Old school coaches will tell you football games are won and lost in the trenches.
Dallas own the NFL’s second-ranked rushing offense, averaging 152 yards on the ground a game. Much of that success, of course, has to do with rookie sensation and MVP candidate Ezekiel Elliot, who rips off nearly five yards per carry and leads all running backs with 1,392 on the season. But a great deal of credit is also awarded to the men up front blocking for the former first-round pick.
Three of five Dallas offensive linemen were first-round picks and the investments have paid off considerably.
Bucs DT Gerald McCoy – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
“I don’t think you have to say much,” Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said of the Cowboys offensive line. “I think it’s clear who they are on film, a very dominant group – probably the most dominant group. They’ve been that way for three years. This is going to be a tough one for us, but it’s going to be fun.
“I love playing and competing against the best,” McCoy said. “That’s why you work to get to the NFL. They have a great group of guys and they play well as a unit, not just individually. That’s what makes them scary.”
Individually, the Cowboys have three All Pros along their five-man front in former first-rounders Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin. As a unit, they’re one of the best offensive lines in the NFL.
Defensive coordinator Mike Smith, who said the line will be the defense’s “biggest challenge” Sunday, explained that Tampa Bay would need to match the Cowboys personnel in run situations. Dallas is even known to bring in extra down-linemen, a jumbo package, to assist its elite starters.
“It’s going to be interesting to see how the game plays out, but obviously on first- and second-down, there are certain situations by field position that they’re running the ball at a higher percentage than others,” Smith said. “We’re going to have to mix and match and have different personnel groupings to match the personnel groupings they have. They not only have a big offensive line, but they also have a big package in which they bring in extra offensive linemen to play the tight end position, so that creates challenges.”
The Bucs defensive line has not allowed a 100-yard rusher in five weeks, in addition to getting steady pressure on the quarterback. McCoy attributes the recent success to their growing chemistry, which he described as “four rushing as one.”
Sustaining that momentum this Sunday against one of the NFL’s top-flight offenses will be a tall task. Regardless of the Cowboys latest game – a 10-7 loss in New York – the Bucs are expecting to face the NFL’s fifth-ranked offense, one that won 11 straight behind a rising quarterback, explosive running back and a dominant offensive line.
“If people think that they’re going to come in Sunday and not be the same thing, then they have another think coming,” McCoy said. “We know it. That’s what we’re preparing for.
“If you need something to write about – I don’t want you to make anything up, so I’ll give you something to write about. The Bucs play the Cowboys on Sunday night. Go watch it.”
Zach is entering his 3rd year covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a writer for PewterReport.com. Since 2014, he's handled a large part of the beat reporting responsibilities at PR, attending all media gatherings and publishing and promoting content daily. Zach is a native of Sarasota, FL, and a graduate of the University of Tampa. He has also covered high school football for the Tampa Tribune and the NFL for Pro Player Insiders.
Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org