Welcome to The Hook, my weekly column that hooks you into a different Tampa Bay Buccaneers topic each Thursday, as well as some of my thoughts on the Bucs and the NFL at the end in a section called Cannon Blast.

I invite you to offer me some feedback on The Hook below in the article comments section.

Earlier this month in the PewterReport.com Roundtable, we debated who the Bucs 2020 unsung hero was after the season’s first quarter. I got my selection in a little late and my other choices were taken, so I went with punter Bradley Pinion. Look, punters get no love, so why not?

But whether it was in the first month of the season or now six games into it, guard Ali Marpet is my real pick for the unsung hero of the 2020 Buccaneers.

Wait, you might be saying to yourself, I have heard virtually nothing about Marpet this season. 

And that is exactly the reason Marpet has been the most dependable and the best member of the Bucs offense so far this year.

The only time you normally hear an offensive lineman’s name is because they screwed up.

Bucs LG Ali Marpet

Bucs LG Ali Marpet – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

So far this year Marpet has committed exactly zero penalties. That matches the same number of sacks he’s allowed through six games – zero.

Sometimes you can even forget he is on the football field. For an an offensive lineman, that is a good thing.

Offensive linemen have the toughest job in the NFL. As I have noted multiple times, other than the quarterback, they are the only position that doesn’t get to come out of the game if they get tired. You don’t see an offensive lineman tapping their helmets after plays to signal the coaching staff that they need a breather.

Most have to be dragged off the field kicking and screaming. I’d like to see someone try and take Marpet out of the game  – unless the bone is sticking out of the thigh – and even then, he would probably tell the training staff to tape it up and get him back in there.

There isn’t a tougher unit on a football team, and Marpet is one of the toughest in red and pewter.

Marpet has been around since being drafted in 2015 and is tired of losing.

“I think that’s fair to say. I think a lot of guys really want to turn this thing around and are willing to do whatever that takes and that means doing stuff that may be different than how we’ve done things in the past, including veterans and how we prepare and how they approach each week,” Marpet said earlier this month. “I’d also say that it shouldn’t have taken us that long to get pissed off, which is kind of frustrating in its own way, but I think that it’s all another level now that going to help us.”

Is this the year Marpet gets his first taste of the postseason?

If his play has anything to do with it, then the answer is yes.

As mentioned, Marpet hasn’t allowed a sack or been called for a penalty so far this season.

• Per PFF, Marpet is 8th among all offensive linemen and 3rd among guards with an offensive grade of 88.2.

• He’s 14th among offensive linemen and 5th among guards with a pass blocking grade of 84.7.
• He’s 16th among offensive linemen and 5th among guards with a run blocking grade of 83.6
• He’s allowed zero sacks, five pressures and has committed zero penalties in 2020
• His PFF seasonal grades by year: (offensive grade/pass block/run block)
2015: 75.8 / 64.8 / 79.6
2016: 82.7 / 78.5 / 82.9
2017: 81.5 / 73.9 / 86.3
2018: 75.9 / 79.9 / 70.2
2019: 72.3 / 80.6 / 65.2

2020: 88.2/ 84.7 / 83.6

As you can see, Marpet is doing his part.

Since coming into the league in 2015 Marpet has seen 32 wins. But it is the 48 losses he’s sick of.

Ali Marpet – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

“I think everybody wants to go to that playoffs,” Marpet said. “There’s no question that Jameis [Winston], Donovan [Smith], and I when we got here were like ‘We’re going to the playoffs.’ I think what young guys don’t understand, it’s not the desire, it’s they don’t understand, and apparently I don’t understand what it takes to get there, how challenging it is to get there. It’s not college where you can just stack a couple of wins because you’re better than everybody, you need to be detailed and very consistent in this league to have success and make the playoffs.”

2020 has been a strange year. Crazy things have happened – things we would have laughed or cried if someone told us they would be happening a year ago at this time.

I mean, Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski are Buccaneers. Don’t tell me last October when the Buccaneers were 2-5, that any of you had that penciled in for the future. If so, let me get with you on the Powerball numbers for Saturday night’s drawing.

So maybe the crazy and unlikely will continue in 2020.

Crazy as in the Buccaneers ending a 12-season playoff drought. Unlikely as in the Buccaneers being the first team to play in a Super Bowl in their home stadium.

Who knows?

But if the crazy and unlikely do happen, you can point to the play of Marpet as one of the reasons it occurs.

The longer we go without hearing his name, the better the Bucs record will be and don’t be surprised to see Marpet named to his first Pro Bowl.

It’s 2020, let’s all hang on and see where the ride takes us. And if I’m riding with anyone on the Bucs roster, I’m riding with No. 74, the best Bucs offensive player and one of the best guards in the entire NFL.

Cannon Blast

Table of Contents

• Scott Reynolds broke the news that Jon Gruden was planning a return to coaching back in July of 2017. And when the Bucs struggled down the stretch the rumor mill was heating up that Gruden may be coming back to Tampa Bay to succeed Dirk Koetter. But Gruden called an audible and ended up being signed by the then Oakland Raiders. 10 years and $100 million guaranteed will do that to most of us.

Bucs DT Chris Baker, former HC Jon Gruden and GM Jason Licht - Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR

Bucs DT Chris Baker, former HC Jon Gruden and GM Jason Licht – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR

Gruden went to Oakland, Koetter survived one more season and now here we are three seasons later and Chucky will coach his former team against another of his former teams for the first time this Sunday night in front of a national television audience.

So who has gotten the best deal from the Gruden sweepstakes? Right now it is a draw. The Bucs feel pretty good about ending up with Bruce Arians and Tom Brady. And Mark Davis and the Raiders think they might have something special with Gruden, a new home, and wins over the Saints and Chiefs this season.

Sunday’s game won’t answer the question, but will at least give the winning franchise bragging rights until one of the two teams reaches the playoffs.

• Besides being a darn good football player, Marpet was a heck of a sport as a guest on my cooking show – where we never cooked – What’s Cooking. This was one of my favorite episodes we did that year. And watch for guest appearances from GM Jason Licht, Beau Allen, Jameis Winston and O.J. Howard.

• The Buccaneers added some defensive line reinforcements on Sunday, trading for former Jets captain and defensive tackle Steve McLendon. Think he was happy about coming to Tampa Bay? According to reports, McLendon didn’t even fly back to New York from Miami where the Jets were shutout by the Dolphins on Sunday afternoon. Instead he jumped in a car and drove the 4.5 hours to Tampa.

Bucs DT Steve McLendon

Bucs DT Steve McLendon – Photo
by: Getty Images

I’m not sure if his enthusiasm is more about going from a winless Jets team to a payoff contender with the Bucs or if he is excited to be reunited with his former head coach Todd Bowles in Tampa. Regardless, that’s a guy who feels like he won the football lottery.


Last Laugh

• I love the TV show The Office (the BBC version superior, yeah I said it) so any opportunity to share an Office meme or video pertaining to the NFL, I am going to. This one really sums up the NFC East and how bad the division is as a whole.

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About the Author: Mark Cook

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 mark@pewterreport.com
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Greg Abdul
9 months ago

Can’t put my finger on it and I don’t want to sound like I am on a bandwagon but thanks for giving props to Ali. He has been one of my favorite players since the Bucs drafted him. He was a great pick I thought. I believe your draft is really about picks 2, 3 and 4. That year the Bucs had the first pick and it had to be Jamies or Mariota. Most first rounders in the bottom half are sort of no brainers. And the back end usually produces backups or special teamers. When you get a guy… Read more »

Last edited 9 months ago by Greg Abdul
9 months ago

Hear here to Marpet! Guys a beast! Hopefully these national televised games/wins will give Marpet, David, the recognition as being top 3 players at their respective positions. Lunch pail type of guys. Always putting in the time/work to perfect their craft. Good guys too! Can’t overstate that quality in these players. Nice to hear people finally talking about them… in Tampa, we been seeing it with our own eyes for a few years now.

9 months ago

Once the offense gets insync its going to be next to impossible to stop as long as the protection holds up. That Bears game is obviously a concern, letting up the most pressure by a offensive line in two years is not exactly something that can be ignored. But in every other game they have been decent to excellent. Marpet and Wirfs are locked up through 2023. Pretty exciting building blocks for an offensive line.

9 months ago

Huge props to Ali Marpet, he’s having a great season and the numbers don’t lie. Being the 3rd best guard in the NFL is a real credit to his level of consistency and performance. However, the Bucs best player? No. A guard is not the best player on any team. Even if they are statistically the best guard in the league, there are higher value, more important players, to any teams overall performance. For the Bucs? It’s hard to look past Lavonte David. In my opinion the defense right now is setting the tone for the whole team and who… Read more »

Greg Abdul
Reply to  compewterpirate
9 months ago

Ali and Wirfs protect Brady. Brady is our ticket to the big dance, but old school guys like me see the heart of any offense as the line. The line is where everything really happens and after they do the job, which people who don’t know offensive football never see, then Brady gets to throw pretty balls to our great receivers or Rojo runs over the Packers in a blowout. If I had to start a team tomorrow and it’s Brady or Ali, I would take Ali every time.

Last edited 9 months ago by Greg Abdul