Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Missing guards add to Bucs' offensive line woes

Carl Nicks travels to Charlotte, N.C., to have the MRSA infection removed from his left foot.

DANIEL WALLACE | Times

Carl Nicks travels to Charlotte, N.C., to have the MRSA infection removed from his left foot.

TAMPA — The offensive line was supposed to be the strength of the Bucs, particularly at guard, where Carl Nicks (6 feet 5, 349 pounds) and Davin Joseph (6-3, 313) were counted on to clear holes for running back Doug Martin.

But Wednesday, the Bucs prepared to play their sixth game with their fourth combination of starters.

How can this collection of the team's most prodigious bellies stomach what has happened this season?

Nicks, who played only nine games in 2012 because of a left toe injury, was in Charlotte, N.C., recovering from Tuesday night's surgery to rid a MRSA staph infection from his left foot.

Coach Greg Schiano said Nicks sought an outside opinion on the best way to deal with the infection. So he was operated on by foot and ankle specialist Robert Anderson. He won't play Sunday at Atlanta, but it's too soon to know if he'll return this season.

"It's tough. My heart is out to him," Bucs left tackle Donald Penn said. "He's going to bounce back. I feel bad for him. It's part of the game. He knows that."

Meanwhile, Joseph, who missed all of last season with a torn patellar tendon in his left knee, has struggled regaining his Pro Bowl level of consistency. And Wednesday, he missed practice due to a right knee injury sustained during Sunday's 31-20 loss to the Eagles.

Schiano said he hopes Joseph will practice today. But contingency plans are being made.

Tuesday, the Bucs moved backup guard Ted Larsen to center and starting center Jeremy Zuttah to left guard. Wednesday, Gabe Carimi, who started two games at left guard while Nicks recovered from his first bout with MRSA, lined up at right guard.

"It's life in the NFL," Schiano said. "We've got to get the best five out there, though, and get the quarterback protected and get the run game blocked up. There hasn't been a lot of continuity there. But every team is going through their issues whether it's on the line, receiver, running back, defense. You've got to find a way to get it done."

When Nicks left the Saints for a five-year, $47.5 million contract in 2012, the Bucs salivated over pairing him with Joseph to give them, arguably, the best tandem of guards in the NFL.

But they have played only two of a possible 21 games together.

Even so, Martin led all rookies last season with 1,454 rushing yards (4.6 per carry) and 11 touchdowns. But this season, Martin is averaging only 3.5 yards with one touchdown.

"I don't think we ever really got to see that group," Schiano said. "But that's life. So whoever is up, we've got to go play and we've got to block them and protect the quarterback."

Schiano acknowledges the line, which also includes Penn and Demar Dotson, has not been consistent. Tampa Bay ranks 20th in the league at 99.2 rushing yards per game.

"At times, they've been effective and at other times not," Schiano said. "So I guess the word is inconsistent. Probably one of the biggest keys to offensive line play is consistency. It's one of those deals when you don't notice it. That's kind of the life of an offensive lineman."

Already, Martin has taken a pretty good beating. He is on pace for 406 touches this season, a heavy workload for the 5-foot-9 running back. Last season, he had 368 touches.

"We've had a lot of 1-yard runs on early downs, and we've got to do a better job," Penn said. "We can't be second and 9.

"It's our fault. We've got to make it right from the beginning."

At 0-5, the line dance will continue. But any way they shuffle the deck, the Bucs' blockers have to get better.

"We've got to try to turn these things around," Penn said. "We can't sit here and feel sorry for ourselves because nobody is going to feel sorry for us. So it's the next man up, and we've got to get it rolling."

Rick Stroud can be reached at stroud@tampabay.com.

Bucs starting offensive lines

Date Opp. LT LG C RG RT

Sept. 8 Jets Penn Carimi Zuttah Joseph Dotson

Sept. 15 Saints Penn Carimi Zuttah Joseph Dotson

Sept. 22 Saints Penn Nicks Zuttah Joseph Dotson

Sept. 29 Cardinals Penn Nicks Zuttah Joseph Dotson

Oct. 13 Eagles Penn Larsen Zuttah Joseph Dotson

Sunday * Falcons Penn Zuttah Larsen Carimi Dotson

* Based on Wednesday's practice

Missing guards add to Bucs' offensive line woes 10/16/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 16, 2013 10:05pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Blake Snell steps up, but Rays lose to Orioles anyway (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Blake Snell stepped up when he had to Monday and delivered an impressive career-high seven-plus innings for the Rays. That it wasn't enough in what ended up a 5-0 loss to the Orioles that was their season-high fifth straight is symptomatic of the mess they are in right now.

    Tim Beckham stands hands on hips after being doubled off first.
  2. Rays vs. Orioles, 7:10 p.m. Tuesday, Tropicana Field

    The Heater

    Tonight: vs. Orioles

    7:10, Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

  3. Rays journal: Sergio Romo excited for fresh start in AL

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — RHP Sergio Romo was about to play catch with LHP Adam Kolarek before Monday's batting practice when he paused.

    RAMOS EXITS: Rays catcher Wilson Ramos clutches his head after being beaned by Ruben Tejada’s broken bat in the fifth inning. Ramos leaves the game and receives six staples to close a laceration on his head.
  4. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Monday's Rays-Orioles game

    The Heater

    LHP Blake Snell stepped up when the Rays needed him to — and perhaps when he had to to keep his job — working a season-high seven plus innings. And it wasn't only that he got deep into the game, but how he did so, using his fastball to pound the strike zone.

  5. Urban Meyer says the Big Ten is now the equal of the SEC

    College

    CHICAGO — Ohio State coach Urban Meyer doesn't just believe the Big Ten has closed the gap with the more heralded SEC. He is convinced the race is a dead heat already.

    Ohio State’s Urban Meyer says the Big Ten East is as strong as the SEC East was when he coached UF to two national titles.