Insider: Bucs Must Define Offensive Identity Out of Bye Week

Following the offseason signing of the road-grading Carl Nicks, thought by many to be the best offensive lineman available in free
agency, it seemed the Bucs were set up with one of the best offensive lines in the NFL.   Doug Martin and LeGarrette Blount were ready
to pace the Bucs offense for breakout season on the ground.  This was finally to be the ground game Bucs fans had hoped for.

Funny how things can take a different turn than expected.

After four games, the Bucs running game has been stagnant at best, currently sitting in twenty-third place in the league with only 91 yards per game.  A 3.6 yards per carry average is good for twenty-fifth best.   Not exactly fitting with the mantra of a physical, running team that Greg Schiano has preached since the spring.

And what exactly is the identity of this offense?  A running team?  Hardly, at least so far.  A passing team?  Only three teams have averaged fewer yards passing per game than the Bucs. The team ranked dead last in third down conversion percentage following the Washington loss, and one doesn’t have to look past a 54.6 completion percentage by Josh Freeman to figure out why.

There are certainly some reasons for the struggles.  The devastating knee injury to Davin Joseph against New England in the preseason left the Bucs with a sudden mess on the right side of their line.  Ted Larsen, while experienced, is a fraction of the player of the ilk of Joseph.  Jeremy Trueblood also lost his starting right tackle spot to Demar Dotson.  To make matters more complicated (or bizarre) the six-foot-eight Trueblood is getting starting reps this week in practice at right guard, ahead of Larsen.

Heck, even the roles of the ballcarriers are uncertain at this point.  After being a non-factor in the first few games, LeGarrette Blount saw his workload increase near the goal line, finishing with six carries, including a two-yard touchdown run, against the Redskins.

After a week off, the Bucs must find offensive solutions quickly, starting this week against the Chiefs. That should start on the ground.  Kansas City has been accommodating to opposing rushing attacks so far this season, allowing 4.4 yards per carry and 121 yards per game.  RDE Glenn Dorsey has missed the first two days of practice with a calf injury and is iffy for Sunday, so the Bucs could be looking at a plus matchup on the left side of their offensive line behind Carl Nicks and Donald Penn, even with LB Tamba Hali lurking.