TAMPA — At least tackle Jeremy Trueblood knows what good guard play looks like. He had the best vantage point for the past six years, lining up alongside a certain dreadlocked Pro Bowl player.
But a season-ending knee injury to guard Davin Joseph has created a gaping hole in the Bucs offensive line that even the 6-foot-8, 320-pound Trueblood may have trouble filling.
Having lost his starting right tackle job to Demar Dotson last month, Trueblood took the first repetitions at Joseph's old spot at right guard in practice Wednesday.
While coach Greg Schiano has been noncommittal about his plans for that position Sunday against Kansas City, Trueblood believes he can make the transition rather seamlessly.
"I've played a lot of years next to one of the best guards in the NFL, so I've picked up on a lot of things he's done over the years and just tried to do them," Trueblood said. "I mean, obviously I can't do it just like he does it, but just some of the little things I'm trying to do. So it's been pretty easy because of that. I mean, it's not easy. In my head it is, I've just got to translate it to my body and stuff like that. It's just a work in progress."
Will Trueblood, who hasn't played guard since he was in high school in Indiana, replace Ted Larsen, who started the past four games at right guard? Or will the plan unravel like so much tape on Trueblood's arms and fingers?
"Jeremy is a very intelligent football player who is very experienced," Schiano said. "So, I think he has a much better chance of grasping things in a short amount of time. His best buddy, Davin, has played guard next to him for a long time. Different scheme, yes, but they worked together on so many different things, I think he's got a good understanding. They all do. It's just going to be a matter of who we think the best choice is for this week."
What's the reason for the Bucs contemplating a change at right guard? They've had trouble this season running the football. Tampa Bay is ranked 23rd in rushing offense at 91 yards per game. Doug Martin, the 31st overall pick from Boise State, has a 3.5 yard per rush average.
Offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan was quick to deflect the blame from Larsen for the struggling running game.
"I think there are a number of reasons when you look at why runs are not effective, and you can start with me calling the wrong run at the wrong time," Sullivan said. "It can be a breakdown in a number of areas. So to kind of put the spotlight on right guard would be unfair.
"(Davin) is awfully difficult to replace … but at the same time, we've got to move forward. There are some guys who are fighting their tails off and moving forward and we'll know more as we get into the week about who's going to be that person at right guard for us."
Trueblood will have to make adjustments in his game. At tackle, his size and ability to spread out helps in staying in front of an edge rusher and helping to form a pocket around the quarterback. At guard, there is even more coordination and communication with the center and adjustments to blocking schemes have to be made rapidly.
Furthermore, Trueblood's height may limit his ability to keep a low pad level, which is key while working in tight spaces.
"I don't think you would really think it's that different of a technique, but sometimes it just happens a little faster, I guess," Trueblood said. "Every one is a little closer. But it's just football."
The early returns on Trueblood's ability to play guard were good Wednesday.
"He looks good," nose tackle Roy Miller said. "We were surprised watching him in pass rush and pass blocking … and on the run. He's always had the aggressive type of mentality, so being a guard I think he'll be able to use his force more and be able to mash guys and drive into him like I think he'd like to at tackle."
Rick Stroud can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and can be heard from 6 to 9 a.m. weekdays on WDAE-620. View his blog at tampabay.com/blogs/bucs. Follow him on Twitter at @NFLStroud.