In the aftermath of Sunday’s 27-20 loss to the Detroit Lions, debates on what went wrong were discussed on the radio, around the water cooler at the office, and even within the halls at One Buccaneer Place. Of all the glaring flaws in the game, the inability to establish any type of running attack stood out the most.
After rushing for 2,001 yards last season and averaging 4.6 yards per carry, Tampa Bay started the 2011 campaign off with only 56 yards, including a 15-yard scamper by Josh Freeman who was the team’s leading rusher with 26 yards on four carries. The frightening trend of the quarterback being the leading rusher for the Buccaneers started in Week 1 of the preseason.
Tampa Bay’s offensive line knows this must be corrected for the Buccaneers to have any success this season. Offensive tackle Jeremy Trueblood talked with PewterReport.com about his thoughts on what the issues have been. Trueblood doesn’t think the Buccaneers are that far away from turning things around.
“There is nothing there big to change, “ Trueblood said. “It’s all small things. It’s not like we have to change our philosophy or anything. We just have to go out there and do what we can do. Not play timid. Just go out there and do what we do everyday in practice. We need to do it right away and not ease our way into it.”
Of all the units on a football team the offense line is probably the group most affected by a single break down that can disrupt an entire play. Trueblood agreed and says that has been part of the lack of success.
“Most of the time we have a whole general plan us five have to accomplish. If one guy fails that is going to create a chink like in a chain. If one guy breaks down then that's a hole [opened for the defense]. That’s why everyone has to use good footwork [and] technique. There's so much that goes into it. But basically we all need to be successful for the play to work."
Much has been made about the change in offensive line coaches during the offseason. Pete Mangurian, who was brought in by original offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski, was let go after the 2010 season and former Vikings coach Pat Morris was hired. Trueblood says that isn’t an excuse for the offensive lines failures.
“The offense hasn’t changed, this is still Greg Olson’s offense,” Trueblood said. “It’s not like there's whole lot of difference. There might be a few minor things. We have changed a little terminology. Pat [Morris] and Pete [Mangurian] are two different types of guys; there is no question about it. But it’s not like a whole blocking-scheme change. So it’s not really a big difference.”
Tampa Bay’s starting right guard Davin Joseph, who lines up next to Trueblood, agreed with the comments of his teammate.
“We have to get better with the small things, the little things,” Joseph said. “That’s where not having the OTAs maybe hurt us a little. But we just have to play at a high level every snap. And some of those snaps we had out there, we weren’t playing to our level of expectations.”
During Monday’s press conferences, Greg Olson commented that the offense needs to play with a little more swagger during games.
“There was just a different feeling on the sideline a little bit,” Olson said. “I come back to the swagger. There’s no reason for this team to blink. You guys are a good football team. Believe that is what our message is too our football players. You’re a 10-6 football team. You won a lot of big football games last year. You’re playing against a good football team in the Lions, but you’re a good team yourself. There’s no reason for anybody on this team to blink and feel like, ‘Oh, no.’ We’ll be fine. Settle down, take a deep breath and play football."
When the comment was relayed, Joseph hesitated a few seconds before agreeing somewhat.
“I agree with him in that we could have played at a higher level,” Joseph said. “I believe sometimes we let the pace of the game dictate how we play. We get caught up in feeling like we're not in rhythm. You tend to just go with the flow. I think it's going to come with practice. We just need more quality time together. When the lights come on we definitely need to play at a higher level and we are working on it.”