Buccaneers running back Doug Martin has been hard to miss lately.
But the guys in front of him are hard to keep track of.
For all the success their rookie running back has had, the ability to replace injured stars reflects well on the Tampa Bay offensive line, and coach Bob Bostad. The Bucs have lost both starting guards (Carl Nicks and Davin Joseph), and have had to mix and match all year.
“Everyone has done a great job filling in, but we don’t want to get too comfortable,” left tackle Donald Penn said, via Ira Kaufman of the Tampa Tribune. “It’s been a lot of fun, and you can see that by the way we’re playing, but we have to keep building. I’m proud of our guys up front. … I’m probably their No. 1 fan.”
Penn’s the only Bucs offensive line starter in the same spot as in the opener.
But for all the changes, they’re averaging 28 points per game, and an NFL-high 6.2 yards per snap. They’ve also allowed just six sacks the last five games.
“It’s a credit to how good these guys are to replace Pro Bowlers, not just ordinary guys, and get the job done,” right tackle Demar Dotson said. “We’re going to keep it up. We’re nowhere near where we’re going to be. It’s only Week 9. By Week 12 or 13, we’re going to be unstoppable.”
They shouldn’t get carried away, because they’ve stretched their depth to the limit. But they’ve already exceeded expectations, so anything beyond the current pace is a gift.