TAMPA – It’s only the preseason. You get the feeling that as he sits back in his office and watches the cut-ups detailing the play of his offensive line this preseason, Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter keeps telling himself that.
You do when you see the stat the numbers-crunchers at Pro Football Focus have come up with.
PFF is apparently hard at work trying to provide football followers everywhere with interesting statistical tidbits even in the preseason, and they appear to have discovered that so far at least, the Bucs offensive line has done a rather poor job of protecting its quarterbacks.
As you can see from the tweet below, the Bucs and Packers have so far allowed a league-high 48 quarterback pressures. That’s an average of 16 per game and it helps explain why the Bucs will go into their last preseason game having already allowed nine sacks.
Entire #49ers O-line as a unit has surrendered a league-best 15 total pressures this preseason. Bucs and Packers worst at 48.
— Sam Monson (@PFF_Sam) August 29, 2017
That’s tied for ninth most in the league and while those sacks have not all come as a result of breakdowns by the first-team offensive line, which has allowed Jameis Winston to be sacked four times, it helps explain why Koetter has been less than enthused with the play of that unit.
Koetter was asked last Sunday after the Bucs 13-9 loss to the Browns about the play of his offensive line and the pass protection in particular and while he was pleased with some elements of it, he couldn’t deny that there is a lot of room for improvement.
“We had some individual breakdowns last night,’’ Koetter said. “I thought Evan Smith did a really nice job filling in at left guard and has had a real consistent preseason. And Ali Marpet at center, you can definitely see how he make us more solid in the middle.
“But then, there’s a learning curve there, too. He had a couple of snaps that were a little bit high, that were a little tough (for the quarterback) to handle. And (left tackle) Donovan [Smith] did not play as well as he’s capable of.’’
Now, it must be said that the Bucs played their last game with a bit of a makeshift line, one that in addition to missing Kevin Pamphile at left guard was missing starting right tackle Demar Dotson as well. Still, this is an area in which Koetter believes the Bucs are at their deepest.
It hasn’t always looked that way obviously but again, it’s the preseason. Koetter strongly believes this unit soon prove to be a lot stronger now that Marpet is at center and J.R. Sweezy is at right guard, but he’s still looking for more consistency across the board.
This stat suggests the Bucs still have a ways to go before they get there, which Koetter all but confirmed last weekend after the loss to the Browns when he said in summing up the play of the offensive line, “It’s a work in progress.’’