Week three fully exposed the biggest issue for the Buccaneers. The interior offensive line is abysmal and the biggest liability on the field. It’s preventing the run game from getting going and causing Baker Mayfield to improvise more than desired. Here are some players that could help them improve.
Two Time Pro-Bowler
Rodger Saffold currently finds himself a free agent. This could be because of his age or that last season proved to be one of his worst. Either way, a Pro-Bowl (2021-2022) guard sitting on his couch on Sundays is an oddity. He hasn’t announced his retirement even though he’s 35 and there has been no buzz surrounding his name. Could one more year in sunny Florida be in his future?
Last season, and multiple before, Saffold has started at left guard. With 1,058 snaps under his belt in 2022 he still shows signs of being very durable. Though this is the case last seasons he allowed the most pressures of his career (36) with the exception of his rookie campaign (40). Somehow though, he still earned alternate Pro-Bowl honors last year.
Over his career he’s had some very good years. Only twice in 13 seasons has he had an overall grade or run blocking grade below 64. Could he return to his former run blocking form here in Tampa? Possibly. And at this point it may be worth bringing him in to find out.
A Long Shot And Gamble
Now hear me out. This one is risky. Looking through rosters I found a name that stood out to me. A player, that at one time I wanted the Buccaneers to draft. Former first round, 17th overall pick, Alex Leatherwood from Alabama.
He currently sits on the Browns practice squad. Initially Leatherwood was drafted to be a tackle. Unfortunately, he was performing badly and moved to right guard after only four games. This experiment also did not work well. From my perspective though that particular year in Raiders history was marred with so much turmoil and issues it’s hard to believe he got the proper coaching. By years end he was let go. Next he was signed by the horrible Bears where he played sparingly. There they attempted to put him at tackle again.
Now, sitting on the practice squad for the Browns, the Buccaneers could sign him for the minimum (he would have to be activated) and get him spun up at guard. Obviously previous years sound bad but when he was moved to guard he started to improve. Leatherwood only played tackle for four games and gave up four sacks. At guard he played 13 games and only gave up four sacks. At tackle he was averaging 1.5 hurries a game. After the move only .8.
There is talent there and he is still young. With more time to develop he could become a solid guard. Now obviously this is a long term project not an instant impact. It would also be hard to pull off as well because he would then take a spot up on the game day roster. So now would be a good time to do it with the bye coming up.
Already On The Roster
Last season one back up player left me very impressed. Coming in for Luke Goedeke, Nick Leverett played well. So it begs the question, why the front office didn’t let him come in and be the starter. In 11 games and 761 snaps last season Leverett allowed ZERO sacks. ZERO! By seasons end he had only allowed 12 pressures in total. His final PFF grades were 71 in pass blocking, and 55.8 in run blocking for an overall of 64.
Matt Feiler, the man who replaced Leverett has already allowed five hurries and the highest grade for the season is a 55.4 in pass blocking. The scary part is all his numbers are inflated after the week one performance he had. If you take away that game he would have a grade of 44.85 in pass blocking and 41.8 in run blocking. That’s horrible.
Of all these options I’m all for Leverett starting and hopefully giving this line a spark. But until something happens this team will have issues. Especially with defenses like the Saints and others coming up.