Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott’s leap into a giant Salvation Army Red Kettle is the most replayed moment from last week’s 26-20 loss on Sunday Night Football.
A close second, however, might be the small collection of highlights turned in by second-year defensive end David Irving. The little-known Cowboy terrorized the Bucs backfield in the second half and made life miserable for backup right tackle Gosder Cherilus – again and again.
Bucs tackle Demar Dotson – Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire
Blame for Tampa Bay’s poor performance along the offensive line can get passed down from left tackle to right and everywhere between, but it was definitely Cherilus who has caught the bulk of it. A day after the game head coach Dirk Koetter revealed that the ninth-year veteran got hurt during the game and tried to play through it. ‘A’ for effort, but still an ‘F’ for execution.
Rookie Leonard Wester gave it a go at right tackle when Koetter finally yanked Cherilus late and the results weren’t much better. “Nobody on offense performed very good in that situation,” Koetter said on Tuesday. “So, Leonard was one of 11 that didn’t perform very well.”
Cherilus was in at right tackle for the second consecutive game because starter Demar Dotson continues to suffer from the aftereffects of a concussion. With Cherilus landing on this week’s injury report with injuries to his groin and ankle and Dotson still in the NFL’s concussion protocol, Koetter and the offensive staff have some decisions to make. When asked Thursday who may be getting the start at right tackle Saturday in New Orleans, Koetter said that’s to be determined.
“There’s a lot of things in consideration,” Koetter said to a reporter’s question about the possibility of starting left guard Kevin Pamphile and backup Evan Smith factoring into the decision. “I can’t tell you, but we’re going to show up and be ready to play, I will tell you that.”
Pamphile does have experience at tackle, but has made a successful transition to starting on the interior this season. He’s started 12 of 14 games, missing Weeks 10 and 11 because of a concussion.
If Dotson still can’t play – he did not practice Thursday after being a limited participant Wednesday – and Cherilus’ injuries also keep him sidelined, the Bucs would be left with three options on its current active roster. Those are Evan Smith, Wester and rookie Caleb Benenoch.
Whatever combination Koetter goes with it’ll have to perform better than the offensive line’s collective effort in Dallas. Quarterback Jameis Winston got sacked four times and hit on five other occasions, and the Bucs’ inability to run the football continues to stifle the offense’s potential. After turning 20 rushing attempts into just 52 yards, Tampa Bay’s run game dropped to 21st in the NFL (101.1 yards per game). The Bucs’ 3.5-yard-per-attempt average is fourth-worst in the league.