The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were supposed to have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL last season. However, there were a couple setbacks. Davin Joseph suffered from a torn ACL in the preseason, and Carl Nicks suffered a season-ending severe toe injury during Week 8 against the Minnesota Vikings.
Even though Pro Bowlers Nicks and Joseph missed most the season, the rest of the o-line did quite well, allowing quarterback Josh Freeman to be sacked only 26 times, which was second best in the league and 10 sacks under the average number for the entire NFL. Freeman’s great protection in the pocket allowed him to throw for over 4,000 yards. The great pass blocking was complemented with a rushing game that gained nearly 2,000 yards on the ground. In fact, the week after Nicks’ injury, running back Doug Martin got the ball only 25 times and rushed for 251 yards and four touchdowns, and he even had a touchdown rush from 70 yards out. I believe that the offensive line deserves much credit for Martin’s amazing performance.
With the absence of Nicks and Joseph, Adam Smith and Jamon Meredith stepped up at their respective positions and performed very well. Their playing time last year will aid the offensive line this year in certain situations — in the event that someone needs a breather for a few plays or even if another injury occurs. Yes, Joseph’s and Nicks’ injuries were negatives for the Buccaneers last season, but Tampa Bay should feel safe if another injury does occur because Smith and Meredith are excellent backups.