Word of Muth
Dive into the details of offensive line play with a former all-PAC-10 left tackle

Word of Muth: Gosder Goes Down

Word of Muth: Gosder Goes Down
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Ben Muth

Sunday had the potential to be a big night for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They were riding a five-game winning streak. They had been flexed into a rare Sunday Night Football appearance. And best of all, they were in the driver's seat to gain one of the NFC's wild-card spots. Unfortunately, they fell to the Dallas Cowboys, which knocked a little air out of their sails. The good news is they still control their own destiny in the playoff race, even if they lost a little room for error.

As I was re-watching Sunday's game, I didn't think the Bucs offensive line played very well through three quarters. They weren't terrible, but they just weren't winning enough up front to create any kind of consistent offense for the team.

Then I got to the fourth quarter, and the wheels just absolutely fell off. The Bucs had five drives in the quarter and failed to pick up a first down until the fifth and final of those drives -- when they only picked up one.

The issues were really highlighted by Tampa's total ineffectiveness on first down in the fourth quarter. Tampa's first four drives started sack, 3-yard run, run for a 1-yard loss, and sack. It's hard to drive the ball with those kinds of first-down outcomes. So this week we'll go back and look at each play individually.

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This is a total disaster of a play on a couple of levels. First, Gosder Cherilus (the right tackle, 78) gets absolutely abused. Cherilus was filling in for for an injured Demar Dotson, and he ranged from not very good to downright embarrassing. This is

the latter. Cherilus has looked bad as an extra blocker in six-lineman sets this year, so it's not surprising he got whipped on Sunday. Dallas' David Irving (95) should send Cherilus a Christmas present for making him a household a name. There's not much to say about this, except that you have to play with some kind of balance and base. Cherilus did not (or, more likely and definitely worse, could not).

Cherilus gave up the sack, but two other Tampa linemen were also beat. Donovan Smith at left tackle (76) gets bull-rushed right into Jameis Winston's lap. Look at how wide he loops his arms before attempting to punch. He gives up his chest and the defensive end (Benson Mayowa, 93) takes it, all the way into where Winston would have been throwing if he wasn't already being hit by the opposite end.

At right guard, Ali Marpet (74) is also on the verge of being beaten when Irving comes crashing into the picture and expedites the process. In Marpet's defense, that's a HELLUVA move by Maliek Collins (96). That hard jab inside, get up the field wide, and quick spin inside is as nasty and as explosive of a pass rush move I've seen from a defensive tackle all year.

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This was the best of the first-down plays, particularly when you consider this was on a first-and-5 after an offside penalty. Still, it says something when your best first-down play is a 3-yard gain on an inside run where no one even tries to block the Mike linebacker (Sean Lee, 50). I don't know who messed up here, but it looks like the right guard (Marpet) and center (Joe Hawley, 68) think the left guard (Kevin Pamphile, 64) and left tackle (Smith) are working towards Lee, while Pamphile and Smith are actually working to Justin Durant (56) (and they do a great job of it too). I didn't hear the calls up front, and I wasn't in the game plan meetings, but I can't imagine leaving Sean Lee unblocked was how this was drawn up.

Then again, considering how often Tampa Bay failed to block Lee in the run game, maybe it was part of the game plan.

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These were a couple of plays from the second quarter where Tampa at least had somebody trying to block Lee. On the first play, they actually have two combinations working to him. The left tackle and tight end (Cameron Brate, 84, who is not much of a blocker) should have been able to pick him up, but Brate doesn't ever come off the defensive end (Ryan Davis, 75) when Smith tries to push him to the second level.

In the next GIF, Marpet whiffs on the second level. He comes up to the second level with plenty of time, but overruns Lee, who comes underneath to make the play. It was a rough game for Tampa's offensive line and Lee was a big part of it. It was also probably as poor as I've seen Marpet play all season.

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Back to the fourth quarter: this is the one that really has to sting Dirk Koetter. The starting five offensive linemen do a good job of blocking most of the Dallas front seven. The Bucs just need the backside tight end (Leonard Wester, 66, on the right side of the screen) to not get beaten by the backside defensive end (Mayowa, 93) too badly -- a stalemate will mean a nice gain. The Bucs knew that backside cutoff could be the key to the play, so they brought in a sixth lineman to make it happen.

Unfortunately for Tampa, their sixth lineman (whether it be Cherilus before Sunday or Wester here) has been awful all year. Wester fails to get inside leverage, gets physically overwhelmed, and winds up watching his man make a tackle for loss. It was probably an illegal hands to the face by the defensive lineman, but that never gets called on running plays, and if you're an offensive lineman who gets to play tight end, you don't get to make excuses for missing blocks like this. I can't imagine how frustrating it is for a coaching staff to put in a specific personnel package for a play and have it totally fail to do what it was designed to.

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And we end it where it began. If Cherilus had played any worse in the fourth quarter, Ryan Grigson would have offered him another big free agent deal. Here, he's trying to take an aggressive set on a wide rusher. If you want to know what this type of pass set is supposed to look like, just look at Smith on the left side. Smith takes an initial pass set, then attacks the edge rusher, taking the action to him. He closes the space quickly and delivers a strong punch before the defender can throw any kind of pass-rush move. He completely stones the rusher.

Then there's Cherilus at right tackle, It looks startlingly similar to the sack at the top of the article. Cherilus just doesn't seem to play with any power or balance. All the technique in the world isn't going to make up for that. And there really just isn't much to say. Regular right tackle Demar Dotson is still in the concussion protocol, and if he can't go Sunday it will be interesting to see if Cherilus gets another chance.


2 comments, Last at 25 Dec 2016, 10:00am

1 Re: Word of Muth: Gosder Goes Down

I don't believe TB controls its own destiny for a playoff berth. If ATL wins its last two games (to finish 11-5 and win the NFC South outright), GB wins its last two (to finish 10-6), NYG wins Week 17 against WAS (to finish 11-5), and DET beats DAL (to finish 10-6), GB wins the NFC North based on a head-to-head sweep of DET. To determine the 6th seed between DET and TB, they did not face each other and would both have an 8-4 conference record. DET then gets the spot based on a better record against common opponents (DET 4-1, TB 3-2).