Bucs’ Luke Goedeke is playing like one of NFL’s best offensive linemen

The beleaguered second-round pick from Central Michigan flopped at left guard as a rookie but is thriving at his natural position.
From left, Bucs tight end Cade Otton (88), wide receiver Chris Godwin (14) and tackle Luke Goedeke (67) celebrate a pass reception by Godwin during the Bucs' loss to the Eagles last month in Tampa.
From left, Bucs tight end Cade Otton (88), wide receiver Chris Godwin (14) and tackle Luke Goedeke (67) celebrate a pass reception by Godwin during the Bucs' loss to the Eagles last month in Tampa. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Oct. 4|Updated Oct. 4

TAMPA ― For much of his rookie season, Luke Goedeke was an easy target of jests, the perceived weak link who was better as a punch line than on the offensive line.

But — no joke — having moved from left guard to his natural right tackle position this offseason, the second-year pro from Central Michigan is a big reason the Bucs’ offensive line has held up well enough for the team to be 3-1 heading into its bye week.

In Sunday’s 26-9 win over the Saints, Goedeke completely dominated his matchup with Pro Bowl defensive end Cam Jordan, holding him to four tackles and one quarterback hit. What’s more, he did it despite suffering a strained calf muscle in the first quarter.

“At the end of the day, he’s a high-caliber defensive end,” Goedeke said of Jordan. “I mean, All Pro, Pro Bowler defensive end, but you’ve got to get the job done. It was a good battle. ... I held my own out there, obviously. He’s a good player and put up a good battle. I’m looking forward to facing him again and having two good legs.”

Two weeks ago, Goedeke was able to contain two speed rushers from the Eagles. Hassan Reddick had one pressure against him, and rookie Nolan Smith got through for one quarterback hit. Veteran Brandon Graham didn’t get near Baker Mayfield.

Not bad for a 6-foot-5 player with 32¼-inch arms that were considered too short by NFL tackle standards. Perhaps that’s why the Bucs moved Goedeke to left guard as a rookie after the retirement of Ali Marpet.

Predictably, Goedeke struggled at left guard, allowing two sacks and five penalties for a grade of 43.7. He started only eight games before suffering a foot injury that caused him to lose his job to Nick Leverett.

“I love playing right tackle,” Goedeke said. “I feel like during OTAs, I kind of got the muscle memory back, and as the year goes on it’s more about working on technique and kind of how the time goes and really, really continuing to grow as a right tackle.”

Goedeke credits some of the turnaround to Tristan Wirfs, who moved from right to left tackle this season but had a lot of advice to offer Goedeke about the position.

“I can’t thank him enough for how much he’s helped me,” Goedeke said. “Being able to pick his mind about his approach, attacking different guys and everything. Just having the conversation with him. What I’m thinking this week. What he’s thinking this week. How we should attack blocks here or there.”

The two are close friends who bonded during competitive weight room sessions. During the summer, they threw around some serious weight, squatting 565 pounds at a fast pace and bench-pressing 405.

“Heavy. Oh, yeah, real heavy,” Goedeke said. “We get real competitive, definitely during the summer when we can load up weight on the bar. We have fun, and it really fulfills our bond as a brotherhood.”

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Wirfs has talked about how the transition affected his mental health. Goedeke was there to reassure him he would be the same All-Pro player on the opposite side.

Mayfield, who has been said to have an offensive lineman’s mentality, easily bonded with the big men playing in front of him. During training camp, he would join Wirfs and Goedeke in Wirfs’ room, where they would hang out and talk about life.

”He’s a phenomenal quarterback, “Goedeke said. “He’s definitely one of the boys. I just love him to death and love playing for him. That’s huge to players when they see that, a quarterback who doesn’t think he’s above other people.”

Goedeke hasn’t been perfect this season. He has committed three penalties and given up a sack, and is ranked 20th among all tackles in the NFL by Pro Football Focus.

He credits scout team players such as outside linebacker Markees Watts for getting him prepared each week.

“I think sometimes those guys really get overlooked sometimes,” Goedeke said. “But week in and week out, Watts, we worked together. I give him pass rush moves that I want him to work that week, and he gives me phenomenal looks each week.”

With rookie Cody Mauch beside him at right guard, Goedeke has become a bit of a mentor as well. It’s a solid group with still lots of room for improvement. But the play of Goedeke is no laughing matter.

“All five of us up front and Baker and the offense as a whole, we know what we can be this year,” Goedeke said. “We can be so special this year. It’s just really getting us really being able to fire on all cylinders. We take great pride in protecting Baker. We love him as a quarterback, and we put our bodies on the line for him.”

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