PewterReport.com began a new offseason feature this year, giving readers an opportunity to get their questions answered about the Bucs by the PR staff. Today, Mark Cook answers five questions taken from Twitter submissions and our message boards using the hashtag #PRMailbag.
Question: Should the Bucs bench Doug Martin?
Answer: This has been a huge topic of conversation overnight and into Monday all over Twitter and sports talk radio. There is no doubt this was not the season the Bucs, or Martin himself, envisioned coming into 2016. Fresh off of a standout 2015 campaign, and a new offseason contract, big things were expected for the former Boise State standout.
A hamstring injury in Arizona Week 2 set the wheels in motion – or lack of motion – for a disappointing season, and one that Martin has yet to bounce back from. However, the easy copout would be to say that Martin is playing poorly, or that as some have suggested, he has lost a step. And while Martin would most likely say he could have played better in certain instances, the fact is, he has had little cooperation from his offensive line this season. What was expected to be a strength of this team, has in fact been a factor in the overall regression of the Bucs offense in 2016. I firmly believe it if you put Martin behind the Cowboys offensive line, then he is putting up Ezekiel Elliott type numbers this season.
To me it does appear Martin is pressing a little bit at times, trying to make every run a 40-yarder instead of taking four yards. I am guessing maybe some of that is partly due to the fact he is wanting to prove he deserved the new deal he got in the offseason.
But overall, the biggest issue and problem comes from inconsistency from the offensive line. Watching the games from the coaches film on Tuesday, it appears there are breakdowns that are hurting the running game. And it isn’t just one player. It seems that all the linemen, and even the blocking tight ends, are taking turns missing blocks or using poor technique at times. Running the football is a mindset and right now the offensive line doesn’t have it. It is something the team will need to look at moving forward, particularly this offseason. Perhaps J.R. Sweezy is part of the solution moving forward.
But to answer your original question, No I do not think Martin should be benched.
Question: Let’s be honest, the OL has struggled all season. What additions and or subtraction do you see coming in the off season?
Answer: As mentioned above, if Sweezy is recovered from his back injury, there is an addition essentially for the Bucs offensive line. It is really mind blowing that the only difference between this year’s line and last years, is the absence of Logan Mankins. And while Mankins was not the old Patriots Pro Bowl guard last season, he did bring smarts and more importantly, leadership. Maybe this line is missing that. I still can’t believe though that Mankins retirement had this much effect on the offensive line.
Subtraction wise, Gosder Cherilus is in the final year of his deal, and even if he were playing at a higher level, I would suspect he would be close to retiring. The wear and tear he has suffered has caught up to the veteran, and he is feeling the bumps and bruises longer and longer following a game.
I think the Bucs will look to add some help, either via free agency or the draft, or perhaps both. Or maybe Pamphile moves outside with a possible return of Sweezy. The Bucs also like Caleb Benenoch’s potential to eventually be a starting right tackle. I’m guess we see a different starting five next season, and not necessarily new faces, but maybe current players at different spots. Evan Smith will be back in the mix and could be an upgrade for Hawley at center. No one loves Joe more than I do. His physical edge he plays with, and his nastiness is important on an offensive line, but size wise he gives up several pounds to most nose tackles in the NFL. I just don’t see the push you want from your center.
The Bucs could go back to the drawing board and it could be a do-over, everybody-is-equal competition heading into the offseason camps. I am not sure any position is completely safe, although you would have to believe Ali Marpet is fairly locked in. Or do they give him a look at center in the offseason?
Question: If Sealver Siliga was brought in for December football. Why wasn’t he in on more 1st down running plays Sunday night?
Answer: That was something I thought of as well as I saw Elliott gash the Bucs defense. Although without going back and looking at the game again yet, it seemed Elliott was running from the “B” gaps to the outside more, as opposed to up the gut. I could be wrong though. One reason could be the Cowboys were pretty balanced, if I remember right. They didn’t just run it on first and second down, then pass on third down. It seems Dak Prescott was in the shotgun a lot, and Siliga isn’t going to be much of pass rushing threat. However the interior of the line got virtually no pressure during the game, so in hindsight, just having Siliga taking up space in the middle might have changed things a little and made life easier on the ends and linebackers. That is something worth asking defensive coordinator Mike Smith this week.
Question: What happened to Mike Smith’s defense? Against a rookie quarterback at that?
Answer: That is a great question. At times it played like the second half of the season defense, but at other times it resembled the first half of the season defense. To me it appeared the defense was playing passively, not showing the same aggression from the defensive backs we have seen over the last five games. Part of the reason the Cowboys has the success they did was because of their massive and talented offensive line. It also seemed like Cowboys’ coordinate Scott Linehan was just a step ahead of the Bucs defense, keeping them off balance for most of the night. It will be interesting to get Smith’s thoughts this week when he takes to the podium. The biggest frustration to me was how simple it appeared for Prescott. The Bucs defense did a great job of stopping a savvy veteran in Drew Brees the week before, giving him some looks and eventually baiting him into some interceptions, yet I don’t remember a ball that was even close to being picked off on Sunday night.
Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, the beach and family time.Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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