The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are fresh off a frustrating and embarrassing loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Going into the game a double digit favorites, the Bucs saw their offense stall out over and over again on Sunday. This was particularly concerning because the Steelers were missing two starting corners, an All Pro safety and maybe the best pass rusher in the NFL.
This has been a theme for the Buccaneers all season. Despite a roster full of big names and future Hall of Fame players, this offense has struggled to put up points. So, the natural question that everybody is asking is “why?”.
One player that has been brought up a lot in this conversation is rookie Luke Goedeke. The first year guard from Central Michigan University has had his struggles this season. This was to be expected from a guy who is learning a new position after playing offensive tackle in college.
To get a full grasp of where Goedeke is at in his development, I went back and watched him in this most recent game against the Steelers. Was he the reason the offense failed? What can be done to help him? These are the questions I tried to answer in this film review.
Goedeke vs The Other Guys
When not matched up against Steelers stay defensive lineman Cameron Heyward, Goedeke did very well. Guys like Tyson Alualu, Chris Wormley, Montravious Adams, and Isaiahh Loudermilk managed to do very little against the Bucs rookie guard as pass rushers. Goedeke also did well against this group in run blocking.
Additionally, Goedeke made his presence felt against the second level of the defense. He did well on pills and handled guys like Alex Highsmith in those situations. He also worked his way up to linebackers well.
Overall, Goedeke had a very good game against everyone not named Heyward. This is very encouraging for a rookie who was forced into action, realistically before he was ready. Beating average opponents is a great starting point for any young player.
Heyward is one of the best defensive lineman in the NFL. He is big, powerful and very skilled. Getting the opportunity to go against any rookie is a matchup that favors him and the Steelers.
This week was no exception. Heyward beat Goedeke on several occasions. This was most noticeable on the goal line situation.
The Buccaneers had the hall first and goal on the three yard line. The first play was a handoff to Leonard Fournette running left. On this play Goedeke lunged forward only for Heyward to avoid contact and make the tackle inside the one yard line.
Two plays later it was third and goal and Brady dropped back to pass. Heyward bull rushed Goedeke back quickly and got the key sack to end the drive. These plays were the difference between a field goal and a touchdown.
By my count there were four other plays where Heyward beat Goedeke; one of which where Heyward made a tackle. That’s six plays out of seventy one where he was firmly beat and three where his man made the play.
Is that too many? Of course it is. Is that the reason the Bucs lost this game? Absolutely not.
More Good Than Bad
The ugly moments were certainly as bad as you could imagine. However, there was definitely more good than bad. In fact, there were times that Heyward was completely neutralized,
On one play Goedeke escorted the three time All Pro six yards down the field on a run play. There was another play where Goedeke put Heyward on the ground in pass protection. Mostly though, the two battled and the rookie won most of the time.
This can’t be overlooked. Heyward has made five consecutive Pro Bowls, so for Goedeke to get the better of him consistently is a big deal. It should make everyone excited for the future of this young guard.
A Bigger Buccaneers Problem?
It was smart of the Steelers coaching staff to consistently put their best player over the Buccaneers weakest link. It is a natural counter move to give that player as much help as possible, right? Well, maybe not.
Goedeke was matched up vs Heyward one on one in passing situations eighteen times in this game. That’s no chip from the running back and no other offensive lineman attempting to help out. That’s eighteen times a rookie went heads up with an All Pro to protect his forty five year old quarterback.
This doesn’t even include rushing attempts, where Goedeke saw Heyward several times as well. Now I understand that this is a professional league and every man has a job to do, but to leave any rookie on an island consistently against one of the best players in the league is nothing short of bad planning.
Goedeke had his share of struggles in this game and there’s no way to sugarcoat that. His issues came from poor technique and cost the Bucs points. Honestly, it just wasn’t good enough.
However, that wasn’t all his fault. Goedeke was consistently asked to block one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL with absolutely no help. Most of the time he did a good job, despite just more than a handful of ugly plays.
It is likely that opponents will continue to put their best defensive lineman against Goedeke until something changes. It is up to the coaching staff to continue to develop this rookie as he adjusts to a new position. This can and should involve giving him more help.
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