The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-5) head into their bye week with a ton of momentum, but there are also several questions that still need answering as they continue their march toward the postseason
One of said questions is what Todd Bowles and co. decide to do with rookie guard Luke Goedeke once he’s healthy. Goedeke won the starting left guard job in training camp and started the first seven games before a foot injury put him on the sidelines.
Since then, Nick Leverett has replaced him and played admirably. In fact, the Buccaneers are receiving a pretty big upgrade over Goedeke with Leverett sandwiched in-between left tackle Donovan Smith and center Robert Hainsey.
Former UDFA LG Nick Leverett has been a difference-maker for the Bucs offense since entering the lineup in Week 8. Look at how many passes/runs are able to succeed in large part because of him handling business against Seattle. Night & day from what they were getting before. pic.twitter.com/uQloeblKNj— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) November 14, 2022
But despite the better play in run blocking and pass protection, Bowles remains non-committal on Leverett’s future as a starter.
“Luke’s still hurt right now, there’s still more games to play,” Bowles said Monday. “We like what he is doing right now. Nick has always been tough and physical for us. he played a big part in a lot of the run game [success] yesterday.
“We’ll evaluate more when Luke comes back. But he’s playing great right now [and] he’s earned an opportunity to play.”
There’s really no reason to put Goedeke back in, even once he’s healthy. Leverett is the better prepared of the two in the sense that he’s ready to play right now. Goedeke is still a work-in-progress. It’s best to let him sit, learn, and get stronger between now and next year.
Like Leverett, many wondered what rookie tight end Cade Otton’s role would be once veteran tight end Cameron Brate returned from injury. And, what Brate’s role would be, in return.
Otton played, on average, 86% of offensive snaps during Brate’s three-game absence. Those three games resulted in the best stretch of Otton’s young season. The highlight, obviously, being Otton’s game-winning touchdown catch against the Los Angeles Rams (3-6) in Week 9.
We got a slight answer Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks. Otton out-snapped Brate 46-34, but ran five less routes, per Pro Football Focus. Otton was used primarily as a blocker, which could’ve been more of game flow than anything. Regardless, Brate ran a route on 44% of overall snaps compared to Otton’s 22%. That’s a pretty big hint toward their respective roles moving forward.
“It’ll be a rotation, obviously,” confirmed Bowles. “We’ve got guys we like to rotate in with Cam, and Cade, and Ko [Kieft], as well. So it’ll be rotational-basis depending on what we have up.”
Otton caught all three of his targets for 35-yards. Brate caught one of his two targets for eight-yards.
It’s fair to argue Otton a better overall player than Brate, even as a rookie. But, the Buccaneers like to run a lot of 12 personnel and Otton is a better blocker while Brate is a good enough receiver. So, it makes sense to keep Otton in to block.
However, a great solution would be for the Buccaneers to find a reliable No. 3 option at receiver and run 11 personnel, which allows them to leave Otton in as the “Y” tight end.
Aka Rob Gronkowski’s old position.
Either way, it’ll be interesting to see what the Buccaneers look like when they come out of the bye week. I’m sure fans are hoping they figure out whatever problems that are ailing them and go on a run, a la the 2020 season.
Featured image via Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports