Make us your home page

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

(View our Privacy Policy)

Offensive line deserves credit for Bucs' rushing success

Brian Leonard, pictured, and Bobby Rainey helped the Bucs backfield combine for 140 yards and a touchdown in the win over the Dolphins.


Brian Leonard, pictured, and Bobby Rainey helped the Bucs backfield combine for 140 yards and a touchdown in the win over the Dolphins.

TAMPA — It doesn't seem to matter which running back the Bucs plug in their lineup lately — stars or schlubs — the player plows through doubters, not to mention oncoming defenders, with equal success.

From Doug Martin to Mike James to Brian Leonard to Bobby Rainey, the baton is passed without the rushing game breaking stride.

Two weeks ago, with Martin ticketed for injured reserve with a torn labrum in his left shoulder, James ran wild for 158 yards against the Seahawks. He had 41 more on the opening drive Monday night against the Dolphins before breaking his left ankle.

No problem. Leonard and Rainey, claimed off waivers from the Browns on Oct. 21, helped the Bucs backfield combine for 140 yards and a touchdown.

"Basically, I came into the NFL with a chip on my shoulder because I didn't get drafted (in 2012 out of Western Kentucky)," Rainey said. "I feel like I have something to prove, not to everybody else but to myself."

What Rainey and the others might have proved is the Bucs offensive line can make heroes out of zeroes. Not to diminish the talent of the tailbacks — Martin led all rookies with 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns while being named to the Pro Bowl in 2012 — but the holes are there to bolt through.

"I think opportunity is the key," coach Greg Schiano said. "(Right guard Davin Joseph) is getting more healthy. He's getting a better feel. But I think you've got to give them shots, and I think that's what's paying off."

The Bucs have used five offensive line combinations over nine games. But it wasn't until Jamon Meredith took over at left guard, against the Seahawks, that the running game really took off.

Joseph, who missed last season with a torn patellar tendon, is starting to get his sea legs under him and playing much better. Jeremy Zuttah is back at center, a position he's most suited for. And tackles Donald Penn and Demar Dotson have been solid.

"All the credit goes to the offensive line," Rainey said. "They're the ones that open up the holes for us to be able to read and get yardage. The offensive line did a great job (Monday) and the week before. It's a matter of picking the hole and hitting it."

The Bucs are 14th in the league in rushing at 111.1 yards per game.

After its performance against Miami, the offensive line was awarded game balls.

"I think our offensive line is going to be the key, our receivers, everybody blocking," Schiano said. "I do think the guys who are going to be touching the ball as running backs, they have good feel. Sometimes, when a guy gets an opportunity, he shows what he can do. I think Bobby did that the other night. I think Brian has been doing that."

Penn and Joseph have played every snap. Right tackle Demar Dotson and Zuttah, while also seeing time at left guard, have missed only a few.

"I think there are a few factors," offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan said. "Any time you have the same five guys lining up and making the same communication, pre-snap calls throughout the week, that continuity and their preparation certainly play a key factor."

It's not a coincidence that Meredith, a tackle by nature, has had an impact. Last season he was pressed into service at guard and now has been part of the three biggest rushing days over the past two seasons, including Martin's 251-yard, four-touchdown performance at Oakland a year ago.

"I think Jamon has done a good job since he's been in the lineup," Schiano said. "I think opportunity (to run the football) is the key. It's the same guys. Now Davin is getting healthy. He's getting a better feel. But I think you've got to give them shots (to run), and I think that's what's paying off."

Bucs vs. Falcons

1 p.m. Sunday, Raymond James Stadium TV/radio: Ch. 13; 620-AM, 103.5-FM, 95.3-FM

Offensive line deserves credit for Bucs' rushing success 11/13/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 13, 2013 9:43pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Major-league bullpens get stretched as starters take a seat

    The Heater

    Mike Marshall led the majors in appearances in 1973, with 92 for the Montreal Expos. The next spring, having joined the Los Angeles Dodgers, Marshall met his new manager, Walter Alston.

  2. Bucs get first new video director in 29 years


    When the Bucs took to the practice field this week to start OTA practices, they did so with a new video director for the first time in 29 years.

    Bucs video director Dave Levy, shown during the 2003 season, worked under nine different head coaches in 29 seasons working for Tampa Bay.
  3. Rays set to activate Tommy Hunter from DL


    The Rays plan to activate RHP Tommy Hunter from the DL for Thursday's series finale against the Angels.

  4. Steven Souza Jr. snaps out of slump as Rays defeat Angels (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — After Tuesday's shutout loss to the Angels, Steven Souza Jr. stood in front of his locker and talked about his need to contribute to the offense.

    Tampa Bay Rays catcher Jesus Sucre (45) hugs right fielder Steven Souza Jr. (20) in the dugout after his two run home run in the second inning of the game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Los Angeles Angels at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wednesday, May 24, 2017.
  5. Tom Jones: Rays made right move sending Blake Snell to minors

    The Heater

    tom jones' two cents


    Blake Snell’s struggles on the mound were only one of the reasons the Rays sent him to the minors; some other red flags existed. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]