In last week’s matchup against the Bengals, replacement center Jeremiah Warren did an exceptional job helping out in pass protection and blitz pickups. He was also seen often helping guards Ali Marpet and Logan Mankins.
But Saturday night’s game featured Evan Smith back at center and it did not turn out too well for the offense.
Rookie quarterback Jameis Winston rarely had time to throw the football. In the running game, Doug Martin was unable to get much off — except for his 19-yard touchdown run which was off the left tackle and not up the middle. Last week was a different case with Warren in at center.
And on the play where Winston was rolled up and appeared to have hurt his ankle again, Evan Smith was beat.
“It’s pretty simple, it’s just one-on-one and the same battles we won last week we didn’t win tonight,” head coach Lovie Smith said about the offensive line’s play. “There’s only so much you can do; eventually, it comes down to the one-on-one game. We lost the one-on-one game tonight.”
On the defensive side of the ball, there were problems from the line too. Gerald McCoy once again was unable to get anything going and for the third straight week it was George Johnson and Henry Melton doing most of the damage.
On Cleveland’s 16-play opening drive, the lack of pass rush was evident with no rush up the middle giving Cleveland quarterback Josh McCown all kinds of time to work.
“I think we didn’t play as well as we need to as a football team,” Lovie Smith said. “As far as pointing out one player, no one played the way they [wanted]. You could say did Gerald McCoy take a step back, did Lavonte David take a step back? As a football team we didn’t play our best ball tonight. I think it’s no more than that.”
The interior of both lines were a problem last year and for three straight games it’s a problem again. If it’s not fixed by Week 1, this will be another long season.