Now is the time for the Bucs to establish the line of Scrimmage
From the earliest years, Tampa Bay head coach John McKay knew for his team to establish a running game in the NFL, he would need to have a presence on the Offensive line. That 1979 team that reached the NFC Championship team may be the best O Line unit the Bucs have ever produced; until now.
Remember, those 'worst to first' Bucs were pre-Hogs, in a day when NFL Offensive linemen rarely reached 300 pounds. Today there are some high school teams that have bigger lines than those 1979 Bucs, but times have changed, and in their day, headed by veteran RT Dave Reavis who had experience playing on Super Bowl Pittsburgh Steelers teams, and C Steve Wilson, the Bucs had their way with a lot of teams: The QB was hardly ever sacked, and the starting tailback ran for over 1,200 yards.
Fast forward to today, and you now have the makings, on paper at least, of perhaps the best O line unit since those "Hey Hey Tampa Bay" days. The key word there....is paper; and the Bucs ability to not block like its made out of it. With all respect to the now 10 year anniversary 2002 Super Bowl Squad that brought in a few over the hill veterans who panned out with some great "still a little left in the tankness", this line should be even better, but nothing is guaranteed until they play in September.
This is the time of year where you'll see "3 or 5 top questions heading into training camp for the Bucs" as a team. Well I can think of at least three main questions for the Offensive Line alone:
1) Is Jeremy Trueblood ready to dominate?
Trueblood came into the league, and the Bucs line, at the same time as Davin Joseph: 2006. Both started due to injury issues as rookies, where Joseph has established himself as a pro bowler who is ready to take the next step into realm of elite offensive linemen.
Trueblood it seems has been working his way out of puberty. The hot headed, ill-timed temper tantrum kid has cost his team in penalty yardage more than his fair share when compared to other NFL linemen, and the question remains- can he grow up, and mature into a solidifying right tackle the team needs.
2) Will Donald Penn take anything out of Paul Gruber's induction into the Ring of Honor
Put it this way, no other Buccaneer offensive lineman deserves to even be mentioned in the same sentence as "Ring of Honor" than Gruber, who was a fan favorite because year in and year out he excelled at protecting Buc QB's blind sides.
Penn is solid in his skill set, but where he faults is around the equator- his own. Named to the pro bowl in 2010 the year he signed his big six-year $43M contract, Bucs GM Mark Dominik was smart to tie in a $200,000 per season bonus plan to Penn's weekly weigh ins. He struggles with keeping his weight each year, and when he fails, it shows on the field. He must remain below 330 to receive his money, but last year he got up as high as 360 several times.
The last month of the season, which Penn is NOT required to weigh in, was not coincidentally the month he played his worst football. Of course so did the rest of the team.
3) Can Jeremy Zuttah be the center the Bucs have missed since they had a string of only 3 men play the position from 1977-1999?
Steve WIlson (76/77-84), Randy Grimes (85-90), and Tony Mayberry (91-99) dominated the line's C position for the better part of three decades. Twice that many have played the position since, but Zuttah has the versatility of having played guard and center, and has the benefit of being big and quick, something the Bucs have usually only had one feature of at the position over the last few years.
Having been a starter at Rutgers where he is familar with former Scarlet Knight's head coach Greg Schiano, could provide Zuttah with the confidence he needs to dominate at the position.
With the arrival of Free agent Carl Nicks who will start at Zuttah's old left guard position, the line now has three pro bowlers, a status that has never been said before in Bucs history about it's Offensive Line. The difference of course, is whether new OL coach Bob Bostad, a former Wisconsin OL director, can coax the unit into the potential thats expected of it.