Sunday, November 19, 2017
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs' 'heavy'' offensive package weighs on defenses

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TAMPA — For Bucs fans, it is a familiar refrain, announced by game officials before so many offensive plays this season: "No. 64, reporting as an eligible receiver."

And for an offense always looking to establish the run, it means backup lineman Kevin Pamphile is in the game as a sixth offensive lineman — a "jumbo" 315-pound tight end as part of the "heavy" package the team has run 106 times, to strong success.

"We like to get the run game going with the heavy package," said Pamphile, a second-year pro who has been an injury replacement with starts at tackle and guard. "It's a good feeling to know the coaches trust me to be out there and get the run game going. It's a great opportunity to get out there and help the team win."

Led by Doug Martin, the Bucs have the NFL's No. 2 rushing offense, averaging 142.2 yards per game. A six-man line shows the offense's confidence, daring even stout run defenses to stop the ground game.

"Our mind-set as an offensive line is 'We're going to run the ball. Stop us,' " rookie guard Ali Marpet said. "I think the jumbo is part of that mentality."

The extra lineman can also help in pass protection and, as Martin points out, "the more blockers, the better."

Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said the heavy package often causes defenses to "calm down" with less blitzing, especially because Tampa Bay often passes out of the formation, making it harder to anticipate a play call.

"It usually forces the defense to balance up and calm down," Koetter said. "Most defenses aren't going out there and fitting all their blitzes when you have three tight ends or an extra lineman. They're running some more basic stuff."

On the second play of Sunday's win at Philadelphia, the Bucs came out with an eight-man line, with Pamphile and two other tight ends flanking the five regular linemen. With the defense drawn in, quarterback Jameis Winston threw out of the package, hitting tight end Cameron Brate for 16 yards.

That drive ended with Pamphile one of two tight ends on the right side as Winston looked left and found receiver Mike Evans in single coverage for a 4-yard touchdown, the first of five he threw on the day.

On third and 1 in the second quarter, the Bucs again brought in Pamphile as a second tight end on the right side, then pitched wide left to Martin, who broke through for a 58-yard gain.

"Dirk's done a great job of mixing up those looks, making us multifaceted and not just a one-trick pony kind of deal," said Evan Smith, who has started at center and guard this season. "You really have to tip your hat to him, finding multiple ways to use the package. We have multiple plays and formation every week for the package. It's a really fun package to have."

Rules require Pamphile to report to officials as an eligible receiver, though the Bucs haven't thrown to him. On Sunday, the Chiefs' 346-pound nose tackle, Dontari Poe, scored on a 1-yard run — the heaviest player ever to score an offensive touchdown in the NFL. Pamphile, who played basketball at Miami Central High, has lobbied to get more actively involved in the passing game.

"I'm still waiting on that," he joked. "I've put a request in multiple times each week: 'Hey, even if it's a little route in the flat, something.' I'm ready. It's in the process for approval."

Contact Greg Auman at [email protected] and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.

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