Entering the season, Tampa Bay was in a unique predicament. Which running back would they start – the proven 1,000-yard back or the first round draft pick who Tampa Bay moved back into the opening round to grab?
The rookie Doug Martin won the starting job in preseason, but after three games, head coach Greg Schiano said he would give the third-year veteran LeGarrette Blount more carries.
Against Washington, neither was successful on the ground. Martin finished the game with eight attempts for 33 yards and Blount with 17 yards on six attempts. One of the biggest deficiencies that led to the dismal production was run blocking. During the week leading into the bye the Bucs began to toy with the right guard spot, which was being occupied by Ted Larsen in the absence of Davin Joseph.
The initial assumption was former right tackle Jeremy Trueblood, who lost his starting role to Demar Dotson earlier in the season, would slide over to the guard spot. But as first reported by Pewter Report Saturday, Jamon Meredith would be Sunday’s actual starter, not Trueblood.
From first look, Meredith played well – adding a nice element of run blocking to the right side and did not commit a penalty.
Meredith, who is on his sixth team in four seasons, spoke during open locker room Monday about switching from tackle to guard in a short amount of time.
“You would like to get more time but sometimes when your number’s called, your number’s called;” Meredith said, “You have to step in there and be ready to go. Thankfully, I’m versatile. The good Lord blessed me with the tools to be able to move around so I was able to do that.”
Not only did Meredith move around, he helped move Kansas City’s defensive front backwards, paving the way for Martin and Blount to combine for 134 yards on 20 carries.
Blount gave all of the credit for the successful ground attack to the big men up front.
“It was definitely the offensive line.” Blount said. “They had Doug (Martin) breaking long runs, too, so it was definitely the offensive line. They got their line moving and that puts guys three, four five yards off the line of scrimmage so that even if we do get tackled at the line of scrimmage it’s going to be a five-yard gain anyway. And in the secondary, you saw a lot of guys down the field blocking. It was definitely all them, more credit to them than anybody.”
One of the Bucs’ biggest signing in the offseason was All-Pro left guard Carl Nicks. Nicks made two consecutive Pro Bowls while a member of his former team New Orleans due to his blocking and pass protection abilities.
Nicks returned the compliment to the Buccaneer backfield and acknowledged that the offensive line blocking was effective against the Chiefs.
“It was good to finally get some big runs, both of them.” Nicks said. “They deserve a lot of credit because they did ball.
“Him (Blount) and Doug (Martin) did a phenomenal job running that ball. Doug catching the ball and hitting the wholes and being decisive - us making the holes. So it was great fun to see them both do good.”
Although Meredith has played virtually everywhere on the line except for center, he has been utilized primarily as a back-up tackle. Meredith explained Monday that chemistry wasn’t an issue to his transition, but there are definitely some differences between the two positions.
“The right tackle (Demar Dotson) is one of my best friends on the team, so chemistry isn’t a problem. It’s different terminology inside, it’s different technique inside. It’s a different animal in there; the guys are a little bigger, a little stronger. Outside you have more of the faster, quicker guys but inside you have more of the stronger, more power rushing guys. If you’re able to block both of them, if you’re able to be versatile on the offensive line you really have to be – just as a backup offensive lineman, you have to be able to play in more than one spot.”
Schiano has believed in having versatile players on the roster for situations where one is needed to step in for a starter, or in Meredith’s case replacing a replacement.
Despite the Chiefs not being as formidable as an opponent as New Orleans will be this week, getting Meredith time at right guard was important moving forward.
Especially since Nicks told the media Monday what the Bucs need to do to beat the Saints Sunday.
“You got to run the ball to keep Drew (Brees) off the field.”