By now, everyone and their mother knows about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers‘ (4-5) offensive struggles.

It’s no secret this offense is not the same unit that dominated the league from 2020-2021. In fact, the current product on the field is actually offensive to what we saw over the last two seasons.

Multiple personnel changes at crucial positions are a big reason why this team has been a letdown. Gone are Rob Gronkowski, Antonio Brown, Alex Cappa, Ryan Jensen, and Ali Marpet. Those five players played major roles in helping the Buccaneers win a Super Bowl and their first division title since the 2007 season.

But of all the losses, one can argue Marpet’s retirement has had the biggest effect in 2022. He’s one of the five best offensive linemen in Buccaneers history, which is already hard enough to replace.

And it’s especially hard to replace him with a rookie. Which is what the Buccaneers tried to do with second-round pick Luke Goedeke.

That turned out to be rather disastrous, as Goedeke was routinely beat -and beat badly- week-in, week-out until he injured his foot in Week 8 against the Carolina Panthers (2-7).

Goedeke’s injury has now caused him to miss the last two games against the Baltimore Ravens (6-3) and Los Angeles Rams (3-5). While that’s not ideal and everyone hopes Goedeke quickly regains his health, it’s actually turned into a good development for the Buccaneers.

That’s because his replacement, Nick Leverett, has played well in his stead.

So well, in fact, he currently owns the team’s second-best overall blocking grade (70.4) among offensive linemen, according to Pro Football Focus. Said overall grade is anchored by his second-best pass blocking grade of 77.9, which is obviously ideal when you have Tom Brady at quarterback and Mike Evans, Chris Godwins, and a section of Julio Jones at wideout.

Only All-Pro right tackle Tristan Wirfs grades better in both categories.

But grades certainly aren’t the end-all-be-all with PFF. They actually leave a lot to be desired and don’t fully reflect a player’s impact.

There are many other stats to dive into in order to figure that out. And Leverett continues to excel when looking at said stats.

PFF has Leverett with just one allowed pressure in 129 pass blocking snaps. That’s an allowed pressure rate of 0.008% per pass blocking snap, which is insane.

And, it’s just 0.001% behind Wirfs, who leads the way with a 0.007% rate.

Leverett’s lone pressure is a quarterback hurry, too. Brady has yet to be hit because of Leverett, which is obviously very ideal for the Buccaneers.

It’s not just Leverett’s pass blocking abilities that stand out, either. He’s been solid in the run game, as well.

Leverett also brings a much-needed physicality that the Buccaneers offensive line desperately needs after losing Jensen during training camp.

Check out how Leverett bullies his assignment until the whistle. He’s No. 60 and lined up at left guard:

I say all this to say the Buccaneers have an obvious decision to make as they move forward forward: start Leverett over Goedeke.

Head coach Todd Bowles said both players were “neck and neck” in training camp. Goedeke’s upside is what won him job. And it’s easy to see why that logic kept him in the starting lineup despite his struggles. Betting on a player’s upside means you have to give them time to develop and that’s what the Buccaneers were trying to do.

But that upside never came. And the Buccaneers offense suffered because of it.

Leverett has shown he is better suited for this job in his limited sample size. Yes, it’s only been two games, but he held his own against both the Ravens and the Rams.

Those two performances should warrant a shot at the starting gig, alone.

The Buccaneers have to make this move. If they don’t, it’s more than fair to chalk the decision up to stubbornness and plain ignorance. The tape and the numbers don’t lie – Leverett is better than Goedeke.

And for a team that’s trying to get back to its Super Bowl aspirations, immediate help is far more effective than waiting on it -and hoping for it- to eventually arrive.

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Featured image via Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports