Game plan hindered
When Dave Canales arrived in Tampa to take over as offensive coordinator, he had a plan for the direction of the Bucs’ offense—a heavy dose of running the football combined with shorter-range passing with the quarterback on the move. Having Baker Mayfield on the move would help with the pressure opposing defenses would surely bring. It would allow an offensive line that is not where the team would like it to be. The Bucs, over the team’s history, have somewhat ignored the offensive line with its first-round selections. To be fair, many teams have. Then there are teams that have invested more in the very early rounds in offensive linemen. The Giants are one that comes to mind, providing running room for Saquon Barkley. The Eagles are another team that has invested in the offensive line in the first three rounds of the last few drafts. I brought the Eagles up to prove a point. In the Monday Night game with the Eagles, they ran the ball 40 times versus the Bucs rushing 17 times. While the Bucs played from behind most of the night, their number of 17 is more understandable. Make no mistake about it. If they had been having success in the run game, being behind or not. The team’s rushing attempts would have been higher. From memory, the Bucs haven’t had an offensive line that excelled at run blocking in recent history. They have definitely been much more adapted to pass blocking. This fact doesn’t bode well for the type of offense that Canales has installed. It’s a well-known fact that the Bucs finished last in rushing in 2022. This season, the Bucs were going to make running the ball a higher priority. While it’s been just three weeks into the schedule, let’s check the numbers. Through three games last season, the Bucs rushed the football 78 times. After three this year, that number is 66. The 2022 numbers coming while operating under the “Biscuit” offensive philosophy. In my opinion, this shows that it really doesn’t matter what it is that you state you’re going to do. If you do not have the personnel to pull it off, it ain’t happening.
Probably a little of both, and only then
The offensive line is not considered to be special in any way when it comes to run blocking. The Bucs’ stable of running backs must share some of that blame for the lack of rushing production. A very good running back can, at times, often create more rushing yards than an average back playing behind the same line. The Bucs don’t have a back like that, and even if they did, bringing in linemen who excel at run blocking should be a priority moving forward. While it is still early in the 2023 season, I do not believe the Bucs running game will have much different results moving forward. Only if Sean Tucker got the chance and blew up would anything change, and that seems unlikely. Until the Bucs’ running game becomes a true threat, only then will Canales’s offense reach its peak and perform as it was intended. Expect the better defensive teams that the Bucs play to really pin their ears back and go after Baker Mayfield more and more as the season progresses. Rachaad White isn’t a bad running back. If he had a better run-blocking line ahead of him, he could probably be the threat the Bucs need. He’s not going to be able to be that guy in spite of the line; he’s just not that kind of talent, few are. He will have his moments, as all good backs will, but that won’t be enough. The Bucs will find it tough to beat good teams this season. The talent is there, for sure, and Baker Mayfield has, so far, not been the main cause of defeat in the one loss. So finding success against better teams is possible; sadly I don’t find it likely on a consistent basis. Here’s to hoping I’m wrong about that. Go Bucs!!