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The Test: Tampa Bay’s poor offensive line opens up opportunities for Redskins

The Test asks two Post specialists to take unique looks at a Redskins issue leading up to each game. Neil Greenberg of our Fancy Stats blog runs the numbers; Separately, Mark Bullock gives it the eye test. 

Neil Greenbergs take:
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’s 1-8 start is surprising to a lot of people, especially after they were so active in free agency. But they just have not been able to get it together offensively this season.

The Bucs only score 1.7 points per drive, eighth lowest in the league, and rank in the bottom third for almost every significant offensive metric there is.

According to the game charters at Pro Football Focus, Tampa Bay has the seventh-worst pass-blocking unit in the league, which helps explain their struggles. Here is what the ratings look like when the Buccaneers look to throw the ball against Washington.

Left tackle, arguably the most important position on the offensive line, has been terrible for Tampa Bay. Anthony Collins, Kevin Pamphile and Oniel Cousins have allowed a combined four sacks, 12 hits and 21 hurries and each has received a negative grade from Pro Football Focus. In fact, the only offensive lineman to have a positive PFF rating for their pass blocking is right tackle Demar Dotson (5.4) and right guard Patrick Omameh (2.6). No one else asked to protect the quarterback, including all three tight ends, is on the plus side.

Mark Bullock’s take:
The Buccaneers’s offense has struggled to maintain much production throughout their 1-8 season. They have weapons like wide receiver Vincent Jackson, running back Doug Martin and rookie wideout Mike Evans that, on paper, should pose strong threats to a defense. But Tampa Bay has had inconsistent play at quarterback from Josh McCown and Mike Glennon, while their offensive line has been as bad as any in the league. It’s the latter that has really hurt them.

This is a standard run to the right.

Before the running back even receives the handoff, the tight end has been pushed back off the line of scrimmage, while the left guard missed the cut block on the defensive tackle.

With the tight end driven back, the runner is forced to cut back inside. But the defensive tackle is right there after dodging the cut block, while the left tackle never reaches the weak-side linebacker either.

With so many players inside unblocked, the runner is forced to try and cut back outside.

The Falcons defense rallies to the ball and the runner has nowhere to go, losing five yards.

But it’s not just run blocking they’ve struggled with. They’ve been poor in pass protection too. Both starting tackles, Collins and Dotson have struggled with edge rushers, and both have missed time with injuries. Pamphile, a backup tackle and rookie, has been forced into more playing time than he’s ready for.

Pamphile filled in for Dotson at right tackle late in the game against the Falcons. Tampa Bay was trying to make a late drive to keep the game alive. Kroy Biermann lined up opposite him and ran the arc around the edge.

Pamphile shows his hands to Biermann, trying to slow down the rush.

Biermann bats down Pamphile’s hands with ease and turns the corner.

Biermann makes it past Pamphile with ease and sacks McCown before he can even think about checking the ball down.

Both Collins and Dotson have been limited in practice so far this week, meaning Pamphile might see significant time against the Redskins. This poor offensive line makes me believe the Redskins will probably use a game plan similar to the one they used against the Vikings, trusting a four-man rush to get pressure against this offensive line.

Another reason I can see the Redskins playing conservatively is Tampa’s tendency to rely on screens and draws. With poor running on first and second down, they are often left in third-and-long situations. Instead of trusting their protection to hold up while deeper routes develop, they’ll run screens and draws. If a defense gets caught with a screen while trying to blitz, it can get burned, like it did here against the Browns.

The Browns called for an inside linebacker cross blitz.

The running back sells the fake to block as the linebacker blitzes, but then slips out into the flat.

The back goes unnoticed in the flat, allowing McCown to dump the ball off before the blitz arrives.

Tampa Bay gets two offensive lineman out in space with the back, who has plenty of room to work with.

The Buccaneers pick up 32 yards on this screen pass. If the Browns hadn’t blitzed, or if they’d played zone coverage, they are probably able to make the tackle for a five-yard gain and get off the field. The threat of these screens, combined with the ability to get pressure with just four rushers against this poor offensive line, leads me to believe we won’t see the heavy-blitzing game plan from Haslett. But it will be interesting to see exactly how the Redskins go about defending this offense.

Neil Greenberg runs Fancy Stats, where numbers meet news. Mark Bullock is The Insider’s Outsider, sharing his impressions without the benefit of access to the team. He also posts here.

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