing any guaranteed money.
It was an up and down season for the Bucs offensive line. Overall, Marpet and Jensen had solid seasons. Smith and Cappa were inconsistent and Dotson had an awful year. Dot will become a free agent this off-season and I don’t expect the team to bring him back. I also don’t see Cappa as a long term answer at right guard. So in addition to looking for a new right tackle, I think the team should look for a new guard. And because Cappa doesn’t have a big contract, they should keep him to bolster depth on the line.
Quality depth is something the Bucs were lacking this season and I hope its something they focus on improving this off-season. All Bucs fans will be hoping to see the offensive line improve in 2020 and in my opinion, the best chance of that is if Bruce Arians and Jason Licht use both free agency and the draft to bring in more talent. If they do, I like our chances.
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