TAMPA — Surely all the draft picks, money and effort spent building the Bucs' offensive line should produce better results.
And with an All-Pro left guard, a Pro Bowl right guard and the ideal center, quarterback Josh Freeman shouldn't be bracing for repeated brutal hits.
Preseason or not, there is no ignoring the fact the Bucs' offensive line, a supposed strength, underperformed in Friday's 30-7 exhibition loss to the Titans.
Breakdowns impeded Freeman's ability to deliver the ball confidently to his receivers and clogged running lanes for running backs LeGarrette Blount and Doug Martin.
It was a stark contrast to the Bucs' preseason opener a week ago against the Dolphins, in which the offensive line was solid and efficient. Friday there were miscues and lost individual matchups, the kind that would prove costly in the regular season.
"We were definitely disappointed because we didn't play to our standards," said left tackle Demar Dotson, who played poorly in place of starter Donald Penn, who is preparing to return from a calf injury. "(Team captain) Davin Joseph holds this unit to a different standard, and I don't think we lived up to it. It's a learning experience for everybody, including me, to come out here and get better."
One of the areas the line was outplayed was on stunts by the Titans' linemen. More than once, defenders came through unblocked, and Dotson and center Jeremy Zuttah appeared to struggle the most.
"Those are easy things. It was nothing exotic, state-of-the-art, no new kind of stuff," said left guard Carl Nicks, a key piece of the offseason free-agent haul who signed a five-year, $47 million deal.
"It was just execution stuff. We just didn't do it."
Said right guard Joseph: "We're veteran enough on the offensive line to know better."
Just as disturbing was the play of the second-team offensive line. Backup quarterback Dan Orlovsky (1-of-5, 6 yards, one interception) was sacked four times in less than two quarters, onceon consecutive plays.
"We have to do our job and that's going to allow our offense to be explosive," Joseph said.
And at the center of that effort is Freeman, who completed just 4 of 10 passes for 21 yards.
"I always say, if we give that guy time, he's going to make something special happen," Nicks said. "When he's running for his life, it affects the whole offense. You cannot be successful if you can't protect the quarterback."