Koetter – That was our worst protection game all year
Roy Cummings, Florida Football Insiders, published 4 December 2017

Wow, what a week this has been for the Buccaneers offensive line. It was a week that started with the unit losing center Ali Marpet and right tackle Demar Dotson to injured reserve, got worse on Saturday when backup center Joe Hawley came down with the flu and paid dearly for all of it on Sunday in Green Bay.

Or maybe we should say that quarterback Jameis Winston paid dearly for it because he was the one who wound up paying the price for it during the Bucs 26-20 overtime loss. A lien that had heretofore been one of the better protection units in the league was no match for the Packers pass rush as it allowed 13 quarterback hits and seven sacks.

“Yeah, that was probably our worst protection game all year,’’ Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said afterward. “Some of that was due to things they did but there were at least two (instances) where we just flat turned guys loose.’’

The Bucs knew this was going to be a tough game for their line going in, what with Marpet and Dotson out. After all, Marpet and Dotson have been their line’s two best performers this year. But the loss of Hawley forced another major change of plans as it made them scrap their original plan to have Evan Smith play left guard and Kevin Pamphile play right tackle.

Smith and Pamphile have been splitting snaps at left guard all year so the Bucs thought that starting Smith at guard and Pamphile at right tackle would be their best bet. What they had to do instead was start Smith at center, leave Pamphile at left guard and start Caleb Benenoch at right tackle and as we noted above, the results were disastrous.

They included a premature snap from Hawley on a critical play that forced the Bucs to settle for a field goal instead of a touchdown and a couple of sacks that Benenoch allowed all on his own. There was a time earlier this year when the Bucs actually thought their offensive line was among the deepest positions on the team and the presence of Hawley, Smith and Benenoch was the reason they felt that way.

One game may not be enough to change their mind, but a game this bad should be enough to make them wonder if they’d assessed the situation correctly in the first place.