With tangible hope that the NFL lockout could be ending soon, many players are starting to look forward to free agency. Two of those players are veterans of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in right tackle Jeremy Trueblood and right guard Davin Joseph. After entering the league together and being the Bucs starting right side of the offensive line for the majority of the past five seasons, Trueblood and Joseph hope to remain together in Buccaneer pewter and red in 2011.
“That is the general plan for him and I,” said Trueblood. “We work out everyday together and sometimes we are doing even two workouts. We work out at the Athletes Compound every day, so we spend a lot of time together. We’ve had this talk many times.
“We just want the best situation for each of us individually and as a tandem. We feel that we’ve played a lot of games together and nothing is better for a tandem than experience in working together. To know what each other is going to do is something that comes only after playing with someone for five years. It’ll be awesome to keep going that way. If it doesn’t happen that way, we’ll remain close friends and all that kind of good stuff, but we’d prefer to keep playing with each other.”
After breaking into the starting lineup as a rookie to replace the injured Kenyatta Walker, Trueblood started 67 straight games. His streak was second only to cornerback Ronde Barber among active Buccaneers. The 6-foot-8, 320-pound Trueblood suffered a knee ligament strain in Week 7 last year against St. Louis and missed the next two games.
Backup James Lee performed well and offensive line coach Pete Mangurian decided not to make the change after Trueblood was healthy. Lee (6-4, 305) missed the Week 16 home victory over the Seattle Seahawks due to injury, and Trueblood returned to the starting lineup. After the season Mangurian was fired by the Buccaneers. His handling of players and his relationship with others on the coaching staff was a significant reason why.
The Bucs hired veteran offensive line coach Pat Morris, who previously worked with the Minnesota Vikings. Buccaneers offensive coordinator Greg Olson has a good relationship with Morris from previous coaching stops. Morris is said to prefer bigger more physical linemen that can play a power-man blocking scheme. Mangurian deployed the zone blocking scheme and coached more read-and-react responsibilities.
Trueblood is a better fit for Morris' scheme, which is the same style that he was drafted for under former head coach Jon Gruden. Trueblood, a Boston College product, has been an enforcer on the Bucs offensive line that has never been shy about getting overly physical in defense of his quarterback or a teammate. At times that led to Trueblood getting flagged semi-regularly with personal foul or unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. After getting that under control he had a string of false start penalties in 2009, but in 2010 Trueblood had corrected his propensity to get flagged for both of those penalties.
Trueblood, 28, and Joseph, 27, have been Tampa Bay’s best and most consistent run blockers over the past five seasons, and that has led the Bucs to having a right side-dominated rushing attack. Staying in the Bucs' power-man offense is appealing to Trueblood.
“I’ve always admired and loved playing for Coach Olson,” said Trueblood. “I think he has done a good job in seeing the kind of player he has and setting them up to succeed as much as possible. We started to do more power scheme last year towards the end. It has always been intertwined. I’ve always thought that was my strongpoint, so if we are going to do more of that, then yeah, I’d love to be a part of that. From what I hear, Pat Morris is a great coach. If I had the opportunity to play for him it would be a good thing.”
If Trueblood re-signs with Tampa Bay he expects to compete for the starting right tackle position with Lee and others. He is not looking for a starting spot to be guaranteed as part of his new contract with the Bucs or any other team.
"I don’t think anything in the NFL is ever given to you, so I don’t expect anyone to be like, 'Here, be our starter,'" said Trueblood. "You never expect any one to tell you that. You have to earn everything you get. I want to figure out the best situation for me, and I’ll go from there."
Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik tendered one-year contract offers to Trueblood and Joseph in case the 2010 rules apply where a player needed six years of experience to be an unrestricted free agent. The new collective bargaining agreement that is currently being negotiated would have the league go back to having four years of experience in order for players to become unrestricted free agents.
The Bucs have been clear that Joseph is a priority to re-sign, and retaining Trueblood will help the chances of getting Joseph under contract. Throughout the offseason, Pewter Report has heard that there are staffers that want Trueblood to return to compete with Lee for the starting right tackle position. Whoever does not win the job will provide quality depth.
The Bucs took Joseph in the first round of the 2006 NFL Draft. They followed that pick by selecting Trueblood in the second round. Trueblood and Joseph have both come under criticism over the years from fans, but that doesn’t bother the veterans.
“It would be awesome to stay down here,” said Trueblood. “I know you can’t win everybody over, so I don’t really worry about that so much. I would like to be popular, if you want to put it that way, but honestly, I’d rather just win football games. I want to be a part of a winning football team and do my job, and do my job well. And to be someone that the team can rely on.”
After playing left tackle in college, Trueblood was moved to right tackle as a professional. The duo bonded when they played together at the Senior Bowl and have aimed to play their entire careers together. The prospects of that for the next few years should be determined shortly.
In the meantime, Trueblood and Joseph will continue to work out in Tampa Bay in hopes that they will be doing the same thing in a few months once football season has started. By the sounds of it, Trueblood and Joseph have not been attending the private player workouts that have been organized by starting quarterback Josh Freeman. They also may not attend the three-day workouts next week that Freeman is trying to get the entire team to attend. Without helmets and pads the linemen are limited in what they can practice anyways.
“I’m not sure about next week. I’m not sure what Davin is thinking, we haven’t talked much about that because those things are better for seven-on-seven type guys,” said Trueblood. “There is not a whole lot of stuff that we can do as offensive and defensive linemen. I’d love to get together with the guys and see them and all that kind of good stuff. I’d love to go there if we had a d-line to go against, that’d be fun, too. But as a free agent, I’m not technically a Buc, but it’d be nice to get some teamwork in.”
With Freeman entering his prime after a breakout 2010 season, Tampa Bay has a lot to be excited about. If they re-sign Trueblood and Joseph, they could look forward to blocking for second-year running back LeGarrette Blount. Despite starting only seven games, Blount averaged five yards per carry and ran for a total of 1,007 yards.
“It would be really exciting for me,” said Trueblood. “I just think the Buccaneers are going to be a great team. I want to be a part of that. I spent five seasons there so, I’d like to think that I helped them along for the ride and I want to be there for the best part because the best is yet to come.”
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